The Most Overlooked Area For Women
Mark Verstegen was just hired by Jurgen Klinsmann to head the fitness program for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Here is his thoughts on a serious issue facing female athletes (it’s good information for males, too)
Hip stability might be the number one issue facing women when it comes to injuries and ailments. Injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee have reached epidemic proportions among young women, and not just athletes. Nobody can pinpoint a reason, with theories ranging from the increased physical nature of women’s sports to biomechanical issues to a possible tie-in to menstrual cycles.
ACL injuries lead to other knee problems, along with shin splints, stress fractures and other injuries. ACL injuries often are related to a lack of stability and mobility in the hips; the knee moves to compensate for the hip.
The hip cuff is the control unit for your lower body. It governs the thigh, which interacts with your knee and affects your foot position. The centrality of the hip cuff is why tremendous attention must be paid to strengthening the muscles in and around the area, as they are critical in controlling everything below your hips, and everything above as well.
The hip cuff consists of more than 40 muscles in and around your lower pelvis that are responsible for much of your lower body movement. Even if you think you already have the ultimate hip-and-glute workout routine, I assure you that you haven’t come close to addressing this key area.
Hips are the most overlooked area when it comes to decreasing the potential for injury. Most back and hip problems occur because of improper mobility and stability and faulty utilization of the hips. Most people are locked down or unstable in their hips. If one of your hip capsules is locked down, it’s as if one of your thighbones is welded to your pelvis—imagine wearing a permanent cast on your hip. To get anything to move, you would have to use excessive motion in your knees and back to make up for your hip’s immobility. The lower and middle back share some common responsibilities with your hips, but they were meant to be secondary, not primary, initiators of movement. By maximizing efficiency in and around the hip cuff through improved mobility, stability, and strength, you will discover the engine that will propel you throughout daily life, to say nothing of creating “buns of steel.”
We want to focus on becoming glute dominant instead of quad dominant. This is a key concept. Most women move from their knee joints as opposed to their hip joints; they’re “quad dominant.” Their knees move first, stimulating the quadriceps muscles to fire at the onset of movement. This is a dangerous thing because the hub of your wheel is your pelvic area—not the quads. You want to absorb force through the more powerful center of your body toward your glutes, which will enable the limbs to work together to produce force. To try to absorb this much force in the quads alone is to invite ACL and other leg injuries.
Imagine if you slip on a patch of ice. If your knees and quads move first, you’re probably going to fall, likely resulting in a knee injury. But if you can absorb that force through the center of your body and your glutes, you’re less likely to tumble and if you do, it’s less likely to produce a knee injury.
The reason women tend to be quad dominant is that they have a larger “Q angle,” the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone). Women’s hips are slightly wider relative to their knees and often a woman’s knees fall more toward the midline of the body, creating a greater angle from the knee to the hip.
This is the price women have to pay for being able to produce the miracle of childbirth. There’s nothing we can do to change this, obviously. But what you can do is be aware of it so that when you look in the mirror or watch your workout routine, your knees are not coming together and definitely not rubbing together.
The Core Performance program will help you develop more femoral control by focusing not on your knees but in your hip cuff, which is the control center for both your knees and lower legs. We’ll spend lots of time on movements that challenge the hip rotators. These exercises might feel like butt busters but are actually knee and back protectors, giving your body the ability to control the angles and better disperse force into your muscular system.
Excerpted from Core Performance Women by Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams. For more info or to order Core Performance Women, visit any of the following Web sites: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com, Indiebound.com or Penguin.com.
About The Author
Mark Verstegen – An internationally-recognized leader and innovator in the world of athletic performance training, Mark Verstegen is the founder of Athletes’ Performance and Core Performance.