Athletic Stance

Athletic Stance: A Critical Component Of Sports Performance

Sometimes we have a tendency to overlook the basics. We progress through athletic development like it’s a to-do list, crossing things off and moving on to the next thing. A glaring example of this is the athletic stance. This fundamental position is the starting point for a large amount of the movements athletes do, both in the weight room and on the field. If I had to bet I’d say most young athletes cannot properly execute this position…and that is a problem.

Like I said above this movement is fundamental, so if an athlete has difficulty performing it, is there athletic performance diminished? I would say yes, it is involved in many actions of sport and if an athlete is unable to properly utilize the athletic position it isn’t a reach to assume those said actions would be compromised. This is why the fundamental movement patterns are so important for youth athlete development. We can’t skip steps and we can’t rush the process. You wouldn’t expect to perform well in calculus if you had skipped over algebra and geometry. So, why do we think an athlete can completely skip over proper movement and skill acquisition and go straight to fancy drills and techniques?

Ultimately, the athletic position is just a simple hip hinge. The hip hinge is important for life, not just sports, and it is a movement a lot of people struggle with. It’s pretty simple really, all you do is slightly bend your knees and drive your hips back while keeping your chest up. However, due to lifestyle factors many people today have a weak core and posterior chain which makes performing this movement difficult.

Keys To The Athletic Stance:

  1. First, lower your center of gravity by driving your hips back.
  2. Your knees will also bend as you do this, make sure your knees do not go too far forward.
  3. Keep your chest up and eyes straight ahead looking down field.
  4. You should end up with your shins close to vertical and your shoulders over your toes.
  5. How far apart you place your feet will vary between individuals. I usually instruct for them to be slightly wider than shoulder width.

This position loads the glutes and hamstrings, which are important muscles used in explosive movements. It puts you in an optimal stance to change direction quickly. If you aren’t convinced on the significance of the athletic stance, try performing some basic sports moves while standing upright versus getting into the stance I described above.

Take the scissors move in soccer for example, if you are standing upright and haven’t properly loaded the backside of your body, it will be hard for you to safely and efficiently push off your grounded leg and change direction. Now, when you lower your center of gravity and properly align your body in an athletic stance it will be much easier to quickly execute the movement and blow by a defender.

How Important Is It Really?

Pretty darn important, in fact you’d be surprised just how many aspects of sports and sports performance training involve the athletic stance. Remember, sports are fluid and involve continuous and random organizations of movement. I say this to point out that you don’t have to look like an eager Middle Linebacker to execute the athletic stance. It can be incorporated into a concept or sequence of movement.

1) Strength Training

Go into any collegiate or professional weight room and you’ll certainly see athletes performing the athletic stance. It is a great position to create stability and leverage while lifting weights. There are obviously many positions where this position would not be advantageous. An overhead press for example, where we are pressing the weight above us and a forward lean may not be ideal. However, there are many exercises where the athletic stance is really the basis of the movement. The deadlift is probably the best representation of this, or any of the hinge movements.

Like I mentioned above the athletic stance is ultimately a hip hinge, so any hinge exercise in the weight room will closely utilize the same concepts. A proper deadlift is done with a slight knee bend, hips back and remaining above the knees, chest up, and shoulders back. Now compare that to the instructions given above and notice the similarities. The olympic lifts, barbell rows, and kettlebell swings all revolve around this similar pattern.

2) Agility & Change Of Direction 

An athletes ability to change direction is largely related to their center of gravity. The lower your center of gravity the easier it is to display agility. This is because it puts the body in a position to quickly absorb and produce force. This is basically the athletic stance, where we drop our hips and ready the body for movement.

Going into a change of direction you have to decelerate by absorbing force, this is when we begin to see the level change. In order to do this properly you have to lower your center of gravity to put your muscles and joints in a favorable position. To get out of this level change you then need to generate force and propel your body in the desired direction. Sports come down to angles and by utilizing the athletic stance you will be able to better position your body to generate force. More Force = More Speed.

3) Plyometrics

This is made up of jumps, hops, and bounds. If you are performing a vertical jump or box jump you are starting and finishing the movement in the athletic stance position. At least I hope so, proper technique requires it. Imagine trying to dunk a basketball without bending your knees. Seems pretty hard huh? That’s because we need to hinge at the hip to maximize our ability to jump. Now imagine landing from that jump with straight legs. Does that seem like a safe option to do repetitively? Heck no. That makes my knees hurt just thinking about it. We need to be able to hinge and slightly bend the knees when landing to absorb force. You want to land like you take off and take off like you land. This common cue for jumping/landing mechanics details perfectly how the athletic stance relates to plyometrics.

4) Sports Specific Movements

I would define these as the specific movements and situations of a sport. For example, dribbling a basketball is something unique to the sport and not seen elsewhere. I think by now you get the idea that the athletic stance is involved in a lot of movements. I hope you also understand that you don’t have to start from a static athletic stance position for a movement to incorporate the concept.

Since we know this information, imagine how many different sports specific movements involve the athletic stance. The answer is a whole lot. Obviously there is variance from sport to sport but most are utilizing it to some capacity. A 1v1 in soccer, defensive position in basketball, or blocking in football all require a mastery of the athletic stance to execute at a high level.

Practice, Perfect, Perform

Give this a try and practice getting in and out of the proper stance so that your body knows the correct position. Repetition and a conscious recognition of the athletic stance’s involvement in sport is important. Remember to perfect the basics before you start stacking athletic skills on top of them. Developing as an athlete is a progressive process that requires competency before advancement. Once you have mastered the athletic stance you can then expect to properly perform many of the movements of sport.

If you have any questions for me based on this article please feel free to ask. Simply fill out our contact form and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


John Evans