Barbell hipster - by Dave Melillo

Barbell hipster


At the crux of every athlete is the hip. It is part of every functional movement we perform at the gym and throughout the day; it controls our balance, pelvic inclination and posture, but still remains a source of untapped potential for most.  This capped potential is not due to a physical gap, but rather a lack of understanding or appreciation for what the hip’s true mechanism is capable of. What I have come to understand from my research and experience is that the force generated by the vicious, full extension of the hip joint allows an athlete to express the true breadth of their power and training.

The supernatural strength produced by a developed understanding of hip drive is overtly appreciated in the Olympic weightlifting community.  Different styles of Olympic weightlifting have been developed based on the use of the hip and whether it makes contact with the bar or not. Some suggest the brush method
where the bar barely makes contact with the body, while others champion intentional hip contact with the bar in order to aid elevation. Just like different styles of martial arts, both lifting styles can be debated and defended ad nauseam, but if an entire sport can split into two factions based on the hip, then its role in the expression of our strength is non-debatable.

The importance of hip drive is baked into the core of CrossFit, and as CrossFit athletes we understand the importance of the hip, as its status routinely serves as our standard.  An open or closed hip can mean the difference between a rep and a no-rep, a muted hip in the middle of a clean or snatch can be the difference between hitting a PR and hitting a wall, and hip drive is essential to master the advanced gymnastics
modalities we see in many work outs. The casual weekend warrior and sports fan may not consciously give the hip the love it deserves, but we are all innately drawn to its power. Homeruns in baseball, dunks in basketball, and depth defying receptions in football all owe their excitement to the power generated by the hip.


Below is an infamous dunk by Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers beside a 122kg (268lbs) snatch by Spanish weightlifter Lydia Valentin. In frame two of Griffin’s dunk and frame three of Valentin’s lift we see both athletes in almost identical positions at the final moment of hip flexion. The proceeding frames show each athlete’s hip going into full extension, releasing the massive amount of energy gathered during the setup. The last frames highlight the focus and accuracy of each athlete as the force generated by their violent hip extension dissipates and they are forced to maintain control of the movement.  Both samples are shining examples of how hip drive not only generates superior strength but also excitement. The Griffin dunk won him the 2011 NBA slam dunk contest and Lydia’s 122kg snatch at 75kg bodyweight is only 13kg below the world record set by Natalia Zabolontnaya.


At my L1 our instructors explained that we develop hip drive through programming in part because it fuels most of our favorite sports moments. Hip drive is the most efficient way to move loads, allows us to express our strength in the most comprehensive manner and turns heads for the right reasons. So the next time someone tells you to open your hip during a workout remember that they may not be doing it just to adhere to a standard, but also to make you stronger.