Sep 12th, 2016
Author: PJF Performance
Could prolonged periods of sitting in a chair decrease your explosiveness? Student athletes are required to sit in class for hours everyday, which may be killing your vertical jump and explosiveness potential.
It’s often said that the human body will adapt to whatever container you place it in. If you spend hours sitting in a chair everyday, your body will gradually adapt to the sitting position by shortening the hip flexors and rounding the shoulders. Prolonged periods of sitting is inevitable for student athletes, which is why we spend time in the warmup and cool-down trying to counteract the sitting position.
From a posture and injury prevention standpoint, daily stretching and targeted strength training is essential to counteract the negative side effects of sitting in class all day. However, today I want to focus on the negative effects that daily sitting could have on your explosiveness and vertical jump.
The hip flexors are the antagonist muscle group of the glute max/hip extensors, which are major players in multi-directional explosiveness. The glute max is the most powerful muscle in the body and requires uninhibited contractions in order to unleash your body’s maximum explosion capabilities.
The Law of Reciprocal Innervation states that when a muscle contracts, it’s antagonist relaxes to an equal extent allowing for smooth movement. With normal functioning hip flexors you’ll be able to relax the muscles to allow for maximum posterior chain contraction and smooth extension through the hip joint. However, when the hip flexors are tight the posterior chain has to fight against the excess tension from the front of the joint. This tension in the hip flexors will limit your ability to explosively and smoothly extend through the hip joint AND may limit hip extension range of motion, which could drastically decrease your vertical jump and multi-directional explosiveness.
Keep in mind that you’ll always have a certain amount of co-contraction from agonist/antagonist muscles to provide stability at the joint. The goal isn’t to turn off the hip flexors 100% during hip extension as this would lead to injury. The goal is to have adequate flexibility in order to avoid excessive “resting tension” that will hinder the natural reciprocal innervation.
Below is a stretch that can help counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and re-lengthen your hip flexors. Add it to your warm-up or as a superset on strength days (dynamic) and/or after your workout (15-30 second hold). Additionally, try to stand up every 20 minutes during class and do a few back bends and walk around whenever possible.