Powerful Hip Extension: What Every Guy Needs (…for the gym)

Moving the hips is something that just does not have a masculine ring to it.  Maybe because, quite frankly, we suck at it and women are so great at it.  We would rather stare into the deep abyss of amazement and hypnosis of it, than actually do it ourselves.  The best example, is on the dance floor.  Sure there are great male dancers out there, I admit I am jealous, but for men there are few and far between when compared to how many great female dancers there are out there.  I would give anything to move like Justin Timberlake, no lie!  And just to be clear, I am not talking about professional dancers, I am talking about your ordinary average Joe and Jane hitting the dance floor in the local watering hole on a hot Saturday night.  I tip my hat to professional male dancers, they show us there is hope for the rest of us.

*sidenote – as I proof read this paragraph and keep using the term “professional dancers”, I want to make clear that I am not talking about the exotic kind.  I am determined to keep this blog post about powerful hip extension G-rated!

Even though the dance floor may not be our domain for hip movement, the gym definitely is or at least should be.

The hips moves in many great and wonderful ways; flexion, adduction, abduction, internal rotation, external rotation, a combination of these together, but I am going to focus on…… bom bom…BOM!!!…. hip extension.

 

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What is hip extension? I’m not a scientist!!!

Let me explain, hip extension is an increase in angle of the femur and pelvis.  This means the femur (upper leg) moves backward.  An exaggerated way of describing it is, say you swung your leg back and kicked yourself in the back of the head with your heel.  That would be some freaky, but hilarious hip extension.  Fortunately for us, zero to fifteen degrees of hip extension is a healthy amount for our hip joint.  The back of our head can breathe a sigh of relief.

photo credit: physiospot.com

photo credit: physiospot.com

The muscles that are responsible for hip extension are the glute maximus, you know…. your butt, and the hamstrings.  The hamstrings play a role, but it should be a secondary role.  I assess all new clients for hip extension and their ability to contract and squeeze their glute muscles, together and individually.  I’ll have them perform a prone lying hip extension with one leg with the intention of finding where they are feeling it the most.  Some feel it in the glute, most feel it in the hamstring and a few get a cramp in the hamstring almost immediately.  This means 1.  even though they are able to reach an optimum range of motion in hip extension they are doing it via the hamstring more than the glute and 2. the hamstring is overworked and excessively tight and 3.  the glute is inhibited and weak.   Another factor that could lead to inhibited hip extension are tight hip flexors, the opposing muscle group to the hip extensors.  If these are tight then they will not stretch enough for the hip to extend back, therefore inhibiting and not even giving the glute a chance to contract and move the hip into extension.  To compensate for the lack of hip extension, the individual will extend through the lower back to gain the range of motion and/or even rotate the hips to get the leg higher.

RELEASE THE HIPS!!!!!

Your first step is to get these muscle groups into a healthy balance with some soft tissue release, stretching, and mobility.

Hip Flexor Release

 

 

Using a foam roller lay on your side with your hip on the foam roller.  Roll in an up and down motion from hip to knee.  After a few swipes, roll forward to where the front of the hip is more on the foam roller and continue the motion this time over the quad muscle.

Hip Flexor Stretch

 

 

This is a kneeling hip flexor stretch variation, but I feel like more individuals are able to get a better stretch since the knee is planted on the floor creating a shorter lever, the femur, rather than standing.  The funny looking movement you see me do, where it looks like my chest is “collapsing” or I am slouching down is a posterior tilt of the pelvis. (I recommend not slouching through the upper body so much and get all the movement via the pelvis. For you to see clearly in the video, I may have exaggerated it a bit)  To posterior tilt the pelvis, imagine you pelvis is a bowl of water and tip it so water spills out the back of the bowl.  Squeeze the glute once you are in a posterior tilt.  This should give you a stretch in the front of the hip, the hip flexor, and a contraction in the opposing muscle, the glute.  Now reach up with the arm on the same side and reach over across your body in an arch and slightly lean back.  Stay relaxed and breath.  Hold for 3-5 deep, long breaths.

Glute Release

 

 

Those glutes are probably pretty tight and once you get to contracting them hard in the gym they will be.  So getting in some releasing now and later on is a good idea.  For this foam rolling variation, you will sit on top of the foam roller and lean back posting up on the right hand.  Cross the right foot over the left knee and lean more onto the right hip.  Just putting some weight on the glutes can feel uncomfortable and can possibly be enough for now.  If you can tolerate more torture, then roll back and forth covering the whole glute area.  Repeat on the other side.

