My increased knowledge of the biomechanics of hip flexion is one of the most valuable things that I have learned in the past five years. The problem with understanding hip flexion, in general, and the psoas muscle, in particular, is that we use the term hip flexor as a generic term to apply to five muscles, four of which have distinctly different leverage positions from the other one.
This stretch targets the abductors and deeply opens the hips and groin while lengthening the hamstrings. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Keeping your right leg straight, extend it up to your side, reaching hold of your ankle with your right hand. Continue to pull your leg higher up to your right side, into a half-split pose. Hold this position for 30 seconds before releasing and attempting with the opposite leg.
When I do a deep knee bend like a sumo squat I get a popping in the outside of my left knee. It feels like a big tendon or ligament is slipping per something. It isn’t painful peer se but I’m afraid if I do it a lot it will be. Is that a relatively common symptom for a guy with tight flexors, it bands, etc? Should I just push through it or have it checked out?
Working in the pelvic region is not easy for many therapists and clients. There are cautions and borders that need to be addressed and talked through before addressing these muscles. There are emotional and comfort aspects about working in the lower pelvic region. Some clients find this area too personal or private to allow the therapist's hands in this area. Other considerations are the internal organs such as the intestines, uterus, kidneys, and bladder. As the iliacus and psoas travel under the inguinal ligament and insert into the lesser trochanter of the femur, there is also the femoral triangle, which needs to be worked around. Body positioning can be useful to help access these muscles in a less invasive way while protecting the comfort of the client.
Like quadriceps, the hamstrings are 2-joint muscles. Unlike the quadriceps, though, the hamstrings reside at the back of your thigh. They attach at the siting bones, which are located on the underside of your pelvis. When the hamstring muscles contract, the effect is a pulling of the back of the pelvis down toward the back of the thigh, or a bringing of the lower extremity back behind you.
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
Sit on floor with knees bent and shins stacked with right leg on top. Use your hand to position right ankle on left knee. Ideally, the right knee will rest on the left thigh, but if your hips are tight, your right knee may point up toward the ceiling (overtime, as your hips become more open, your knee will lower). Keeping your hips squared to the front of the room, hinge at the hips and slowly walk hands slightly forward. If this is enough of a stretch, hold here, or fold your torso over your thighs to go deeper. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.
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.
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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?
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.