Monday, December 14, 2009

Pelvis Power: getting the hip joint in hip drive for increased power and position strength

A lot of folks have been told in order to add power to the hip extension in a deadlift or kettlebell swing, snatch or squat to squeeze their butt at the top, tense the glutes, etc etc. Physiologically, kinetically, it seems we get more power if we focus on the other side of the pelvis - anterior rather than posterior. Rather than thinking about the butt tightening, think about the hips rotating out. Allow me to explain.

But first, a bit of context: this tip was demo'd for me by Z-Health Master Trainer & RKC Lou McGovern of Essential Strength when Lou was helping me to hone my rather dire longboarding skills. Let me also say that Lou is a fabulous trainer. If you want to get better and ANYTHING you are doing with movement, and happen to be anywhere around San Diego, seek him out. You will be well recompensed for your efforts.

Ok Second to the point at hand, as Lou asked me "where are the hips?"

If you (as i did) pointed to your thighs, we have to think deeper. The joint where the femur connects to the pelvis is well inside the leg, rather a handspan out from the crotch to the joint.

The idea is to think about this joint and consciously turn the thigh out (externally rotate).

If you put your hand on that area of your leg, and do this motion, you can feel the hip joint move.

At the same time you do this, you'll aslo feel your glute muscles tense as well.In contrast, you can clench your butt without engaging the hips.

Cranking Up the Strength. Which is stronger? Butt clenching or Hip Joint Out?

Lou demonstrated the difference between these two positions by having me stand in neutral stance, putting my arms straight out in front of me.

He then asked me just to clench my butt, and from there he pressed down on my outstretched arms. Which came down.

He then asked me to reset my arms and this time think about rotating my hips out. He then tried to push down on my arms again. They were much stronger this time (they didn't get shoved down).

Echoes in Powerlifting Cues? In a quick exhange about this tip with Pavel, Pavel asked if this were the same idea as powerlifters "screwing their feet into the floor." Lou said, yes, it's just thinking about the other end of the movement, too, in a bone ryhthm way (see this post on the viking push press for a bit more on bone rhythm).

In other words, in the screwing the feet into the floor in a squat, one plants the feet, let's say parallel to each other, and rotates out against the foot plant. In the hip turn, now we're thinking about not just the feet turning out but the hip (the top of the leg, really) as well.

aside: This approach of rotating out against a fixed point seems similar to how Pavel describes the hand/arm position for the one arm push up in Power to the People.

Trying it Out. If you give this move a go when swinging a KB or deadlifting or squatting, you may find the move is stronger, smoother, easier. Personally i find on the squat this coordinated move makes it easier to keep my knees where they're supposed to be. Likewise on the top of the swing, if i think about turning my hips out, i don't have to think about driving the hips forward or "snapping" them - the snap happens as a result of the hip movement.

Conceptually. I like this approach: the concept of the hip snap, while i've been doing it for the swing and snatch in particular, has felt like Something We Just Do to get the hips forward. With the notion of rolling the hips out, which results in the pelvic thrust AND the glute contraction and pelvic muscles getting worked too, it seems to simplify the "what to do" meaning there's less to check on the move check list - at least for me. Your mileage may vary.

Likewise, at least for me, what Lou has brought to what is perhaps a set of well known hip tropes for many lifters is to really think about *what do we mean by the hips?" Just that simple point of really gettting WHERE that joint actually IS in the movement has been huge. The "hip" seems so amorphous. What is that, now that i think about it (or thought about it then). But by actually getting at the notion of the joint and the joint action, things open up. It makes all the metaphors of feet screwing and hip thrusting and butt clenching kinda happen. That's what makes a great coach for someone, is that that person can connect in a meaningful way a good mental model for the athlete. Thanks Lou.

Give it a Go? If you want to try this, please by all means try the arms out, butt clench, and then arms out hips rotate front/out with someone pressing down on the arms to feel the difference. IF no one is around to test this, simply try this move with your squat or swing and see what you think. Let me know.

Many thanks to Ken Froese at the DD Forum for pointing out this vid of Lou talking about spinning out the hips in the context of an overhead kb press. A key point in the vid (and it's so CLEAR after it's explained, like duh) is that it locks out the hip hinge part of a lift (like the clean with a kb) so that, with the hinge gone, there's a really stable platform - less give. That's yet one more reason this technique is so potent. Here's Lou:

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Unknown said...

Hello, mc:

Yes, Lou's coaching cue really works well. Moreover, by just externally rotating the hips, that metaphor of "pulling up your knees" (one of Pavel's favorites, as seen in "Enter the Kettlebell" and the "RKC Instructor Manual") disappears for me; a nice, stout ext. hip rotation brings those knees right along into a crisp lockout.

The Marine's teaching point rather obviates many of the items in Dr. Cheng's laundry list called the Hard-Style-Lock. Mark does well with his template, but as Dr. Cobb likes to say in quoting Dr. Einstein, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Lou has done that!

And, mc, for the simple-minded like myself: simple is surely better.

/have you heard about the "swing" shutting down the lats: from the most recent S-Phase in Phoenix?
//hopefully more "Z" will be incorporated into the RKC System
///they tell me the RKC is evolving

dbt1959 said...

Great tip mc. Tracy R's is just nailing that external rotation you write of in that vid link. And I have seen other rkc's dishing that up as well. But this is the first time I have ever heard anyone articulate it for us mere mortals, and my swings were MUCH better tonight for it; much crisper and tighter. Focus a lot on that external rotation in a number of yoga poses, i.e. warrior two, but applying it to a ballistic move like a swing was an eye opener. Thanks.

dr. m.c. said...

Peter, glad to hear that the knees thing gets taken care of too. Hadn't thought of that, but indeed that seems to be the case as well.

dbt1959, glad you were able to give that a go.

I've really enjoyed being able to pretest this.
plant the feet in and screw out against the foot plant, and get the rotation out at the hip happening as well.

as lou says it's connecting the whole unit of action this way, from the hip to the foot, not isolated bits. like it.

thanks both for letting me know your experiences.


dr. m.c. said...

Peter, what do you mean "swing shutting down the lats"? no, that's a new one on me. and not my experience, a la this post - at least a la hard style.

What "shuts down" a muscle other than threat?


danfaz said...

Hi MC...tried it this morning with my swings. Worked great! I had a much crisper movement & more endurance it seems. Did 150 swings in 6 min. as opposed to last week's time of 9 min.!

dr. m.c. said...

awesome news! that is so cool. thanks for letting me know.
best of the season,

Joe Pavel said...

I wish I would have seen this at least three years ago. Thanks Lou, you are Great!

Unknown said...

Lou went over this with me at the Essentials last November and totally changed the way I continued to lift. The pinky cue is great as well because you can have a neutral wrist and still press through the wrong point. Good stuff. I want more.


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