3) The athlete or client will use the rectus femoris to create hip flexion. This is the mysterious “quad pull” seen in sprinters or on forty-yard dash day in football. In this case the etiology is the same as above, only the culprit is now the rectus femoris, not the TFL. It should be noted, that most “quad pulls” or “quad strains” are limited to the multi-joint rectus femoris. Soreness will generally be near the insertion point of the rectus femoris into the quadriceps at about the mid-point of the thigh. The psoas and iliacus are to the anterior hip as the glute is to the posterior hip. A weak glute max will cause synergistic dominance of the hamstrings and extension of the lumbar spine to compensate for hip extension. This will lead to back pain, anterior hip pain (another Sahrmann point: use of the hamstring as the primary hip extensor changes the lever arm of the femur and can cause anterior capsule pain), and hamstring strains. On the literal opposite side a weak or under-active psoas will cause back pain from flexion rather than extension, TFL strain and rectus femoris strain.
Stretching is not only for athletes and yogis. Anyone who wants to improve their flexibility and range of motion should consider performing a few stretches every day. People with sedentary lifestyles, in particular, should stretch daily to help improve their mobility. Sedentary individuals are generally more prone to injuries because their tight muscles aren’t acclimated to sudden or jerky movements.
The rectus femoris is one of the quadriceps muscles. The rectus femoris arises from the front of your hipbone, runs through the middle region of the front thigh and attaches to the top of the kneecap. In addition to hip flexion, the rectus femoris straightens, or extends, your knee. This dual function increases the vulnerability to strain injuries. Stretching exercises to maintain flexibility and balanced training to equalize your quad and hamstring strength reduce the likelihood of rectus femoris strains.
Like most of us in the profession, I did not previously make any distinction among members of the hip flexor group. All of the hip flexor muscles seemed to work together to flex the hip and that, at the time, was enough for me. However, my recent reading into the work of physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann has changed my thinking about hip flexors, as it has about many other muscle groups.
Muscle strains may then be a further hindrance to exercise, perpetuating the cycle of inactivity and leading to an even greater decline in mobility. As we get older, our muscle mass naturally decreases and our activity levels decline. Inevitably, muscles grow weaker and joints stiffen up. Stretching can help reverse that aging process. Whether you are young or old, athletic or sedentary, stretching is a great way to improve your fitness and agility.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place left ankle right below right knee, creating a “four” shape with left leg. Thread left arm through the opening you created with left leg and clasp hands behind right knee. Lift right foot off floor and pull right knee toward chest, flexing left foot. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.
The good news is that there are plenty of good hip stretches out there that you can do to relieve discomfort, decrease tightness, and increase mobility in your hips. Since your hips are involved in so many of the movements you make (both inside and outside of the gym) stretching them is a great way to keep them feeling good and ready to work for you. Add some of the 12 hip stretches Atkins demos below to the end of your workout, or spend 10 minutes each day just doing a few of them, to improve mobility in your hips.