Easy ways to improve agility via hip strengthening

*Learning the workout secrets of NFL players isn't easy. We asked Arizona Cardinals physical therapist Brett Fischer of the Fischer Institute to show you how it's done.
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Not everyone has access to the fancy weight rooms that most teams possess. There are many effective ways to strengthen one's hip muscles with what these facilities offer, but I want to show you three practical and low cost strengthening exercises.

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The ability to change direction effectively and efficiently is one of the keys to advancing to the next level. In the previous article, I wrote about the importance of first establishing the proper range of motion. Sufficient range of motion elongates and loads the muscles to create explosive power.

When a football player lacks either hip range of motion and/or adequate hip strength, many common flaws are observed by scouts. For example, wide receivers and tight ends tend to exhibit the inability to get in and out of their breaks smoothly. In other words, their ability to change direction is inefficient when running their routes. For running backs, defensive backs and linebackers, they display inadequacy in "flipping their hips", meaning they have difficulty changing the direction of their hips quickly and efficiently. Lastly for offensive and defensive linemen who lack proper hip flexibility and/or strength, scouts will comment that they are playing "too high." In other words, the linemen do not properly lower their center of gravity. By playing "too high," the linemen lack adequate leverage.

Here are three simple but productive strengthening exercises that will improve functional football quickness.

1. Single Leg Bridge Hold. (Figure 1)

This exercise focuses on gluteus maximus muscle development. In this drill, simply lie on the floor with one knee flexed and resting on a step. Then raise your hips so that there is a straight line from your knee to your chest. Straighten and hold out the other leg while maintaining the same straight line from your chest to your hips. Do not allow the hips to tilt to either side and do not arch your lower back. Hold this position for 30 seconds then switch legs. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat for two more sets of 30 seconds. Eventually, work up to sets of 45 seconds and when you master that go to one minute holds.

2. Sidelye Up (Figure 2)

In this movement, the emphasis is on strengthening the gluteus medius muscles which help move you side to side. Lie on one side with your closest elbow to the floor in a bent position. Separate your legs about 12 inches apart and continue to maintain this same distance between your legs throughout the exercise. Lift your hip off the floor and raise it as high as possible. Slowly return to the starting position where your bottom hip is touching the floor. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. If you are unable to complete three sets of 10 with your legs separated, try the same exercise with your legs together.

3. Around the Worlds (Figure 3 and 4)

This exercise will target the hip muscles that turn or twist your hips. Simply stand on one leg with a 5 lb or 10 lb weight(depending on your ability to control the weight during the movement) in both of your hands. Place (five) targets in a half-circle around one foot then proceed to touch each of the targets and return back to the standing starting position after each touch. Go around the semi circle and return back. Perform three sets of this exercise on each leg. Remember to allow for a slight bend as you touch the targets with the weight.

These three exercises may not be the first thing you think about when developing hip strength, but development of these specific muscles will give you a distinct advantage against your competition!

-Brett Fischer is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA; Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.

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