To complete this stretch, take a knee in front of a wall so that the toes of the leg you have raised are pressing against the wall. Place that same hand against the wall. Reach behind you with your other hand and grab your leg that’s sitting on the floor by the ankle, and bend it back towards your body. Hold this position and lunge forward towards the wall to complete the stretch. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side of your body.
Holland also suggests doing strength work in different planes of motion to keep all the muscles in and around your hip flexors, especially your glutes, firing correctly.“You can’t have good hip flexion if your glutes are tight or weak,” Nurse says, “so it’s super important that you’re always stretching and strengthening the front of your hip flexor and the back, which are the glute muscles.”
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.
Our hip flexors serve many vital functions. The goal of the hip flexor is to make it easy to for joints to move through their full range of motion smoothly. They’re responsible for important aspects of motion, like our ability to bend, run, or kick. Without our hip flexors, controlling the movement of our legs would be virtually impossible. Our hip flexors also work to stabilize the joints of the hips and lower body.
While each muscle functions slightly differently, their overall combination allow them to flex the hip joint, anteriorly rotate the pelvis, and extend the lumbar spine. Due to its’ attachment on the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine, the psoas also plays an important role in lumbar spine stabilization (1), an often forgotten function of this muscle.
Other muscles that can be recruited to assist with hip flexion include the tensor fascia latae (TFL), the pectineus, the adductors, the gracilis, and the anterior aspects of the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. The contribution of these secondary hip flexors largely depends on the position of the hip at the time at which movement is initiated.
Grade III (severe): A complete tear in your muscle that causes severe pain and swelling and you can't bear weight on that leg, making it difficult to walk. You've also lost more than 50 percent of your muscle function. These injuries are less common and may need surgery to repair the torn muscle. They can take several months or more to completely heal.
Extension (as a definition) increases the angle between the bones in a joint. When you extend your knee, you are straightening your knee from the bent position, increasing the angle between the femur and the shin bones. When you are extending your hip, your leg is essentially moving backwards in space, say 10-20 degrees. When you walk, run, or lunge, you have one hip passing through extension. Now why the fuss about these two words?
Fun fact: I was hoping I could rename this because I have a phobia of butterflies. But.. I want you to be able to easily recognize this gym class favorite, so here we are. When it comes to hip flexor stretches, this is hands-down the most embarrassing for me- your knees should be much lower to the ground than mine, but that takes time. Work in progress, friends.
Hey Sunny! I’m so sorry you’ve been experience hip pain since your C-section! I hope these help! :) I actually have an exercise program to help women recover properly from C-sections (mainly rebuilding their core and pelvic floor) if that sounds like something you might be interested in, let me know! I’m wondering if we could get your strength balanced some of that hip pain would go away? Thanks so much for your comment!
Like rolling, this is a movement that deserves to be done as often as you can tolerate. Physical therapist and coach Kelly Starrett has written that you should do it for two minutes on each side every half hour. That may be tough to manage, but the point is this: Frequent, long-duration stretches are the only stretches that will have any significant effect on your tissue length and mobility. If you want to improve, you have to commit.
A post-run stretch, followed by soft-tissue work with a foam roller, will help further loosen the hip flexors. This is especially important if you exercise before work, says Fitzgerald, because scar tissue and muscle adhesions form quickest when exercised muscles are suddenly held in a compressed position (i.e., your office chair). Walking breaks throughout the day will also help prevent these adhesions.
Understanding the unique functional contributions of the psoas and iliacus illustrates how a weak or under-active muscle can be a factor in both back pain and in quadriceps strains. With back pain, inability to flex the hip past ninety degrees will often cause many clients or athletes to flex the lumbar spine to give the illusion of flexing the hips. Watch how many of your clients or athletes will immediately flex the lumbar spine when asked to bring the knee to the chest. There is a clear distinction between bringing the knee to the chest and bringing the chest to the knee. Attempting to bring the knee toward the chest and above the level of the hip forces the athlete or client to use, or attempt to use, the psoas and iliacus. If they are unable to do this one, or all, of three things happen:
Work on strengthening all of your core muscles and glutes. These muscles work together to give you balance and stability and to help you move through the activities involved in daily living, as well as exercise and sports. When one set of these muscles is weak or tight, it can cause injury or pain in another, so make sure you pay equal attention to all of them.
Tight hip flexors occur for a variety of reasons. Those who run frequently or engage in other activities that put strain on the hip flexors are likely to experience hip flexor tightness at one time or another. A blow to the hip or poor conditioning can also be causes of tight hip flexors. These causes can usually be attributed to tiny tears that occur to our hip flexors through rigorous activity.
Now the catch with hip flexion is that most of us sit in chairs and end up in a position of passive hip flexion and knee flexion (bent knees) and retain that position for many hours a day. We know now that our bodies process the movement or lack thereof and adapt to the shape that we most frequently inhabit, for better or worse. If you primarily flex the hips and knees and never fully extend them, you may have chronically short or weak hamstrings, limited range of active hip flexion and limited range of active hip extension, for starters!
Last month, I talked about the unique complexity of the shoulder, and how a problem there can produce effects throughout the upper body. Well, the hips are just as complicated, and pelvic dysfunction can be just as far-reaching. Your erectors, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, quadriceps, hip flexors, and more all interact at this junction, and a problem with any one of them can lead to debilitating immobility and weakness in lifting and in life.
For example, your quadriceps muscles are a group of four that are located at the front of the thigh; one of the group members, the rectus femoris flexes the hip, which brings your lower extremity (thigh, lower leg, and foot) forward, in front of you. On the other hand, your hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh. When they contract, they extend the lower extremity, bringing it behind you.
The iliotibial band is a thickening of the fascia lata, the deep fascia of the thigh. Think of it as a thick long ligament like structure that connects the hip to the lower leg along the outside of the thigh. Tightness in the iliotibial band can cause patellofemoral pain, trochanteric bursitis, and friction syndromes at the knee. This is a hip stretch I commonly prescribe to runners and people suffering from knee pain.
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.
Athletes with relative shortening of the hip flexors and accompanying weakness of hip extensors will exhibit decreased hip extension at terminal stance phase or “toe off.” Athletes who lack hip extension may also exhibit related limitation in great toe extension. Often these athletes will show decreased wear under the great toe aspect of their shoe sole and relative increased wear under the more lateral toes. These athletes may also demonstrate increased hip flexion at initial contact or “heel strike” in an effort to make up for the shorter stride length caused by limited hip extension. In patients with knee instability this will contribute to hyperextension or “giving way” of the knee.13
If most inner-thigh openers feel too easy (and your ankles and knees are injury-free), try Frog Pose. Get down on all fours, with palms on the floor and your knees on blankets or a mat (roll your mat lengthwise, like a tortilla, and place it under your knees for more comfort). Slowly widen your knees until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thighs, keeping the inside of each calf and foot in contact with the floor. Make sure to keep your ankles in line with your knees. Lower down to your forearms. Stay here for at least 30 seconds.
You can strain or tear one or more of your hip flexors when you make sudden movements such as changing directions while running or kicking. Sports and athletic activities where this is likely to occur include running, football, soccer, martial arts, dancing, and hockey. In everyday life, you can strain a hip flexor when you slip and fall, for example.
The more than 20 muscles that make up your hips are responsible for stabilizing your pelvis, moving your legs from side to side, and shortening to draw your knees toward your chest every time you sit down, run, jump or pedal, explains Kelly Moore, a certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness, which brings health and wellness initiatives to companies throughout Chicago.