Guest Post By Eric Wong
It’s been over 7 years since I first started training MMA fighters…
I still remember the day I approached my “sensei” who had a 4-2 record at the time, fresh out of university where I earned my Kinesiology degree, nervous that he’d laugh me out of the dojo about my suggestion that I be his strength and conditioning coach for his next fight.
Thankfully, he didn’t laugh at my suggestion off and instead we started training together. We won and lost together and we’re still good friends to this day.
He even popped my “UFC cherry” and brought me along to my first ever event (with a fighter on the card!) when he got the call to compete on the biggest stage in MMA. I’ve been focused on training fighters since.
MMA is such an awesome sport because it requires a combination of strength, power, speed, agility, balance and conditioning, on top of all the different martial arts and combat skills and techniques.
While I’ve dedicated years to studying to develop these very qualities, I’ve neglected one important factor that can make everything better, not just for my athletes, but for myself, too. Maybe you’ve been making the same mistake…
A couple months ago, I drove up to a gym where I train some boxers.
I walked in, smelled the smell of hard work, trained my athlete who is a high level amateur here in Canada and packed up and left for my next appointment, which was at another gym.
Pulling out from the parking spot, my car felt sluggish…
I gave it a bit more gas but it still didn’t have the punch I was used to…
Then, right after I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach that I’d have to visit the garage and drop a fistful of cash on some repair, I saw the little light on the dash indicating the emergency brake was on.
I breathed a sigh of relief, released the brake, and my car responded with the pep I’m used to.
Maybe you’ve had the same experience, when you’ve pulled out from being parked on a hill and forgotten to release the brake first.
Well, the same thing happens with our bodies, except instead of an emergency brake, we’ve got tightness.
And the area where tightness holds you back the most from your fitness and performance goals is your hips.
If you’ve got tight hips, Squatting deep is a grind and even if you do manage to get deep, you often end up with sore knees. Deadlifts can wreak havoc on your back because you can’t maintain a neutral lumbar spine. And your sprinting is limited because when your hip fully extends, tightness slows it down, slowing YOU down.
But when you “release the brakes”, you can quickly gain strength, speed and power simply because you’re not fighting against your own body anymore.
Plus, nagging knee and back pain can become a thing of the past because your body no longer has to compensate for your tight hips.
I’ve personally neglected my hip flexibility. While it’s a story for another day, a couple years back, I had an experience that made me think, “Man, I’d better fix my hips now or it’s gonna be trouble for me.”
While I didn’t have specific hip pain, tight hips leads to compensation at the joint above and below it, specifically the knees and the lumbar spine. But these two areas aren’t meant for the same type of mobility the hips provide, which is why whenever I’d Squat or Deadlift heavy, my knees and low back would ache and I couldn’t break through my strength plateaus.
Until that is, the light bulb went off and I started researching and experimenting with some new flexibility techniques.
Here are 3 that I’ve found particularly useful that you may not have seen before:
Technique 1: Scouring
Scouring is just like how you wash a bowl that has dried food bits on it – you take a heavy duty sponge and circle it until it’s clean.
I first learned this technique from the world’s top low back expert Dr. Stu McGill when he was my prof at university, but I didn’t apply it to my own training until I started on my quest to unlock my tight hips.
Scouring involves rotational movements in different positions to clean out your hip joint.
Think of what happens to a bowl that you ate chili out of that’s been sitting on the counter for a couple of days… It gets dry and crusty and takes some elbow grease and a good sponge to clean it out.
This is what happens when you sit in a chair all day – your hips can develop adhesions and tightness and you need to “scour” them away.
One example of an exercise to do this is the Static Active Hip Rotation, where you stand on one foot then rotate on one leg so your body is facing one way, hold for a couple of seconds, then go the other way.
Do this for 6 reps in each direction on each leg and this will not only clean your joint up to restore smooth rotational movement, but also build strength in the hip rotators that are important for stability.
I’ll have a video of this for you in just a moment, but first, technique #2:
Technique 2: Dissociation
No, this doesn’t involve you taking Peyote or Ayahuasca and having an out of body experience…
This technique involves teaching your hips to simultaneously stabilize while lengthening.
One thing that happens to people with low back pain is that they become rigid. Thing is, 80% or more of people experience low back pain at some point, which contributes to our tightness.
The reason being is because when the low back stabilizers, aka the core, aren’t working properly, other muscles must create stability or the spine will get damaged.
These other muscles include the hip flexors and adductors, which can lock up your pelvis and prevent too much movement, hence, keeping your lumbar spine stable.
Now here’s the video with the Static Active Hip Rotation Exercise and another killer exercise I call the Lateral Leg Drop that I use to train dissociation, particularly between single leg stability and the adductors, which is super important throwing high and fast kicks:
Try these techniques out and see how you feel afterwards – you might just feel a sense of freedom that you’ve never felt before.
And we’re not done, we’ve got one more technique to go through:
Technique 3: Adding a Band to Stretches
In his book, “Science of Flexibility”, author Michael Alter shares his research on how much resistance to movement different tissues provide in the following table:
|Muscle (and fascia)||
As you can see, the joint capsule limits flexibility to a greater degree than your muscles and is the soft tissue that provides the greatest resistance to flexibility, proving conventional wisdom wrong yet again.
And if it’s limiting your flexibility, but all you’re doing is a standard static stretch to lengthen your muscles, then you’re not going to be making any gains at all.
To address it, we can add a band to various stretches. I first learned this technique from Kelly Starrett and have been applying it since with great results.
The key is to mobilize the joint capsule in all the different directions and positions that it might be limiting you.
In this diagram I had drawn up, I show you how to mobilize the joint capsule anteriorly in a standard hip flexor (psoas) stretch and how it affects the joint capsule by pulling it anteriorly:
Apply these techniques and they’ll help you “release the brakes” so you can do your thing whether that’s to Squat heavy without sore knees, Deadlift heavy without buggering your back, sprint at full speed or if you’re like me or my athletes, throw high and fast kicks.
And if you’re looking for a complete blueprint to unlocking your tight hips, which I’ve used personally and with my professional fighters, check out my newest program, The Hip Flexibility Solution. It’s on sale at a discount this week only, including a special launch bonus. For more information, click HERE.