When coaching clients to perform exercises, such as a wood chop, it is often challenging for them to understand that the hips must internally/externally rotate in order to functionally and effectively perform this exercise. We often refer to actions such as swinging a golf club, baseball bat, tennis racquet, an axe, throwing a shot put, a discus or to landing a jab or a cross punch in boxing to create their visual of the hip motion. The hips are your power house. With the appropriate hip motions, the body can produce tremendous power, translating that power into our torso, lower and upper body and subsequently into the object we are swinging, chopping, punching or throwing.
Without the hips, the power generation is seriously hindered and the risk of injury to the spinal region, is considerable particularly in swinging actions as the rotation may occur in the lumbar spine instead, where actual rotation is limited to 10-15 degrees. *Keep in mind that the lumbar spine is supposed to be relatively stable and every year, particularly avid golfers, without a sound understanding of the actual golf swing mechanics, injure their spine, shoulders and knees!
If you take a moment and closely observe a professional baseball player, tennis player, golfer, lumberjack or boxer, you will notice how the hips are always involved in their movement patterns. While it is true that there are times when gross motor movement patterns are not required and the hips are relatively “quiet”, powerful movements meant to propel the body and objects through space and time, almost always involve hip movement.
Not only does the hip perform internal and external rotation, it flexes, extends, abducts, adducts and circumducts enabling it to move through the three planes of the body, sagittal, frontal and transverse, all of which are required to excel at the majority of sport and functional performances.
When training to simulate sport’s required movement patterns, such as the wood chop featured above, remember that tremendous power resides in your hip joint, and it should be your “go to” segment of the body, in many cases, to begin the generation of power that will translate throughout the body and lead to improved follow through, precision and movement efficiency all improving power generation.
Movement patterns may be complex and require a considerable amount of practice and rehearsal to master, so be patient. Use a mirror to check your form and technique, observe your professional trainers and coaches demonstrations and pay close attention to the cues that they provide such as internally/externally rotate from the hips, pivot off the foot, finish the pattern with the hips/shoulders square to the direction you are moving the body or object, and check out the movements of the professionals in that sport or movement form.
Your coach or trainer should break down the movement pattern to its most basic form, perhaps just moving the hips without the distraction of the fitness or sports tool in your hands. Feel the fluidity, consistency, smoothness and precision of the hip motion and once you have mastered it, then you may add the next bodily segment involved in the pattern. Progress until you have assembled the entire movement pattern, then practice, practice, practice never neglecting the hip joint’s role in this motion.