Session: connection failed

Midline Stabilization Part 10: Opening up the Hip by Kelly Starrett - CrossFit Journal

In ExPhysiology, Videos

March 24, 2009

Video Article

Midline stabilization is essential for effective functional movement. Kelly Starrett, of San Francisco CrossFit, explains the essential anatomy and physiology of it in this excerpt from his one day seminar at CrossFit Santa Cruz on November 9, 2008.

The midline is the entire spine, and its stability is dependent not just on the core, but also on all the prime movers of the body, including the hip, glutes, and hamstrings. Excessive tightness in any of the prime movers will affect the core muscles, often resulting in low back pain.

In this part 10, Kelly demonstrates several positions that open up the hip. Get creative and don’t get caught up in the musculature. Just find your tight spots and find a way to lengthen it. Everything is fair game as long as you’re opening up the tight spots.

This is the tenth of a series from Kelly on the theory and practice of stabilizing the midline in functional movement.

5min 51sec

Free Download


22 Comments on “Midline Stabilization Part 10: Opening up the Hip ”


wrote …

Thank you! This is what I have been looking for. I've been having trouble opening up and having my knees track over my feet in the squat, and I thought it was just groin shortness, but it seems like I have the issues you addressed here (along with pitiful hamstrings).

One question though: should all of these stretches be done in that contract-relax-stretch (PNF I think it was)?

I'm really learning a lot from this series - thanks Kelly.


wrote …

How do you know how much is too much when it comes to some of these stretches. Some of the stretches demonstrated seemed a bit extreme as far as range of motion goes. I can understand the need to push these extreme end ranges if you are a gymnast or someone who needs extreme range flexibility, but I have clients who can squat, dead, throw, jump, etc. very well with no limitations or faulty movement patterns. They may still claim tightness in certain areas, but upon review of their functional movements, everything is right on. Do these people still need to push their joints further through the PNF stretching or can they maintain ROM by continuing their current exercise program utilizing all the functional movements?


wrote …

Kelly, thank you so much for these videos! Between these videos and your blog I have learned so much about stretching and mobility.

Would you possibly be covering the shoulders at any point? I myself have had impingement issues and tendonitis due to imbalances in flexibility and strength in my shoulder. Do you have any suggestions for shoulder PNF stretching and general flexibility? Thanks again!


replied to comment from Tony Bevilacqua

Tony this is what I'm wondering about as well. However I used to be very flexible couple years ago but I did it all wrong, I stretch wrong parts of the body (mainly in lumbar area...) in order to be better in kicks in martial arts. What a fault it was. I become injured based on that but that's a different story.
So I stopped stretching all together in a goal to become more stiff :)

Now even if I could squat, DL, jump and throw I feel, I start to feel that I need to be more flexible here and there. Hips, quads and hamstrings to be more precise.
And this is it. As a weight goes up it's less and less forgiving.
Hey, even for L-sits you need stretched hammies, otherwise one is fighting with it's own stiffness than gravity.
So I started to stretch again :) But different parts of the body.


wrote …

This is great stuff Kelly! Your presentation style is great as you share your expertise yet give an extremely pracitcal side to those without much background in this at all. Keep them coming - Thanks!!


wrote …

I thought "stretching was dead?"

Brad Jones


wrote …

Great question. We want athletes to look beyond "I squat fine" so I don't need to mobilize. We are after increasing efficiency of movement. Tight hips, quads, hammies, calves, etc can all be made to work well enough within the context of our functional movements with no apparent ill effects. The demo's in the video are no more extreme than the hip positions in a full snatch, clean, lunge, heavy squat etc. The key concept is that out athletes need to mobilize at the point of restriction. If your athletes feel tight, they are. It is sometimes difficult to see the implications of restricted muscles and joints but they are there none the less. The "Best-Fit" concept is that optimal bio-mechanical function and positioning relative to the task at hand leads to best performance potential. Further, we are interested in intra-muscular/Through-range stiffness. Any passive insufficiency with a movement system is lost output. The compromises (unintentional or otherwise) made by the athlete's system (less than optimal hammy length etc) may fall well within the context of "safe and functional" but are far from maximally efficient. And that is the point.
But if you athletes take a critical look at their mobility and find that they have no problem, great, don't waste anytime working there. Our constantly varied full range movement will maintain and demand full ROM. The programming is perfect, the athlete is not perfect. We use our movements as our functional screens. Think of mobility as optimizing those movements. But, I bet dollars to paleo-donuts that most of your athletes are far from "too efficient" to stretch. There is always untapped capacity to be developed as we work towards the "weight-lifting-sprinter-gymnast-ideal". Look at any of these communities and you will see well codified mobility training. As for examples of getting better, I am in contact with the likes Chris Spealler, Jason Khalipa, Dutch, Leys, and Pat Barber about improving mobility and optimizing efficiency. And those guys move pretty well eh?

Stretching is dead. That's why we use neuro-musclular techniques to change tissues.

