This stretch opens the abductors and deeply opens the hips and lengthens the adductors while improving balance. Stand straight, holding the back of a chair at your left side. Lift your right knee into your chest, and grab hold of your foot with your right hand. Slowly straighten your leg up along your side, into a standing split. Keep your hand on your foot and lean your torso to the left. Hold this pose for 30 seconds before alternating sides.
There’s much more happening behind the scenes when the hip flexes! Learning the attachments of the 11 hip flexor muscles is the best way to begin getting a handle on what’s happening when personal training clients complain of tight hip flexors or seem to have referred back pain from an imbalance in the muscles. You’re then able to design and suggest stretches and exercises that are specific to the issue at hand when you understand the form and function of these muscles. Here’s a few thoughts for you when doing that…
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.
Hi Autumn! Thanks so much for your reply. I am so sorry about your car accident and the pain that you’ve been in! Here’s a link describing my postpartum program. I think it would be helpful, but it also sounds like it would go better in conjunction with your primary care provider/physical therapist/chiropractor- someone along those lines! I’ll also shoot you an email so we can chat more about this! https://thefittutor.com/a-safe-and-effective-postpartum-workout-program/
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The better you understand anatomy and biomechanics the more effectively you can program exercise for clients who need correction and/or to restore balance between the right and left sides of the body. There are 11 muscles that flex the hip joint. Each of these muscles also has other abilities for movement. For example, tensor fasciae latae also internally rotates the hip and abducts it. Whereas sartorius abducts but externally rotates the hip. The muscles in the human body all overlap each other in their abilities, making it the machine of many movements that it is.
Widen your knees ever so slowly until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Make sure your ankles are in line with your knees, your hips stacked over your knees, and your feet and calves should be grounded and toes pointed out. Relax your shoulders, and if you’re able to, lower down to your forearms. If you have a yoga block, resting your chest on it will help you release your hips.
Deanna is an ACE® certified personal trainer, Balanced Body® Pilates instructor, and NASM® Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is passionate about inspiring others to lead a healthier lifestyle through fun workouts and healthy food. When she’s not creating new workouts and recipes for her blog The Live Fit Girls she enjoys running with her two dogs and traveling.
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.
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!
The sartorius originates at the ASIS and proceeds to traverse obliquely and laterally down the thigh to eventually insert at the anterior surface of the tibia, just inferomedial to the tibial tuberosity, as part of the pes anserinus. In addition to flexing the hip and knee, the sartorius aids in the abduction of the hip. It is innervated by the femoral nerve (i.e., the posterior division of L2 and L3).
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.
For runners, tight hip flexors prevent full rear extension of the leg. To compensate, stiff runners achieve extension by arching their back and tilting their pelvis forward; this shifts the foot strike forward, in front of the runner’s center of mass, and creates an inefficient braking force, as well as a heavy foot strike that takes its toll on ankle, hip, and knee joints, explains USA Triathlon performance adviser Bobby McGee.
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.
Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a unique method that involves a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, the NFPT blog editor, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn more about how to align your business with her coaching guide, Fitness Career Freedom and your body with her Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.
Weak glute (or buttocks) muscles also contribute to tight hip flexors. Unfortunately, it’s a self-perpetuating problem, since tight hip flexors can cause weak glutes. Strengthening the glute muscles—which often don’t get as much exercise as other key running muscles such as the hamstrings, quads, and calves—is an effective way to relieve stress on the hip flexors.
Kneel on your mat with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and tops of your feet facing down. 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 between your feet. Use your hands to turn the top of your thighs inward. Then, lean back onto your forearms and slowly lower torso to floor. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
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.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee so that your knee, shin, and foot are on the floor, parallel with your pelvis. Bend your right knee and place it on top of your left ankle so that your right knee is above your left ankle and your right ankle is above your left knee. To intensify the stretch, place your hands in front of your legs and very slowly walk them out as you lean forward. Stay relaxed and breathe. Repeat with the other leg.
Start in a runner’s lunge with right leg forward, right knee over right ankle and back leg straight. Walk right foot over toward left hand, then drop right shin and thigh to the floor, making sure to keep right knee in line with right hip. Allow left leg to rest on the floor with top of left foot facing down. Take a moment to square your hips to the front of the room. Hold here, or hinge at hips and lower torso toward floor, allowing head to rest on forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side. You want to feel a moderate stretch in the outside of the right thigh, but if this pose hurts your knees or feels too uncomfortable, stick with Thread the Needle.
The rectus femoris is one of the four quadriceps muscles -- the quadriceps are the major muscle group of the front of the upper leg. The rectus femoris attaches to the anterior inferior -- the part toward the feet -- portion of the iliac crest and runs to the base of the patella, also known as the knee. The femoral nerve supplies the rectus femoris with nerves. This is the only muscle that crosses the hip joint, which enables it to work as a hip flexor and a knee extender muscle.
You’ve heard the saying: it’s all in the hips, but for many of us, our hips – or more precisely, our hip flexors – are tight, stiff and inflexible. If you’re an office worker you can probably thank sitting down at your desk 8 or more hours a day for your tight hip flexors. Habitual sitting causes your hip flexors to tighten and shorten – adjustable standing desks, anyone?
Muscle Imbalances – The front of your hips, your hip flexors, are the muscles that will tighten and shorten while you are sitting for hours each day. While you are sitting, the back of your hips, your glutes and your hip extensors, are being overstretched. But just because they are being tightened and stretched respectively, doesn’t benefit either of them. They are also being weakened because of the lack of use of each muscle group.