Unilateral exercises like step-ups and single-leg toe touches are particularly effective at strengthening the glutes, while walking lunges, lateral lunges, air squats, and jump squats will zero in on all the muscles surrounding the hips. Whether you’re at the gym or heading out for (or back from!) a run, these five moves will strengthen and open your hips, keep them loose long-term, and not only make you a better runner, but make running feel better to you.
Have the client or athlete stand with one foot on a plyo box (24″ works well for most) that places the knee above the hip. With the hands overhead or behind the head, attempt to lift the foot off the box and hold for five seconds. Inability to lift and hold is indicative of a weak psoas and or iliacus. To add resistance and use this test as an exercise, lateral resistors or bands can be used to increase the difficulty of the isometric. It is important to note that any test of the psoas originating from below the hip is inherently invalid, as the iliac-originated hip flexors are now at a leverage advantage.
How to: Lie on your back with your right knee bent and foot flat on the floor (a). With your left leg fully extended, press into your right foot to shift onto your left hip. This is your starting position (b). Then, squeeze your right glutes to press your left hip open until you feel a stretch, pause, then return to start. That’s one rep (c). Perform six to eight reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward, and lower your left knee to the ground, releasing so the top of your left foot is flat on the floor. Place your hands on the ground under your shoulders, keeping them both to the inside of your right leg. Keep your arms straight and press your chest forward to increase the stretch. Sink into your hips, but try to keep the weight balanced between them. Be aware that your front knee doesn’t go over your toes. Repeat on the opposite leg.
The hip flexors help balance the posterior pelvic muscles. Three key muscles often become tight and shortened as a result of activities of daily living. These are the iliacus, psoas major, and the rectus femoris. The iliacus and the psoas major are often referred to as the iliopsoas because they share the same insertion at the lesser trochanter of the femur. The psoas minor inserts on the superior ramus of the pubis bone and mainly supports the natural lordotic curvature of the spine, but is only found in about 40% of the population. The psoas major originates on the anterior surface of the lumbar vertebrae and runs over the pubis bone and inserts into the lesser trochanter of the femur. This muscle not only helps to flex the hip, but also has an effect on the lordotic curvature of the lumbar vertebrae. The rectus femoris has a proximal attachment at the acetabulum and inserts into the tibial tuberosity. This long muscle plays a role in both hip flexion and leg extension (Figure 9-4).
The pectineus is an accessory hip flexor. This short muscle originates from the front of the pelvis, crosses the hip joint and inserts near the top of the thighbone. In addition to hip flexion, the pectineus works with other muscles to move your thigh inward. The pectineus may be involved in groin strains, which occur commonly among players of sports that require rapid acceleration and position changes.
Now doing the same thing over and over again and somehow getting a different response may seem like a good idea to some, whereas others may think they just need to “spend more time” with their hip flexor stretches to force that tight and unforgiving muscle to finally loosen up. But the simple fact of the matter is that if it’s not working, it’s probably not the right solution.
The hip flexors in particular can be troublesome little cusses. These muscles are crucially tied to the functionality of everyone from elite athletes to senior citizens, but working them can make anyone feel silly. After all, you never see videos of Ronnie Coleman walking with his arms extended in front of him like a zombie, attempting to raise his toes up to his hands.
Gait analysis studies in the elderly show that they typically have a shortened step length. Whether that is a result of tight hip flexors or due to reduced balance, the propensity to walk with shorter steps will itself lead to tightness in hip flexors and anterior joint structures. Hip stretches may be a relatively easy preventative strategy for the elderly with gait abnormalities and may help to prevent falls.
Grade II (moderate): A larger tear in your muscle that makes it difficult to move and causes a moderate amount of pain, especially when you move the affected muscle, swelling, and tenderness. You may have 5 percent to 50 percent loss of function and you may be limping. You can't go back to sporting activities until the tear is completely healed. These injuries can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months to heal, depending on how bad they are.
Imagine not being able to climb stairs, bend over, or even walk Changes in hip joint muscle-tendon lengths with mode of locomotion. Riley, P.O., Franz, J., Dicharry, J., et al. Center for Applied Biomechanics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Gait & Posture, 2010 Feb; 31 (2): 279-83.. All pretty essential if you ask us! But that’s what our bodies would be like without our hip flexor muscles. Never heard of ‘em? It’s about time we share why they’re so important, how your desk job might be making them weaker (ah!), and the best ways to stretch them out.
How to: Sit on the floor with knees bent so that your right shin is positioned in front of you, your left shin behind you and your left hip dropped all of the way to the floor (a). Inhale and press your left hip forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip (b). Exhale and press left hip back to the floor. That’s one rep (c). Complete six to eight reps, working each time to increase your range of motion. Repeat on the opposite side.