LPHC Training: The Staple of Strength & Conditioning

If you want to get stronger and perform better, you might want to consider strengthening your lumbar-pelvic hip complex. Read on to learn exactly why and how.

The best strength and conditioning routines are the ones that produce consistent results and that survive the test of time.

Jim McCrossin has been the Director of Sports Medicine for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team for the past 4 years.

Prior to this, he was the Head Athletic Trainer and Strength Conditioning Coach for 18 years.

Jim shared with me his strength training philosophies and methods that were successful over the years and still the staples for the teams programming today.

“I believed back then as I do today a great program is based off of your functional movement assessment. I believe that a strength program should be designed specifically for an individual and that one program does not fit all. But, if I had to pick a main staple it would be to develop the lumbar-pelvic hip complex (LPHC) correctly to ensure there are no compensatory issues occurring.” Jim McCrossin

What is the LPHC?

The LPHC is the junction of stability between the upper and lower body to generate and transmit forces. It is the center of gravity from where all movement and power is generated.

This complex is also known as the core, but, most people mistaken the core as only abdominals. The LPHC is comprised of the abdominals but also the lumbar, pelvis and diaphragm, as well as all the musculature attached to them.

Related: 3 Tips to Increase Speed, Size, and Strength

For the LPHC to be efficient and effective during movement or strength training, it needs to be aligned and stable to transfer forces properly through the body. If the force generated cannot reach its final distal point because of a compensated joint or if it does not generate from the complex, injury is probable.

What this means is, that, through movement there are a series of stability and mobility functions happening, for instance in a squat. When the LPHC does not stabilize, it causes compensatory issues within the complex as well as causes other joints to compensate. From this, muscles develop strength imbalances that lead to strain and injury.

One-small compensation in the LPHC affects the whole kinetic chain of movement that leads to larger compensations through time. Compensation is like a spare tire, you can only drive so many miles on it till it fails; and the same goes with movement. You can only apply intensity and force to compensation for so long before injury occurs.

LPHC Dysfunction

Two ways the LPHC becomes easily dysfunctional is from breathing improperly and sitting too much. When you breathe through your mouth, you are not using your diaphragm.

The diaphragm is an important part of the LPHC. It creates intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) that is needed to create tension for the abdominal muscles and lumbar stability. And, the IAP is a crucial functional segment working behind the scenes generating strength for the abdominal and hip link-up.

Nasal diaphragmatic breathing (NDB) is the only way for the diaphragm to work functionally. On a side note, NDB maintains proper oxygen and carbon dioxide balance.

The second way, sitting, unlinks the LPHC. All balance starts at the hips because it is the center of gravity. When you sit for long periods of time, the hips tend to tilt posteriorly. When the hips tilt back, it affects the spine by rounding forward.

Man Training the LPHC Performing Lunges

The hip position dictates the spines position. And, the position of the spine, dictates the stability and mobility of the shoulders and neck. Do you see what I am getting at here? When one part of the LPHC becomes dysfunctional, it offsets the whole complex.

The hips and diaphragm tend to be more susceptible to dysfunction because people tend to breathe incorrectly, through their mouth, which is detrimental to health, and people sit way too much.

To put it all together, a posterior hip tilt positions the thoracic spine into flexion. Over time, joints like the neck and shoulders strain and lose mobility because of the constant poor position of the thoracic spine.

And, when you lift your arm to press a weight above your head or with any type of pressing movements with a posterior hip tilt and thoracic flexion, it strains the neck, shoulder muscles and joints.

In addition, muscular isolation training, when larger muscles outside the LPHC become stronger than the LPHC, the LPHC becomes weaker over time, creating strength imbalances and asymmetries.

LPHC Strength Building Programs

Here is a basic and intermediate LPHC program to keep you in check. Once the LPHC is balanced, stable and functional, you can add resistance to make it stronger. Visualize a core reactor. It generates power that releases energy. The stronger the reactor, the more power can be generated and released. The LPHC is the same for movement.

Follow the exercises in order because it works in a specific way to reset and strengthen alignment of the LPHC. For instance, to work the glute medius effectively and correctly, the hips need to be balanced, eliminating the hip tilt.

Related: Power Training Workout for Increased Athletic Perfomance

Alignment is a mapping of the joints. It shows the path of range of motion for joints. The hip tilt has to be corrected before you move on. The more strength that builds in a muscle under joint misalignment leads to a higher potential of injury.

Work through the LPHC slowly performing 3 sets of 5 reps. The idea is to make muscles contract, stabilize and then stretch. For example, in the lunge, contract the glute first then stretch the hip flexor.

Focus on the contraction of the glutes for 3-5 seconds then relax and move back to the start position. That’s one rep. Continue with the same process. You will notice more stretch, range and mobility before you finish the 5 reps.

Notice, when you squeeze the glute, it activates the stability for the abdominals. If you have to arch your lumbar or compensate a joint to move or stretch, then it is not correct. Contract, stabilize the joint and then stretch and move.

Beginner LPHC Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Standing Lunge 3 5
Glute Band Pull 3 5
Hip Bridge 3 5
McGill Straight Back Sit Up 3 5
Superman 3 5
Glute Medius Side Leg Extension 3 5
Bent Knee Leg Extension 3 5
Frogs 3 5

It is important to get muscles to react properly, so, alignment is essential.

Intermediate LPHC Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Rack Position KB Lunge 3 5
Standing Glute Band Pull 3 5
One Leg Hip Bridge Leg Extension 3 5
McGill Straight Back Sit Up w/ One Leg Extended 3 5
Weighted Superman 3 5
Weighted Glute Medius Side Leg Lift 3 5
Bended Bent Knee Leg Extension 3 5
Forward to Back Frogs 3 5

How a person/player approaches this phase is crucial to develop maximal strength and performance.

The LPHC is the foundation for strength. Strength is the platform for speed and power. As intensity and speed goes up, stability becomes a necessity.

Sports and training require a lot of transference of power from the ground up through the lower body into to the upper body.

It is essential to engage the complex to maximize power.