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Ask Dave: How to get "Good Hips"

"Hi Dave, Completely random topic...I’ve heard the expression mostly amongst grapplers of someone having “good hips” but don’t understand how this factors into their motions and skill...roughly to my understanding dexterity in kicking... so as an AiM QUESTION I’d like to understand what this means in terms of being able to move better, control better and the factors or link between good hips and “dexterity” in various kicking techniques.

I have the Problem of having very good technique=power and accuracy with Muay Thai low kicks as they get higher the technique is almost lost, the same goes for knees, kneeing low generates crazy power and just feels good as I go higher it’s lost same with the spinning heal kick. Can I or anyone improve that or is it a thing you can only do so much about? Same with my punches btw, the hip doesn’t feel like it’s “willing” to transfer that energy from the foot to the’s very frustrating. I’d really like to know about this topic and is it fixable? Warmest Regards, Khalid "

Great question

I particularly like the idea of dexterity as opposed to simply mobility or strength.

Dexterity brings the idea of fine motor control rather than simple stretch and strengthen.

First of all, as an adult your hip structure is potentially a determining factor in your potential ability to kick high or utilise a rubber guard.

For kids, the structure is a little more malleable, but still a factor.

If you look towards the highest performers of any particular skill, you do tend to see very similar body types.

Now, genetics aside, how can you optimise the hand you were dealt?

The question was asked with the context of AiM or Anatomy in Motion. AiM looks at the through the actions of the gait cycle, a closed chain, eccentric loading model.

When we say eccentrically loaded we are looking at the muscles that are being lengthened to decelerate an action, a deceleration that becomes the concentric contraction in the way we stretch an elastic band before it snaps back to shape.

How does this model help with the kick.

Well, all movements are found in our gait cycle.

All of them.

No joint is left out of our gait cycle (unless there is a injury or reason) No muscle is left out (unless a joint is, more or less)

This video shows an exercise that has been around since before my teachers were teachers. It's an engine to show the action of the spinal engine, but it's also, once you develop a feel for it, an incredible movement to feel all the joints moving and all the muscles stretching and releasing:

What I want you to feel in the context of throwing a kick, is the loading in the muscles of the back leg just before it comes off the ground to swing forward.

This loading is what throws the kicks

But what about dexterity?

This is more nuanced and task specific.

First we need to think about the joint angles needed for the kick we want. Can we attain them easily?

The kick has a start point, which is dealt with in the Spinal Engine exercise, but now we need to check out our end point.

If you can't make the shape, you will struggle to manage the kick. So we have two options, these are not mutually exclusive, you can use both.

One is to replicate the joint angles in whatever way suits. It doesn't need to look exactly like a kick, it just needs those joint angles, or as close as you can get. Now we use contrast stretching to increase our range and our control.

The muscles on the shortening side of the joint need to contract hard, this may pull you deeper into the stretch, it may not. But pulse them on and off around once per second for 10-60 seconds. On the last one, hold that contraction for up to a minute.

Rest and repeat, three sets should be plenty.

Work one leg while the other is resting, shake it out and walk around between sets.

The other is to use more ballistic exercises. Swing the leg into the stretch and back out.

Along the lines of this:

When I learned these ballistic type stretches from a Chinese Kung Fu guy (as in a Chinese guy who taught Kung Fu!) he insisted that we pull the leg back down HARD. Most people swing it up and let it fall, my instructor said this was wrong and that when you reach the stretch, you bang the foot back with power! I believe him.

Leo, and this is without a warm up!

If I were to hazard a guess, it goes back to the AiM eccentric thinking, that those muscles that have lengthened are now wanting to contract, so lets contract them hard and get some strength into them.

To do these do 10 kicks low, really low. 10 kicks to mid height and 10 kicks gradually climbing to maximum height.

Now, last thing.

Slow kicking.

How slow can you go?

Use a wall or something to reduce the balance requirement and you can focus on getting that leg to move through a perfect kick but really really slowly.

This sucks. It burns!

Most don't bother with this, it's simply too much hard graft and not enough flashy martial pizzazz. But if you want a stunning kick, that is as powerful as it is beautiful, that you can throw to any height your hips allow, this is the way to go.

Open the ranges Build the strength Move slowly through the range.

Then just work, work, work. Hundreds of thousands of repetitions, some slow, some medium, some fast. Some with power (if you're hitting a target), some just the motion. Different entries into the kick, different follow up techniques.

All the drills detailed above now need integrated, so flow through combinations built around the chosen kick, aiming for perfect technique most of the time, and as you add speed or power accepting some technical slippage.

As ever, if this information is useful to you, feel free to share it on.

And if you have further questions on this or any other subject pertaining to fitness, drop me a line.


Dave Hedges

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