We welcome new guest author and Steelworks athlete, Brooke Havens, as she drops a knowledge bomb on how larger hip angles can impact female athletic performance and how you ladies can resolve those issues!
It isn’t hard to see that women are anatomically different than men. When it comes to athletic movements women have to accommodate mechanically for these differences. This is why men and women are prone to different injuries, both acute and chronic. One of the main factors to consider when it comes to female mechanics is the Q-angle.
Nature has blessed women with the wide hips we all love in order to “ease” childbirth. However, this same blessing curses us when it comes to athletics. The Q angle is the angle formed by lines representing the pull of the quadriceps muscle and the axis of the patellar tendon. The average q-angle for men measures 14 degrees and 17 degrees for women. This seemingly miniscule discrepancy wreaks havoc on the knees of athletic women trying to keep up with our 14 degree male partners.
“It’s only 3 degrees”, you may say…but some studies prove that ACL tears rates are twice as high in women as their male counterparts. Many of these studies attribute this epidemic to the Q-angle. In a muscular sense the Q-angle weakens the lines of pull of several muscles, namely the gluteus medius (see picture on the top) and vastus medialis oblique (see picture on the bottom). If female athletes are able to properly strengthen these key muscles, it may be possible to reduce the rates of injury caused by the large Q-angle.
Weaknesses of these important muscles can lead to a litany of chronic knee issues such as patellar tendinitis, improper patellar tracking, chondromalacia patella, IT Band syndrome, and subluxations. Think of how important form is when performing every motion. Paying attention to proper technique is vitally important to combat the deficit imposed by the Q-angle, especially when dealing with movements as complex as cleans or snatches. If these muscles are not functioning properly, us ladies are bound to end up with knee or hip pain! With the help of a few exercises, it is easy to decrease the chances of developing these syndromes.
- Negative step-downs: if done properly, this exercise can work both of the aforementioned muscles. It is important to sit back first and keep the knee parallel to the ankle.
Stand on stool or step with involved leg. Lower the uninvolved leg with a controlled tempo of 3-4 seconds until the heel touches the floor, and then press back up using the muscles in the involved leg only. Repeat. *Be sure not to allow your knee to track inward when squatting*
2. Lateral Band Walks:
Loop a band around your legs, about mid-shin level. There should be tension when standing with your feet hip-width apart. With hands on hips, core tight, sit back and take a wide step to the left, then step right foot in(always keeping tension on the band, heels never coming closer than hip-width). That’s one step. Take 8 steps with the right foot and 8 with the left.
3. Single Leg Side Plank Holds with Hip Abduction with Circles
Begin in a side plank with your shoulder in line with your hips. Lift your top leg with toe pointed down and slowly draw circles with your foot. Do this 10 times clockwise and 10 times counter-clockwise on each side. Repeat 2 times. The side plank with abduction circles is an excellent exercise because it focuses on the gluteus medius muscle while also strengthening the core!
So, ladies, if you are experiencing knee pain, you might want to consider these gentler strengthening exercises before you return to crushing all of those thrusters, burpees, and box jumps!