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Harriet

Hip Strength/mobility for Kicking

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Hi all, I've just started taekwondo and I have discovered a couple of weaknesses I'd like to address actively rather than just waiting. I was wondering if anyone could help me identify exactly what's going on and what exercises could help.

 

So my main problem is that, although I can get my knee up, it does not want to stay there. I'm not sure if this is due to front hip tightness or weakness, but holding my knee up in the air leads to some unknown muscle in the front crease crease of my leg/hip joint getting tired rather quickly. My second problem is that I have real trouble with the movement in the axe and crescent kicks. Again, I'm not sure if it's stiffness or weakness, but I don't have much control when trying to move my raised knee from side to side. 

I lift heavy weights three times a week, but only do a few simple movements, so it's possible some muscles are much stronger than others. I would have thought deadlifts and squats would make my hips strong, but apparently they don't transfer to the movement patterns I described above (if I understand correctly, deadlifts and squats mostly involve hip extension, not hip flexion, which I need for kicking). Does anyone have any ideas to improve stiffness/weakness in these areas? Or even know how to figure out whether it's weakness or stiffness or both?

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If you have the passive flexibility to touch the ground with your knees straight I'd imagine it's a lack of control in the flexed hip position. Most times these are issues of motor control; we can stretch all we want, but if we don't actively use that range of motion we don't really have it. (Think earning potential vs. actual income.) The majority of people do not actually actively flex their hips beyond 90 degrees, and that's why the L-sit position, even without support, is seen as such a big deal.

 

Personally I have a huge difference in my active and passive hip flexion ROM, so I don't really pre-stretch before doing my end-range ROM work. I usually work in like 3-5 sets of seated pike pulses or Straddle L-sits, concentrating on being able to endure the cramps better. A more advanced method is PAILS and RAILS from FRC, which I am totally not qualified to speak about, but I've heard great things.

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1 hour ago, Machete said:

If you have the passive flexibility to touch the ground with your knees straight I'd imagine it's a lack of control in the flexed hip position. Most times these are issues of motor control; we can stretch all we want, but if we don't actively use that range of motion we don't really have it. (Think earning potential vs. actual income.) The majority of people do not actually actively flex their hips beyond 90 degrees, and that's why the L-sit position, even without support, is seen as such a big deal.

 

Personally I have a huge difference in my active and passive hip flexion ROM, so I don't really pre-stretch before doing my end-range ROM work. I usually work in like 3-5 sets of seated pike pulses or Straddle L-sits, concentrating on being able to endure the cramps better. A more advanced method is PAILS and RAILS from FRC, which I am totally not qualified to speak about, but I've heard great things.


Yeah, I can lay my fingers (not my whole hands) flat on the ground with my legs straight. Okay, it makes sense that active use of a rom is not the same as passive flexibility. I absolutely don't have the forearm strength for straddle l-sits, but the seated pike pulses look like the ticket. Thank you very much for the suggestions. I am going to go read about PAILS and RAILS now, it's new to me but from a quick skim it makes more sense than passive stretching which has never done a great deal for me. 

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Floor slider mountain climbers & skater squats will also kick your proverbial ass (proverbial since it's actually working hip flexors, not targeting the glutes for more than basic support ;)). Also treading water. dead bugs, and reverse lunges. Even step ups & isometric holds (ie. just hold your knee up for as long as you can safely) are good too - my biggest issue with hip flexor exercises was always that I ended up compensating with the wrong muscles, so the biggest point is to make sure that you're feeling the work in the target area, not in your lower back or something.

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1 hour ago, Harriet said:


Yeah, I can lay my fingers (not my whole hands) flat on the ground with my legs straight. Okay, it makes sense that active use of a rom is not the same as passive flexibility. I absolutely don't have the forearm strength for straddle l-sits, but the seated pike pulses look like the ticket. Thank you very much for the suggestions. I am going to go read about PAILS and RAILS now, it's new to me but from a quick skim it makes more sense than passive stretching which has never done a great deal for me. 

 

You could do straddle pulses as well. The static stretch allows you to release the overactive muscles, but you have to use that ROM otherwise the stretch is for really nothing.

 

These address specific problem areas though, more as supplementary exercises. At some point you'll want to get yourself into the position that you want to be in and practice being there. Let's say you're training for a stationary high side kick hold. First you could work yourself up to having the requisite flexibility and balance to get into said position against a wall. Then once you're comfortable, you can start pulsing higher from there. Then holding. Alternatively you could tie your leg to a band or pulley system that assists in getting your leg up to that position, then gradually decreasing the assistance until you can get there on your own; afterward you could add resistance if you so choose. There are lots of ways to get you there, but ultimately what you want to do is get your brain to learn how to get into the positions you want.

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3 hours ago, Defining said:

Floor slider mountain climbers & skater squats will also kick your proverbial ass (proverbial since it's actually working hip flexors, not targeting the glutes for more than basic support ;)). Also treading water. dead bugs, and reverse lunges. Even step ups & isometric holds (ie. just hold your knee up for as long as you can safely) are good too - my biggest issue with hip flexor exercises was always that I ended up compensating with the wrong muscles, so the biggest point is to make sure that you're feeling the work in the target area, not in your lower back or something.


Lots of new exercises for me to google, thank you. I'll play around with the movements and see which ones hit the right muscles. 

 

1 hour ago, Machete said:

 

You could do straddle pulses as well. The static stretch allows you to release the overactive muscles, but you have to use that ROM otherwise the stretch is for really nothing.

 

These address specific problem areas though, more as supplementary exercises. At some point you'll want to get yourself into the position that you want to be in and practice being there. Let's say you're training for a stationary high side kick hold. First you could work yourself up to having the requisite flexibility and balance to get into said position against a wall. Then once you're comfortable, you can start pulsing higher from there. Then holding. Alternatively you could tie your leg to a band or pulley system that assists in getting your leg up to that position, then gradually decreasing the assistance until you can get there on your own; afterward you could add resistance if you so choose. There are lots of ways to get you there, but ultimately what you want to do is get your brain to learn how to get into the positions you want.


So it seems like static stretching is good for tight problem areas only? Does that mean I should avoid too much stretching of problem-free areas? 

Okay, so the plan is I'll start off with the seated pulses, then try variations with wall support and/or cables that get closer to what the actual kicks are like and maybe even add weight if standing pulses become too easy (doubtless this will happen eventually, and surely there's nothing that can't be improved by putting some iron on it). 

Thank you :) 

 

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Yeah, most times it's hard to find if it's overactive, weak, or compensating, so the general blanket statement "stretch more" used a lot is a bit useless. In general, stretch the hips, ankles, and t spine, as those are the most common chronically shortened ones. But, again with the hamstrings as the example, a lot of people seem to think they have tight hamstrings. When they lie down in a stable position however they have no problem going to 90 degrees. It could be a stability problem, where the hamstrings tense up while standing because they can't fin'd balance. Or it could be tight hips tilting the pelvis forward and pre-stretching the hamstrings to begin with. 

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