If you’re lucky, you won’t notice your hips are tight until you’re trying to do the Half Pigeon pose in your yoga class. But if you’re not so fortunate, your tight hips are making themselves known every time you so much as walk to the bathroom or sit on the couch—expressing themselves in the form of lower back pain and muscle stiffness. Tight hips can even shorten your stride, slowing your 5K goal time!
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 iliopsoas muscle group consists of two muscles: the psoas muscle and the iliac muscle. These muscles work together to help the hip flex. The psoas muscle connects to the lumbar vertebrae L1 through L5. The other end of the psoas muscle connects to the tendon on femur bone. The lumbar plexus, a nerve bundle that originates at the middle of the spine, supplies the psoas with nerves. The iliac muscle connects to the ilium, the largest bone of the pelvis, on the top and runs under the psoas to the same tendons of the femur bone as the psoas muscle. The nerves of the iliac muscle are supplied by the femoral nerve, which is located in the leg.
This stretch targets the abductors, opens the hips, and stretches the outer length of the legs and hips. Begin on all fours, with your palms flat on the floor and your toes raised behind you. Extend your right leg straight out to the side, resting your right foot flat on the floor. Press your hips down toward the floor to increase the stretch. Hold this pose for 30 seconds before releasing and performing with the other leg.
3) The athlete or client will use the rectus femoris to create hip flexion. This is the mysterious “quad pull” seen in sprinters or on forty-yard dash day in football. In this case the etiology is the same as above, only the culprit is now the rectus femoris, not the TFL. It should be noted, that most “quad pulls” or “quad strains” are limited to the multi-joint rectus femoris. Soreness will generally be near the insertion point of the rectus femoris into the quadriceps at about the mid-point of the thigh. The psoas and iliacus are to the anterior hip as the glute is to the posterior hip. A weak glute max will cause synergistic dominance of the hamstrings and extension of the lumbar spine to compensate for hip extension. This will lead to back pain, anterior hip pain (another Sahrmann point: use of the hamstring as the primary hip extensor changes the lever arm of the femur and can cause anterior capsule pain), and hamstring strains. On the literal opposite side a weak or under-active psoas will cause back pain from flexion rather than extension, TFL strain and rectus femoris strain.
Apply the above concept to your hips. When you sit, your hips are in a "flexed" position. Therefore, the muscles that flex your hips are in a shortened state. You probably spend at least a third of your day sitting down. Think about how much time those hip flexor muscles stay shortened. A lot. Over time, they become tighter and tighter until you look like the old man in the picture. So unless you want to look like that, perform the stretches shown below.
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.
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.”
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…
An active warm-up is essential to achieve good form and maximum efficiency, especially if you train in the evening, advises Jason Fitzgerald, founder of StrengthRunning.com. A series of dynamic, prerun movements will lubricate the joints, improve your active range of motion, and wake up muscles that have been dormant all day, helping you to stay upright and extend out the back. For this, try Gary Gray’s celebrated lunge matrix.
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.