It’s an important question, no doubt.
Almost as important as…
“To be or not to be?” or “Will you marry me?” or “Are you a Star Wars or Star Trek fan?”
So, do YOU athletic stance, bro?
If yes, you’re a step ahead. And on you’re way to becoming the next King of the North. If not, you’re missing out on the biggest super power of performance training.
This begs the question: why is athletic stance so critical?
It allows you to do a plethora of strength movements. It allows you to be more agile. It allows you to reduce chance of injury. It allows you to dribble in tight spaces. It allows to to produce more power. It allows you to sit on the toilet with elegance.
If you’re not familiar with the athletic stance, here you go:
It’s simple. Anti-climatic, actually. And sorry this isn’t a picture of Alex Morgan. ;-O
To that end, knowing this is the key to owning almost every single movement in athletic performance.
How To Perform
Athletic stance could also be called “hip hinge” or “power position” or “I’m-a-mother-fucking-badass” position. Whatever you call it, the form should be: chest projected out, hips back, soft knee bend, and shoulders back.
More often than not, however, athletes and clients struggle to get into this position and it ends up looking something like this:
This is a common mistake and can be due to weak core, posterior chain, and lack of spatial awareness.
Some coaching cues I like to use:
– “Project your chest forward”
– “Chop your hips back” <— I will have my athletes “chop” their hips with their hands as a tactile cue.
– “Keep your butt higher than your knees.” <—if the butt is even with the knees or lower, this is when it looks like a shitty squat.
What Movements Are Performed with Athletic Stance?
Time to get technical and shift this piece to some nerd science.
Athletic stance contributes to movements in sports and lifting, so let’s get right into the functional anatomy:
1.) Strength Movements
Want to get a stronger butt? A stronger semimembranosus? <— it’s a hamstring muscle. ;-O
Well, know athletic stance. This way, you can perform a big movement like the deadlift.
Again, the form is the same with chest out, back back, shoulders back, and a soft knee bend:
In addition to the deadlift, the athletic stance permeates over to other hinge-y movements like sing leg deadlifts and good mornings:
I’d argue that the pallof press could be on this list as well:
And face pulls:
And mini band walks:
And pallof sled drags:
I’m not getting carried away or anything.
To that end, the more our athletes can get into athletic stance, the easier it is for them to perform a handful of strength movements.
And sometimes it is the first thing I teach newbies, which makes going over ANY movement easy. All I have to say is “athletic stance” and the rest works itself out. It’s wizardry, I know.
One more thing: words are everything. And sure, we can consider this a hip hinge, but for whatever reason the jargon “athletic stance” has its way of clicking with athletes. They get it MUCH MORE.
2.) Agility Movements
What you need to know about agility: the lower your center of gravity, the more agile you’ll be. Oh, and if your name is Lionel Messi.
Once athletic stance is mastered, the better an athlete can train for agility. This way, they’re able to keep their center of gravity low, and ensure they’re changing direction with positive shin angles:
Whether an athlete is accelerating forward or changing direction, their shin angle must be acute (picture on left) so that the force of their body is going in the right direction.
An athletic stance does just this: it allows our bodies to move with positive shin angles which make us more agile.
Notice how I drop my hips during the lateral movement and keep my center of gravity low when changing direction:
If you pause the video as I make my turn, you can see a positive shin angle that takes me in the right direction quickly.
A negative shin angle would happen if I had a higher center of gravity and stiffer knees. Not only does it make me less likely to change direction quicker, but it could increase a chance of a knee or ankle injury (twisting and rolling).
To review: athletics stance = positive, happy shin angles.
3.) Skills-related Movements
Imagine a world in which you dribbled through defenders with straight knees. Would be a pretty shitty world, right?
This can go for any skills movement, such as basketball dribbling, lacrosse dodging, and soccer 1v1s. Staying in a low athletic position allows for athletes to be fast and efficient.
Here is an example:
Coming back to Messi, he is able to dribble in tight spaces quickly because his center of gravity is low. If you try to dribble through cones with a straight body, you’ll be much slower.
4.) Jumping Movements
Learning to jump and land in athletic stance is not only more effective, but also safer.
In terms of preventing injury, owning the hips-back-chest-out movement is key for teaching athletes to use the posterior chain musculature. This helps take load off the anterior side of the body, especially the knees.
Here is a jumping tutorial I put together:
5.) Power Movements
Olympic lifters may refer to athletic stance as the “power position” which allows them to shift from hip flexion to hip extension when performing power cleans, snatches, and push jerks.
Other power movements that utilize an athletic stance are bounding, jumping, and medicine ball slams:
Notice how as I slam the ball to the ground, I go into the hip hinge position to place the load on my hamstrings and glutes, and keep my chest out to avoid spinal rounding. Also, I keep my rhomboid major activated to look jacked.
I know I went over a plethora of movements that use athletic stance, but I’m sure I missed a few.
Which ones can you think of?