"New Alpinism" - ish question: Hip angle and posture while carrying loaded pack uphill


Original Post
jaredj · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 165

I have a question about posture / hip angle / glute recruitment for those of you who carry packs uphill a lot. Are you able to maintain an erect-enough posture such that you feel like you are using your glutes to power your uphill progress on long workouts or days in the mountains? Or do you end up relaxing your midsection, lean forward a bit, and move into a more "quad-dominant" position?

I find it challenging to maintain the tension in my midsection necessary to have a very upright posture (upright enough such that I feel like I'm really propelling with my glutes). I have a job where I sit a lot, and have a runner-ish background. Not sure if my issue is tight hip flexors, lack of midsection strength / endurance, some combo or something else entirely. I know I should go see a PT probably to get a definitive answer, but was curious if anyone on here has useful thoughts on the issue.

Lee Durbetaki · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 5

If your lumbar erectors are pulling your spine into extension, they are locking your pelvis into place against them. This provides a rigid platform for your hip extensors to pull against, regardless of your back angle.

This video is relevant: Lower Back Position Control

doug rouse · · Denver, CO. · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 660

Use the Force

Legs Magillicutty · · Durango · Joined May 2002 · Points: 590

I'm more quad dominant than erect also. I have a desk job and am a distance runner/hiker. My core, back and my glutes are strong but I have a tight upper back, with somewhat rounded shoulders due to a lifetime of breathing difficulties. My overall posture is slouchy. I always assumed that to be reason. How is your posture otherwise?

Long Ranger · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 75

I was on a death march of a snowshoe to the base of a climb last week, and noticed my posture, and my uh, self-observation of my posture seemed awesome. By the 10th hour, I was tired, and so was my core, and I knew my posture was impacted.

My takeaway was continue my core routine, as it seems to benefit everything I do, climbing, cycling, running, death marches, etc. I can certainly control parts of my core much better before.

A core routine to start out could be something like planks, supermans, and hollow holds. You can progress to/from these. I would add twisting motions and something specific for your obliques. I personally try to do as much dynamic movement, rather than just isometric holds. Keeps things fun, too. Isometric holds are very useful for climbing, as many overhanging routes require you to stop your lower body from swinging out from under you.

If you're worried about APT, there's no hurt in doing those exercise as well. Simply doing Cat/Cow yoga poses was enough to make my brain click and understand how my pelvic tilts (and to correct it, while doing various activities)

Anyways, mind how weight of your pack is distributed. You may want a good portion of the weight to rest over your hips, rather than your shoulders. Lots of resources online about that, and how to pack, etc.

John Tex · · Estes · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 25

For a few years I noticed I was leaning forward a lot and was largely quad dependent. I believe this was from my background as a runner and even when running uphill I took small steps. Eventually I developed it band syndrome and then some pretty severe chronic hip flexor pain that got significantly worse when running, but oddly didn't get very irritated when I hiked very steep terrain.

I discovered as I started weightlifting more a few years back that my hamstrings were significantly weaker than my quads. (I know they should be, I'm talking weaker then the ratio should be) I started squatting ass to grass but had to stop quickly as I upped my weight because, the hip flexor pain when I went past parallel in the squat got very intense.

I started an intense hamstring and hip flexor stretch program, and voila, my back was kept much more straight on very steep terrain, I felt my hamstrings and glutes engage MUCH more as well, and I saw a faster improvement in my times than I had in a while. I was clearly lacking hip flexor flexibility, which in turn I believe limited my ability to activate my full range of muscles which led to weak hamstrings and glutes. The hamstring stretching I believe helped as well.

Everyone is different, and I wouldn't be shocked if lower back strength or core strength was a limiting factor in walking upright also. I definitely fatigue in those areas after sometime and had thought previously that perhaps that was what I was lacking, and I probably was to some extent. But I think my weak hamstrings and abductors, plus overdeveloped quads was a bigger contribution to leaning forward so could use the stronger muscles, than an inability to keep erect due to a weak core.

I do believe walking more upright and activating the hammies, glutes, and abductors more is very important. I'm pretty prone to injury with two stress fractures toward the toe and a few years back had a 9 month case of it band syndrome and I think being very quad dependent through that time period had a lot To do with that. And once I got back to lifting I found the pistol squat to be incredible.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970

Is probably not one single thing but a combination of things. Modern day life often leads to elongated, weak glutes/abs, short, tight hip flexors/low back.

Your question may be one of muscular endurance in the kinetic chain (with over-tight areas assisting the slide into sub-optimal biomechanics); building your glute strength may help, a la hip thrusts. I do this frequently using a theraball and driving off with one-leg hip extensions. There are all kinds of way to train hip thrusts; the key is to look at all the options and not get side-tracked in the fact that most of the pictures/advertising is for big powerful athletes. You can use the same principles to get an enduro mountain boost without doubling the cross section of your glutes.

But first try this neural drive exercise: can you even fire your glutes as a standalone? Lie on your back on the floor with you feet flat on the floor. Try to squeeze one glute on one side several times. Then try the other. (It's cheating to do both sides together, too easy.) Make sure you're not firing your hamstring or anything else at the same time. This may be hard. I usually have one wonky side which doesn't want to do what its told very well. Anyhow, part of getting the glutes to do what they're supposed to do during functional activity is first ensuring the neural input is functioning. If you practice this exercise over time, the circuitry works better and better. The video Lee linked earlier is the same idea for the lumbar erectors.

I also found training the low back/glutes for isometric endurance helps me too. Like doing reverse back extensions and holding it, or supermans (minus the arms if you want). In this type of exericse the glutes and low back fire synergistically although they fire opposite sides of the body.

Stretch the hip flexors and abs and do it in multiple planes of movement, not just front/back. Try using trekking poles when you can. I always find I have better posture with poles.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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