Training programmes: benefit from hip extension

Standing machine hip flexion

Muscles involved: Front of hip and upper leg (iliopsoas and rectus femoris);
Joint motion: Hip flexion;
Sports applicability: All, but especially related to running-based sports, specifically the ‘pull through’ phase of the running action.

Conditioning benefits

  • General. The majority of athletes will benefit from strong hip flexor muscles. As well as lifting the thighs these muscles can contribute to trunk stability. However, it is important to maintain flexibility in the hip flexor muscles, as shortening (due to regular sprinting, high knee drills and the use of this exercise etc) can place strain on the back.
  • Sport-specific. As noted, the exercise is closely related to the running action – specifically the pull through of the non-grounded leg once it has completed the drive phase. Everything else being equal, the more vigorous this action and the stronger/more powerful the athlete is in this range of motion, the faster he or she will be. Indeed the hip flexor muscles have been identified as the most important for generating running speed (above that of the calf muscles and thigh muscles).

Start position

Stand upright on the machine, taking hold of the stabilising bar, with straight arms. Keep the back in a neutral position (neither overly rounded or hyper-extended). Maintain a slight bend in the supporting leg. Adjust the machine so that the pad rests across the thigh, just above the knee.

‘Pull’ the leg through from the hip, until the upper thigh is approximately parallel to the floor. Return the leg back to the start position under control, keeping the pad in contact with the thigh. The limit to this range of movement is determined by the need to remain upright while performing the exercise.

Training tips
Maintain a balanced and elevated chest position throughout the exercise and do not allow the hips to internally or externally rotate. Start with 3 x 12 repetitions using a light to moderate weight.

  • Standing machine hip extension: This variation targets the gluteus maximus of the buttocks and hamstrings of the rear thigh. The exercise is performed very similarly to machine hip flexion except that the pad of the machine is placed under the thigh, close to the knee and the action is reversed – ie the exercise is performed by sweeping the leg backwards. Do: 3 x 12 repetitions. Combining both these hip exercises into a workout will have a highly running-specific conditioning effect.
  • Harness runs: The two hip machine exercises can be translated into very running-specific field exercises by the use of a harness and a training partner/coach. The harness is attached around the waste of the athlete, while the partner takes firm hold of its ends, standing approximately 1m behind the athlete. The athlete runs forward, against the light to moderate resistance offered by their partner. This will enable the athlete to drive back (equivalent to the machine hip extension exercise) and pull the leg through as dynamically as possible into the next stride (equivalent to the machine hip flexion exercise). This drill is ideal for developing accelerative ability. The athlete should pump their arms backward and forward as vigorously as possible to assist their speed. Do: 6 x 30m efforts with full recovery in between after a suitable, dynamic warm-up.
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