With so much attention being given to the health and flexibility of baseball players’ arms and legs, often times the hips are forgotten. The hips, one could argue, are more valuable to a baseball player than any other part of the body. Whether you are a hitter or a pitcher, your power (both in your swing as well as your throwing motion) comes from the amount of torque your body is able to generate. When our hips are tight, the range of motion that they are allowed to experience is shortened and thus the power created by the torque of the body is lesser than that of a more flexible player. Therefore, instead of thinking, “bigger is better,” let’s start thinking, “looser is better.”
The similarities between the mechanics of a swing and a throw are surprisingly prevalant. Both hitting and throwing are rotational actions and, in each action, there is a loading of the weight followed by a point of balance, and then an explosive thrust and twist of the hips and core to generate momentum and power. It is true that the stronger you are, generally the more force you can create with either you swing or throwing motion, however, the maximum potential that you have for utilizing this power is determined by the amount of flexibility you have in your hips. Having all the strength in the world but no flexibility in your hips is like driving a sports car with the emergency brake on: sure, you have the horsepower to blow everyone else off the road but you are limiting yourself by locking you rotary devices.
Aside from your basic hip and groin stretches, one of the best things you can do for your hips is to increase the flexibility of your psoas muscles. The psoas muscles run from the top of your femur over your abdomen and then connect with your lumbar spine in your lower back. This muscle is commonly referred to as a hip flexor and is responsible for the flexibility of your hips and lower back (surprise!). Activities that involve long periods of sitting, like driving or watching television, cause the psoas muscles to contract and become tight. When this happens, it becomes difficult to achieve proper flexibility in the aforementioned areas of the body. Thus, it is important to learn how to stretch and maintain flexibility in you psoas muscle.
A great area of Los Angeles to learn about and participate in flexibility exercises is Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Every weekend there are hundreds of people engaging in outdoor yoga and pilates classes that preach flexibility in all areas of the body. If you have some free time on the weekend, go check out one of these classes and focus on your hips and, while you’re at it, go for a run in one of the most beautiful areas this city has to offer and test out your new and improved body.