The Athletic Hip

By Dan Hollingsworth

In ExPhysiology, Reference

November 22, 2010

PDF Article

The hip is essential to elite performance. Dan Hollingsworth explains how this complex joint works.

An easy case can be made for the hip being the most important anatomic region in all athletic endeavors. Before this argument can be made, we must have a clear picture of the anatomic structure and biomechanics of this complex region.

The true hip joint, otherwise known as the “coxofemoral joint,” is the articulation between the femur (the long bone of the thigh) and the pelvis. Specifically, these two structures form a union between the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis, creating a true ball-and-socket joint. The primary skeletal role of the coxofemoral joint is to support the weight of the head, arms and trunk. Dynamically, the hip complex is the power-generation and transfer station that initiates and directs nearly all complex human movements.

A basic understanding of human biomechanics will be helpful in fully comprehending this article. Please refer to Lon Kilgore’s Jan. 29, 2009, CrossFit Journal article Movement 101 for a fantastic introduction to human movement terminology.

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12 Comments on “The Athletic Hip”


wrote …

Going to have to ensure I add more Mobility-WOD style hip focused efforts into my day-to-day routine. Even though I don't actually spend a whole lot of time sitting down at my job, there are blocks of time where it is a must. Fully opening up the hips on every movement that requires it, is another ROM goal I strive to attain. Perhaps now I can try and pinpoint where problems arise (or help others point me in the right direction).


wrote …

Thank you very much for solving a few mysteries, the plateau in my deadlift and why I've shown surprising hamstring flexibility in some movements and absolute zip range of motion in others.

It's also driven me mad that I cannot completely drop into K-Star's 10 minute squat, or 'Paleo-chair' as he describes it on his M-WOD blog, despite the fact that I'm vastly improved in front squats and thrusters and just about every other exercise.

Am I correct to think tight hip flexors are the culprit here as well? I've wondered if they're limiting my internal rotation (or if internal rotation plays a role in squats at all). It must; my internal rotation is terribly limited compared to the external.
It certainly is down and in front that things get gummed up in that bottom, bottom position.

Thanks for a great article. I'll be hitting the 'couch stretch.'


wrote …

Thanks for the article, Dan!


Joseph Alexander wrote …

Dan this was fantastic and informative. I sure hope you can write some more articles (i.e. shoulder, knee, spine). Perhaps you could write a more current article explaining the biomechanics, muscle engagement, and advantages of the full ROM squat; it is still a Level 1 seminar favorite question, and most references are dated sources outside of CF. Keep them coming boss.


wrote …

Great article Dan, and incredibly informative. I have struggled with hip issues for years, and it has a huge impact when I'm in the box as well as a source of discouragement. I have gone to doctors for years to "fix" the problem, and their solution is always the same, to quit working out, quit running, no high impact exercise, etc. This article has provided me with more information than I have gotten in years.


wrote …

Thank you, Dan. This article was super informative and should be able to give everyone more than a basic understanding of hip biomechanics. I too hope you write more articles detailing the large joints of the body. Thanks again.


wrote …

Dan, wonderful article.


wrote …

Dan, thank you for this article. Required reading for my trainers now. What a great addition to the Journal.


wrote …

When is "The Athletic Shoulder" coming out?!?!?


wrote …


I've been having some sciatic pressure lately and your article has helped me connect some dots, particularly about pelvic tilt, internal and external rotation. I am mobilizing as we speak.



wrote …

FWIW, have cured my 'piriformis syndrome' by not hyperextending the hips in the deadlift setup; neutral spine is indeed better, you can "arch" too much.


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