A lot of folks have been told in order to add power to the hip extension in a deadlift or kettlebell swing, snatch or squat to squeeze their butt at the top, tense the glutes, etc etc. Physiologically, kinetically, it seems we get more power if we focus on the other side of the pelvis - anterior rather than posterior. Rather than thinking about the butt tightening, think about the hips rotating out. Allow me to explain.
But first, a bit of context: this tip was demo'd for me by Z-Health Master Trainer & RKC Lou McGovern of Essential Strength when Lou was helping me to hone my rather dire longboarding skills. Let me also say that Lou is a fabulous trainer. If you want to get better and ANYTHING you are doing with movement, and happen to be anywhere around San Diego, seek him out. You will be well recompensed for your efforts.
Ok Second to the point at hand, as Lou asked me "where are the hips?"
If you (as i did) pointed to your thighs, we have to think deeper. The joint where the femur connects to the pelvis is well inside the leg, rather a handspan out from the crotch to the joint.
The idea is to think about this joint and consciously turn the thigh out (externally rotate).
If you put your hand on that area of your leg, and do this motion, you can feel the hip joint move.
At the same time you do this, you'll aslo feel your glute muscles tense as well.In contrast, you can clench your butt without engaging the hips.
Lou demonstrated the difference between these two positions by having me stand in neutral stance, putting my arms straight out in front of me.
He then asked me just to clench my butt, and from there he pressed down on my outstretched arms. Which came down.
He then asked me to reset my arms and this time think about rotating my hips out. He then tried to push down on my arms again. They were much stronger this time (they didn't get shoved down).
Echoes in Powerlifting Cues? In a quick exhange about this tip with Pavel, Pavel asked if this were the same idea as powerlifters "screwing their feet into the floor." Lou said, yes, it's just thinking about the other end of the movement, too, in a bone ryhthm way (see this post on the viking push press for a bit more on bone rhythm).
In other words, in the screwing the feet into the floor in a squat, one plants the feet, let's say parallel to each other, and rotates out against the foot plant. In the hip turn, now we're thinking about not just the feet turning out but the hip (the top of the leg, really) as well.
aside: This approach of rotating out against a fixed point seems similar to how Pavel describes the hand/arm position for the one arm push up in Power to the People.
Trying it Out. If you give this move a go when swinging a KB or deadlifting or squatting, you may find the move is stronger, smoother, easier. Personally i find on the squat this coordinated move makes it easier to keep my knees where they're supposed to be. Likewise on the top of the swing, if i think about turning my hips out, i don't have to think about driving the hips forward or "snapping" them - the snap happens as a result of the hip movement.
Conceptually. I like this approach: the concept of the hip snap, while i've been doing it for the swing and snatch in particular, has felt like Something We Just Do to get the hips forward. With the notion of rolling the hips out, which results in the pelvic thrust AND the glute contraction and pelvic muscles getting worked too, it seems to simplify the "what to do" meaning there's less to check on the move check list - at least for me. Your mileage may vary.
Likewise, at least for me, what Lou has brought to what is perhaps a set of well known hip tropes for many lifters is to really think about *what do we mean by the hips?" Just that simple point of really gettting WHERE that joint actually IS in the movement has been huge. The "hip" seems so amorphous. What is that, now that i think about it (or thought about it then). But by actually getting at the notion of the joint and the joint action, things open up. It makes all the metaphors of feet screwing and hip thrusting and butt clenching kinda happen. That's what makes a great coach for someone, is that that person can connect in a meaningful way a good mental model for the athlete. Thanks Lou.
Give it a Go? If you want to try this, please by all means try the arms out, butt clench, and then arms out hips rotate front/out with someone pressing down on the arms to feel the difference. IF no one is around to test this, simply try this move with your squat or swing and see what you think. Let me know.
Many thanks to Ken Froese at the DD Forum for pointing out this vid of Lou talking about spinning out the hips in the context of an overhead kb press. A key point in the vid (and it's so CLEAR after it's explained, like duh) is that it locks out the hip hinge part of a lift (like the clean with a kb) so that, with the hinge gone, there's a really stable platform - less give. That's yet one more reason this technique is so potent. Here's Lou:
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amazing tip on generating more power for the kettlebell swing