We don't advocate stretching the lumbar spine for the reasons you suggest. Keep lumbar neutral while working on limb mobility.



wrote …

This series is incredible. I can't believe how much I'm learning from this. Is it possible to buy a dvd or tape of this entire seminar? I would buy a copy for every athlete I work with.


wrote …

Thanks Kelly!
I think I'm getting tangled up in semantics while trying to understand all this good information.

It seems like you are saying passive stretching is dead.? PNF, contract /relax...whatever you want to call it, is essentially active stretching, correct?

Are your neuromuscular techniques more about changing the tissues or the nervous system? The hardware or the software? I know it is hard to separate the two. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and thinking more and more that it is more about the nervous system. What do you think?

This series is great!

Brad Jones


replied to comment from Tony Bevilacqua

Tony, I just wanted to put in my 2 cents as a CF newb. I'm closing on 40, so maybe it's different for younger or more flexible people, but for me, the warm-up at the CF newb class I'm going to is not enough for me. I did it that way the first few times, and I was able to do full ROM squats and such with good form, but my hams (especially) were tight, I was at end range, and my back would be killing me by the end of class. It's a major, major difference for me, doing it that way (good enough), versus when I go in early and do my own pre-warmup that includes some general ROM movements and stretching (er...non-stretching, I mean.) When I can go in 20 mins early, do my own thing, get warmed up and loosen up some of these tight spots first, it makes keeping that good form a lot easier, so I can do more work, rather than just getting fatigued fighting with those tight spots the whole time. This probably doesn't apply to everybody, but for old crotchety newbs like me with tight spots to begin with, a longer warm-up and loosening up first is a major help.


wrote …

Brad #25 - active stretching - that's what the Rockettes are doing when they do their high kick show. PNF is different - involves an isometric/static tension, then further stretch, then another tension cycle, as demonstrated in earlier vids (did you watch those?).

The adaptation is largely neurological (you saw how quickly Kstar got results on the earlier video; the guy's muscle fibers did not get longer in 60 seconds, his nervous system adapted) - that is, the autonomic systems which serve to keep us in positions which we regularly assume, and which the system thus 'recognizes' as safe, are reprogrammed through PNF to allow us greater, easier, less effortful, ROM. I hope that helps. And fortunately, I can throw this out there like I know something because of my confidence that Kstar with correct anything I have misconveyed! Paul


wrote …

Hey Paul,
Thanks for the response. I don't think that your Rockettes example is generally considered active stretching. That would be more dynamic or ballistic stretching, depending on if you were kicking up past your end range.

I may be wrong, but I tend to think of active stretching as simply contracting the muscle being stretched. Taking advantage of the agonist/antagonist relationships. PNF appears to be a form of this.

I look forward to being corrected by Kelly too!



wrote …


Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have truly enjoyed the series you have done and watched each several times.

I too would be interested in a DVD. (HQ...Please)

I would also like to second the suggestion on an upper body series. As one of the "Over the Hill Gang" I have noticed a reduction in flexibility and related issues in the shoulder area.

Could we get you into the midwest for a Cert. I know several folks that would be interested. Besides, I seem to remember a young Boz asking me at a Cert if I lived in a teepee. (Native American Housing).

CrossFit Tulsa


replied to comment from Chad Cilli

Chad, I was thinking the same thing. These are great and clear up a lot of the mythology about stretching and flexibility.


wrote …

Shoulders! Shoulders! Please help. I can't get my arms under the bar correctly for a sqwat.


replied to comment from Allen Vines

me either.


wrote …

Thanks once again, KStar! Add another request for an upper body series. Please!

I have a 400lbs back squat but when it comes to OHS I would get my ass handed to me by any of the CF girls. There was a fun video of Nicole (I think) doing that exact thing to some huge guy. I felt bad for him as I could totally relate.


wrote …

"I may be wrong, but I tend to think of active stretching as simply contracting the muscle being stretched. Taking advantage of the agonist/antagonist relationships. PNF appears to be a form of this."
PNF is a little more than this but everything I know about flexibility and PNF I learned at a Holiday Inn Express one night (hopefully, there are no photos). For an in depth read, check out "Stretching Scientifically" which does a nice job of explaining why PNF works. Paul


wrote …

Lukas, that video is a classic! Its one of the ones I show the doubters/friends who think their program is good enough.....

Kelly, awesome series. I'd definitely enjoy an upper limb series, or any topic you want.


wrote …

I've heard Kelly mention that we don't want to hand on connective tissue. Can someone elaborate a little more on this and tell me how I could maybe tell if I am doing it?


wrote …

Thanks Kelly, great series! I am anxious to use the techniques you have taught me and preach them to others.

My question has to do with the timing of the stretching. You seem to make it clear that it is important to properly stretch before workoing out to help flexibility in lifts and prevent injury. Do you recommend the 90 second stretching of the hips, quads and hamstrings before and after exercise? Is there an optimal time to perform the PNF or do you just recommned it 2-5 times a day?


wrote …

Hey Kelly:
Do you still think we should have internal rotation close to, or near external rotation range of the hip if we know that anatomically we have retroverted femoral angles (per 3D CT scan)… do you have any thoughts on the implications for an athlete/person who has this anatomical configuration?? Thanks much. Learning so much here!!

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)