Bridging Part I: Releasing the Parking Brake

Tight hip flexors, bad backs and obesity are epidemic in the US today. Why? Because we’ve turned into a bunch of lazy lima beans that literally sit around all day. We sit in front of the computer “working”. We sit in front of the “one-eyed brain sucker” (i.e. TV) “relaxing”. We sit while eating, driving, socializing, etc. The result of all this sitting…shortened hip flexors, big bellies and lower back stress. The solution is as simple: 1) stretch/lengthen the hip flexors, 2) pick up a kettlebell and start swinging.

Even if you have your weight under control, chances are you still have tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors are a major cause of lower back stress. In addition, it negatively affects your athletic ability. Short, tight hip flexors negatively affect stride length, while walking or running, and adversely affect’s the ability to jump effectively. So what’s the solution?

The secret to unlocking the powerful action of your hips is to, as Pavel would say, “release the parking break”. The best way to release the parking brake is to stretch and lengthen the hip flexors. The exercises described below will help release the full power in your hips. Do yourself and your back a favor and add this simple stretch to your daily routine.

Warming Up:

  1. Begin lying on back with knees bent and feet as close to your buttocks as possible. (Figure 1)
  2. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to lift your hips off the floor; keep your head and shoulders on the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds; breathe shallow. (Figure 2)
  3. Exhale and relax, slowly lower the hips back to the starting position. Perform 3-5 reps.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Figure 2
Figure 2

Adding the Abductors:

  1. Repeat Step #2 – but this time, place a medicine ball between your knees.
  2. Gradually and forcefully press the sides of the medicine ball with your knees. This will activate the adductors and enhance the contraction of the glutes as you drive your hips towards the ceiling. This will greatly improve the effectiveness of this stretch. Hold for 5 seconds. (Figures 1-2)
  3. Exhale and relax, slowly lowering the hips to the starting position. (Figure 3)
  4. Perform 3–5 reps.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Figure 2
Figure 2

Figure 3
Figure 3

Sandbagging it:

This is an advanced and very effective version of the shoulder bridge (i.e. hip flexor stretch). If this won’t release your ‘parking break’, you might need to call a tow truck and seek medical assistance.

  1. Begin by placing a sand bag next to you and roll it on your hips. (Figure 1-2))
  2. Depending on the size of your sand bag, you may want to start by pushing it towards your knees before lifting your hips towards the ceiling.
  3. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, adjust your sandbag accordingly and hold for 5 seconds. While in the top position, a) have a training partner remove the sand bag or b) quickly lower your hips to the floor, push sandbag off to the side, and drive hips back towards the ceiling. (Figure 3)
  4. You should notice an immediate improvement in your range of motion. Hold for 5 seconds, then rest. Perform 3-5 reps.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Figure 2
Figure 2

Figure 2
Figure 3
If you are serious about “burning the butter” off your mid-section, begin with a steady diet of high repetition lifts – such as: swings, cleans, snatches or some of my “Hand-to-Hand” drills. In order to properly execute these exercises, one must remedy the short, tight hip flexor problem first. “Hip snap” execution is essential! Prior to training sessions, perform the shoulder bridging exercises mentioned above. You’ll notice the hips will feel less restricted, your form and endurance will improve, and you’ll drastically reduce the strain on your lower back. You will be amazed at how much more powerful and efficient you will become. In addition, the muscles of your midsection and posterior will be strengthened, the “butter” will start “melting away”, and you will feel the relief of a more upright posture.