Located deep in the front of the hip and connecting the leg, pelvis, and abdomen, the hip flexors— surprise, surprise— flex the hip. But despite being some of the most powerful muscles in our bodies (with a clearly important role), it’s easy to neglect our poor hip flexors— often without even knowing it. It turns out just working at a desk all day (guilty!) can really weaken hip flexors since they tend to shorten up while in a seated position. This tightness disrupts good posture and is a common cause of lower back pain. Weakened hip flexors can also increase the risk of foot, ankle, and knee injuries (especially among runners) Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners. Niemuth, P.E., Johnson, R.J., Myers, M.J., et al. Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, VT. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2005 Jan; 15 (1): 14-21.. So be sure to get up, stand up every hour or so! And giving the hip flexors some extra attention is not just about injury prevention. Adding power to workouts, working toward greater flexibility, and getting speedier while running is also, as they say, all in the hips The effect of walking speed on muscle function and mechanical energetics. Neptune, R.R., Sasaki, K., and Kautz, S.A. Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas, Austin, TX. Gait & Posture, 2008 Jul; 28 (1): 135-43..
Following the core strengthening, working on glute activation through various hip extension movements is the big finale. For one, the glutes main function of hip extension is an agonist to the hip flexors, and are also directly involved in low back stability, which means they help to pick up the slack for the core during movements, and helps reduce the impulse on the psoas, therefore reducing the “tightness.”
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.
You can use over-the-counter remedies such as Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) to help with pain and swelling. Tylenol (acetaminophen) works for pain relief, but it doesn't treat inflammation and swelling. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or if you've had ulcers or internal bleeding, check with your doctor before taking any of these medications.
The top of the sartorius muscle attaches to the anterior superior iliac crest. Anterior is the portion toward the front of the body, superior is the part toward the head, and iliac crest is the top border of the ilium. The muscle crosses the upper leg to attach to the tibia, also known as the shin bone. The femoral nerve supplies the sartorius muscle with nerves. The sartorius muscle aids in knee and hip flexion and rotation of the thigh and tibia.
The primary hip flexors are the rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius muscles. The rectus femoris muscle has two distinct origins proximally: the direct head and the reflected head. They originate at the AIIS and the anterior acetabular rim (in close proximity to the anterior hip capsule), respectively. The tendinous fibers of the rectus femoris coalesce distally and become confluent with the other quadriceps musculature in the thigh. The quadriceps consists of four distinct muscles: 1) the vastus intermedius; 2) the vastus lateralis; 3) the vastus medialis; and 4) the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris is the only quadriceps muscle that traverses both the hip and the knee joint. The rectus femoris is a powerful hip flexor, but it is largely dependent on the position of the knee and hip to assert its influence. It is most powerful when the knee is flexed, whereas significant power is lost when the knee is extended. The rectus femoris is innervated by the femoral nerve (i.e., the posterior division of L2 to L4).
The patient generally presents with leg stiffness, weakness in the hip flexors, and impaired foot dorsiflexion in the second through fourth decades, although symptoms may be apparent in infancy or not until late adulthood. The gait disturbance progresses insidiously and continuously. Patients may also have paresthesia and mildly decreased vibratory sense below the knees and urinary urgency and incontinence late in the disease. On neurological examination, generally there are no abnormalities of the corticobulbar tracts or upper extremities, except possibly brisk deep tendon reflexes. In the lower extremities, deep tendon reflexes are pathologically increased and there is decreased hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. Crossed adductor reflexes, ankle clonus (Video 82, Cross‐Adductor Reflex; Video 84, Sustained Clonus), and extensor plantar responses are present. Hoffman's and Tromner's signs, as well as pes cavus, may be present. Occasionally, slight dysmetria may be seen on finger‐to‐nose testing in patients with long‐standing disease.
You can roll on just about anything. I've used several different types of foam rollers, a Rumble Roller, lacrosse balls, PVC pipe, a number of weird stick-shaped things. I've also been getting great results using the Body Wrench, an awesome device that is basically a combination of all of the above. I have found that different materials are suitable for different areas on different bodies, so feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.
Think about keeping your head over your heart, and your heart over your hips, and don’t allow an excessive curve in your back. Keeping this correct posture will ensure you’re doing the stretch right. Squeeze your glutes as tight as you can, keep your back tall, and lean forward slightly. One to two inches should be enough! You should feel this in the front part of your hip on the leg that’s underneath you. Switch legs after 30 seconds or so; repeat as desired.
So, who cares right? Wrong. Everyone has seen that little old man walking with a cane, hunched over almost to the point of staring at the ground. Do you think he always walked like that? I'd bet you he didn't. Maybe he had an injury that never healed properly, or maybe after spending years and years in a similar position, his body became tighter and tighter until eventually he ended up bent over.
Movement at the ankle is controlled by two joints. The ankle or talocrural joint is formed from the tibia and fibula of the lower leg and talus of the foot. Functionally, it acts as a hinge, allowing dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upwards towards the lower leg) and plantarflexion (pulling the foot downwards away from the lower leg). Eversion (tilting of the sole of the foot away from the midline) and inversion (tilting of the sole of the foot inwards towards the midline) is controlled by the subtalar joint formed between the talus and calcaneus bones of the foot.
Approximately 15 degrees of hip extension is required to walk normally. If hip flexors are tight then in order to walk, compensatory movement needs to take place through the lower back causing back pain and premature disc degeneration. Like other joints, if we fail to take them through their full range on a regular basis we eventually lose mobility.
Kneel on your mat with thighs perpendicular to the floor and tops of of your feet facing down. Place a yoga block between your feet. Bring your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart so they are slightly wider than your hips, and press the tops of your feet evenly into the mat. Slowly sit down on the yoga block. Use your hands to turn the top of your thighs inward. Allow the backs of your hands to rest on your thighs. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
At the very least, the tension and/or spasm in muscles that cross over the hip and attach onto the pelvis can contribute to imbalance, in terms of how strong and flexible each muscle group is in relation to the others. But muscle imbalance in the hips and the spine may make for pain, limitation and/or posture problems. It can also increase the healing challenge put to you by an existing injury or condition, for example, scoliosis.
Note: Exercises that strengthen the hip flexors also involve contracting (shortening) these muscles. So if tight hip flexors are a problem for you, it might be wise to limit how many direct hip-strengthening exercises you perform. These exercises are more geared toward people who have been told they have weak hip flexors that need strengthening or are looking for targeted exercises to build more power and stamina in the hip flexors.
Frequently, I find that these individuals have increased TONE (resting muscle tension) due to poor core stabilization. In response to this dysfunction, the body increases tone in the hip flexors to help create some stabilization. In treating these individuals, I want to decrease tone of these muscles and then follow that up with specific exercises that help them develop better core control.
The only activity performed on a regular basis that fully extends the hip is walking and running. Hence as activity levels decrease so does the ability to extend the hip. This results in compensatory pelvic tilting and lumbar extension, with a reduction in the ability to accommodate uneven ground, negotiate obstacles, or attempt to change walking speed quickly. The compensatory pelvic tilt that accompanies tight hip flexors also predisposes the individual to postural problems and back pain. Hip stretches done on a regular basis can help you maintain extension range of motion and thereby improve function.
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).
We all do it—we stretch in the morning to get our blood flowing, we stretch our legs after a long drive, and we stretch our shoulders after sitting at our desks for hours. Stretching is an intuitive movement, not only for humans but for animals as well. (Try doing some yoga on your living room floor without your dog or cat coming by to stretch alongside you!) We stretch because it is a simple and effective way to loosen our muscles and invigorate our bodies.