If you are an athlete with slow feet and have trouble getting into dominant athletic position, then weak hip abductors just might be the problem.
The hip abductor muscles are located in the buttocks region of the body and lateral hip. There are four primary muscles in this region and their names are the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus and Tensor Fascia Latae. See Figure 1.
Hip abduction is the ability to move your thigh and leg away from the midline of the body. This is seen by observing the right leg in the neutral position in Figure 2a and then as it is abducted away from the midline of the body as seen in Figure 2b.
The Gluteus Maximus, if your recall, was also an extensor of the hip and like most muscles in the body, they have multiple functions. The Gluteus Medius, while also and abductor of the hip, can internally rotate the hip with the anterior fibers and externally rotate the hip with its posterior fibers.
The Gluteus Minimus and Tensor Fascia Latae also medially rotate the hip along with their abduction ability.
Hip abduction, along with its counterpart, hip adduction, are movements that are typically associated with side to side, or lateral, movements in sports. This occurs, for example, where a shortstop or second baseman in baseball prepares themselves in anticipation for lateral movement to get into better position to field a ground ball. Figure 3.
Figure 3. Defensive stance in baseball with hips abducted.
It also occurs while playing defense in basketball where you have to constantly react to your opponents change in position.
Figure 4. Defensive position in basketball.
Slow Feet? Not really. More like slow hips.
Many times when a player is criticized for being slow you will often hear that “he can’t move his feet fast enough” or, “he or she has slow feet”. But is this really a correct statement?
All movements in the legs or lower extremities begin at the hip joint and so what we have here is more of a ‘symptom’ of a problem rather than the actual cause.
Slow feet are a result of slow or weak hip muscles. If the muscles surrounding the hip joint are not strong enough to move the weight of the entire leg, the speed and quickness of the entire lower extremity, including the feet, will suffer.
There is little you can do to the actual muscles of the foot that will make you a faster athlete. That all takes place higher up in the hip joint. So if you happen to be an athlete with “slow feet”, don’t look too far down your leg for a solution.
Your best and only bet would be to work on strengthening and quickening your hip muscles, including the hip abductors and hip adductors as well as the hip extensors, hip flexors, internal hip rotators and external hip rotators.
Hip Abduction Machine
Figure 5. Hip Abduction Machine.
Because the machine shown above puts you in a sitting position with the pads contacting the outside of your knee, the length of the lever, i.e. bone, pushing against the pads is limited to the length of your thighs.
So while these machines are okay for exercising your hip abductors, it would be better for you to train them through a resistance acting further down around your ankles because then the length of your entire lower extremity is being utilized rather than about half of it.
When you train your hip abductors this way, you will be using a longer lever, or moment arm, which will enable you to supply greater stress to the hip abductors.
Plus, by training them through a force acting around your ankles you are also helping to stabilize and strengthen the muscles surrounding the lateral side of your knee as well. This is the best way to correct slow feet and as an athlete, you will want to always look for ways to maximize your workouts.
Many of you may have actually tried to train your hip abductors this way by attaching a cable around your ankle while pulling on a a stack of weights. What you may have found is that your initial lack of coordination and strength in the legs and hip muscles caused an uneasy feeling while doing this and so you never really continued to pursue the exercise.
There is a far better way to attack the hip abductors through your ankle joints than the standard weight and pulley machines. The Run Faster speed training program has several unique exercises that use the resistance band with an isometric training strategy that them in a very safe and efficient manner. The amount of tension and force that can be directed and focused on your hip abductors is limited only to the amount you are willing to apply.