 

Glute Stretch

 

 

I personally like this glute stretch variation, plus it can be progressed following the pigeon pose progressions in yoga.  Positioned on your hands and knees, get into a neutral spine.  Straighten one leg out and cross over the bent knee.  Push the hip of the bent knee out.  As your hip is pushed out and your knee internally rotates in, sit back into your hip.  Hold for 3-5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Release

 

 

Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under the top portion of one leg.  Using your arms, post up so your butt is off the floor.  You will roll over the foam roller from the glute to just short of the back of the knee (stay on the muscle).  Push into the foam roller to apply more pressure.  Do a few rolls with toes pointing straight up, a few with the hip internally rotated and externally rotated.  This will make sure you hit all the muscles that make up the hamstrings.  Repeat on the other leg.

Hamstring Stretch

 

 

Lay on the floor on your back.  Keeping one knee bent and foot on the floor bring the opposite leg straight up using a band with your toe pointed away from you.  Find a  range where you feel a good stretch in the back of the upper leg.  Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.

Now Move Those Hips!

Hip Hinge

 

 

The hip hinge is the most basic hip movement and a great place to start.  In the video I use a pvc pipe that I hold against my back. The pipe should rest against your tail bone, upper back, and back of your head.  With “soft” knees, push your hips/butt back.  As your hips/butt go back, you should feel your weight go into your heels and possibly a hamstring stretch.  The pole against your back will keep you from arching keeping your back from going into lumbar extension or rounding your upper back, plus keeping your neutral and not looking up to watch your self in the mirror.

This is a great warm up and mobility exercise for those who have the movement nailed down and have progressed to adding resistance, like in the exercises below.

Do not move onto loaded movement until you can successfully complete 10 reps of an unweighted hip hinge movement.

 

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Let’s Get Those Hips Strong and Powerful

 

Bridge Thrust

 

 

Lay on the floor with a towel or pad on top of your hips (if you want to protect your junk).  With 45lb plates on the bar you may be able to roll the bar up to your hips, at least up to the towel, then wrangle that thing up onto your hips.  With the barbell in place, posterior tilt the pelvis, hold onto the bar, and pushing through the heels, lift your hips up into a bridge position.  Give a hard contraction of the glutes at the top and slowly lower back down without arching the lower back.  Reset at the bottom and repeat.

Hip Thrust

 

 

The hip thrust is just like the bridge thrust, except 1. Your upper back will be against a bench or some kind of contraption that I rigged up. Just make sure it is stable even with extra weight before you do the exercise.  You will be driving through a larger range of motion than the bridge thrust.  Other than that the explanation for the bridge thrust is the same for this.

Deadlift

 

 

With barbell on the floor, set yourself up close to barbell, meaning shins are close to the bar.  Push your hips back, while bending the knees to get low enough to grab the bar.  Pull your shoulder blades back and down creating stability through the upper back.  Focus on pushing through the heels as you stand up, pushing the hips forward into the bar.

Good Mornings

 

 

This can be done using a kettlebell like in the video or with a barbell if more weight is needed.  Very simple it is just performing a weighted hip hinge movement with a kettlebell or barbell rested on your upper back.  Depending on the weight, a squat rack may be needed depending on the amount of weight you are using.

So a quick glute workout can look like the following:

Release:

Hamstrings and Glutes

Release and Stretch:

Hip Flexors

Mobility:  

Hip Hinge Movement  (3 sets of 10)

Strength:

Deadlift (5 sets of 4-6 reps)

Hip Thrust (3 sets (8-12 reps)

Good Mornings (3 sets 12-15 reps)

Stretch:

Glutes

Hamstrings

 

Check out another blog post about The Benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift which will give you strong, powerful hips as well.

I really need to get a new camera for this coming year.  I currently just use my iPhone video camera since I always have it on me.  So thanks for putting up with the low quality videos.  I need some HD!!!!!

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About The Author

Kevin Fulton

Kevin Fulton is personal trainer in Pittsburgh, PA. His goal is to help his clients look, feel, and move better. In his spare time you can find him under a barbell or practicing jiu jitsu.

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