In any form of martial arts hip and trunk strength is vital, but particularly in striking dominant forms.
Basically, all strikes come from the ground, transfer energy up through the leg and hip, into the trunk and are unleashed through the striking limb. If there is a weak link in this chain, then essentially you are losing force at the target due to energy loss from going backwards.
What do I mean by going backwards, well if you try and push a car with your feet in sand, your feet slide backwards due to not having sufficient stability generated, which makes pushing the car incredibly difficult.
The Kinetic Chain
This is a term for the way the body produces force segmentally each adding speed and force as the body part goes through its motion. Producing more force than what each segment could add individually. It’s what baseball pitchers use to be able to pitch as fast as they can or bowlers in cricket to bowl pacers. Without it, they’d be attempting to generate all the force from the shoulder and arm which would be a recipe for injury let alone less performance.
Where does it break down?
Assuming you have good form, the strike, either arm or leg, will start from the ground and transfer through the hip. Although the hip is not overly flexible and has good passive structures improving stability, there can be weakness here that will reduce the effect of your strike. How? If you have inefficient hip extension or ‘hip drive’ you have already lost your solid base of support.
When producing high levels of force or velocity of a limb, greater amounts of stability are required. With martial arts, rotational strength and stability as when performing a round house kick or a even a right cross, the hips will rotate around their axis to improve reach and speed. So this is another area which can reduce the effect of a strike if there is weakness.
Further up the chain we look to the ‘core’ made up of Internal and External Obliques, Transversus Abdominus and Rectus Abdominus. These transfer the energy generated from the lower limb through the trunk to the striking limb.
Like the hips, if the core is lacking in strength, we create a weak link in the chain where force can be lost. Putting increased pressure or requirement on force generated locally from the striking limb.
As discussed above strength could be the issue, but this can encompass a number of different factors, whether your recruitment of these muscles is adequate when striking. Perhaps you have the strength but the speed of contraction upon contact could be the issue, again not transferring optimal force to the striking limb.
Wherever the issue is, if you work on it, you’ll find increased performance for little extra effort and a potential to decrease your chance of injury.
How do we address it
Firstly ensure you have the help of a good coach who should be able to address any potential issues with form, alternatively we can use hand held dynamometry to determine strengths around these areas. Secondly if an injury is present maybe talk to your physio about identifying the weak link. Thirdly a few targeted exercises can help you identify if you have any issues through the kinetic chain. These wouldn’t be a bad option to add into a home program to ensure optimal force generation as they can be progressed up & down depending on your strength or ability.