To start, get into a lunge position with your right knee up and your left knee on the floor. Rest your hands on the ground, directly underneath your shoulders. Next, flex your raised right knee outward, so that you’re resting on the outside of your right foot. Press your chest forward to increase the stretch. Hold this pose for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side of your body.
Dean Somerset, CSCS, a personal trainer and post-rehab specialist in Edmonton, Alberta, is owner of Somerset Fitness Ltd. He has a degree in kinesiology from the University of Alberta and is certified by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He’s written articles for The PTDC as well as T-Nation and Bodybuilding.com, and contributed to Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness, and many other magazines and websites. You can contact him at his website or Facebook , and check out his unique approach to training on his YouTube channel.
Well, most of us work the hip flexors (including the psoas and iliacus) most of the time- sitting, practicing while seated, cycling, driving...but only in a limited range, i.e. knees and hips bent to 90 degrees. We need to balance out the movements of the hips a bit more- add more extension and more varieties of flexion. For example, sitting cross legged, sitting on the floor, squatting, kneeling, etc. all require more varieties of hip movement. To get more hip extension in your life, you can add some restorative exercises like standing apanasana, lunges (lots of lunges!) and go walk (not on a treadmill). That way, you don't lose your capacity to move those joints to their full capacity, and you will have loaded the tissues in more diverse ways.
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?
To complete this stretch, get into the same kneeling position from the half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Whichever leg you have raised, place that hand on your hip. (So, if you’re doing this exercise with your right leg, place your right hand on your right hip, and vice versa.) Next, tighten your glute muscles, and reach around your body with your free hand to grab that foot. Pull that foot upwards towards your upper body
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.
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.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to having weak and tight hip flexors as they are always in the shortened position. Tight hip flexors can lead to a limited range of motion, poor posture, lower back, and hip pain, and even injuries. These muscles need to get a workout when you are standing and doing movements such as raising your leg to climb stairs, run, or ride a bicycle.
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:
Have the client or athlete stand with one foot on a plyo box (24″ works well for most) that places the knee above the hip. With the hands overhead or behind the head, attempt to lift the foot off the box and hold for five seconds. Inability to lift and hold is indicative of a weak psoas and or iliacus. To add resistance and use this test as an exercise, lateral resistors or bands can be used to increase the difficulty of the isometric. It is important to note that any test of the psoas originating from below the hip is inherently invalid, as the iliac-originated hip flexors are now at a leverage advantage.
Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee so that the sole of your foot is against your left inner thigh. Keeping your back straight (and not rounded), reach your hands toward your left foot so that your torso is completely over your left leg. If you can’t reach your foot, rest your hands on your leg. Relax your shoulders and let them “drop” toward the floor. Repeat with the other leg.
Any/all of these will indicate that the client or athlete is attempting to compensate for the weak or under-active muscles. The TFL cramp is a classic illustration of synergistic dominance. A muscle cramps when attempting to shorten in a disadvantageous position. With the hip flexed above ninety, the TFL is already shortened and unable to produce the necessary force to hold in a position of poor leverage. The attempt results in cramping, much like a hamstring cramp in bridging when the glutes are under-active. The same effects are often seen when attempting hanging knee ups (an exercise we almost never do, as it teaches compensation), except the cramp or strain is in the rectus femoris.
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.
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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.
Keep adjusting your position until you find a hot spot ("A what? I don't know what you're ... Oh! My God! There one is!"), and then hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Your first impulse will be to tense up when you feel tenderness, but it's important that you relax and continue to move around the area. Keep it up, and don't hurry. The more slowly and more often you can do this, the better.
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.
The hip flexors are the muscles at the front of your hip. They’re responsible for several essential functions. Since they’re so often overlooked, we often forget to stretch them before exercising or engaging in rigorous activities. Tight hip flexors can also be a product of being sedentary. So, if you don’t lead an active lifestyle, or if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, you’ll be susceptible to hip flexor tightness.
The hip flexor muscles flex the hip during swing. They are particularly important for initiating swing91 when walking at slow speeds. Without adequate hip flexion during swing, knee flexion is more dependent on hamstring muscle activity.59 Patients with paralysis of the hip flexor muscles attempt to advance the swing leg by either externally rotating the hip and using hip adductor muscles as hip flexors or by circumducting the leg.59,61 The effects of hip flexor muscle paralysis on gait are particularly evident when walking up stairs or slopes, which requires lifting the leg.
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.
Putting the exercise in writing do not help me, I need to watch them doing them so, I can figer out how to do them, or if I should even try to do them. I use the flex extendors, lifting my legs one at a time from the flor to strengthen my thys, hip and buttox. And I try to remember to do the bridge excerise. I have had 2 total hip replacements , 7 months a part, in 2013. Trying to get stronger with cold weather will be 70 in Feb. Linda
Honestly, I am new to a lot of this stuff, so I am definitely not an expert on the subject. However, I have been doing some research on the matter, and it seems most people recommend stretching the opposing muscle group in such cases. For example, if you injured your hamstring, you would stretch your thigh. You would also want to stretch the surrounding muscle groups, seeing as how our entire body is fit together, so that every part of your body affects every other part. I realize that by now you are probably back to skating, but for anyone else who reads this and has a similar issue, I would still suggest looking into it a bit, as, like I said, I am new to a lot of stuff (PE was about as far as I got when it came to exercise, until almost two months ago, when I found crossfit), but at least it’s a start.
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.
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.
Imagine not being able to climb stairs, bend over, or even walk Changes in hip joint muscle-tendon lengths with mode of locomotion. Riley, P.O., Franz, J., Dicharry, J., et al. Center for Applied Biomechanics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Gait & Posture, 2010 Feb; 31 (2): 279-83.. All pretty essential if you ask us! But that’s what our bodies would be like without our hip flexor muscles. Never heard of ‘em? It’s about time we share why they’re so important, how your desk job might be making them weaker (ah!), and the best ways to stretch them out.
Keeping your abs engaged, make sure your head is over your heart, and your heart over your hips. Your hips should be centered, which means your back shouldn’t be arched nor your butt tucked under. Try to keep the weight displaced evenly between your hips. Sink into the lunge as your hips relax. Draw your back heel towards the wall behind you. You can lift your hands up, palms facing each other if you’re able. Repeat on the other side.
Some stretching basics: you should feel a stretch, but not pain. If it really hurts, contact a physical therapist and figure out what’s really wrong. If your hip flexors are truly tight, a few weeks of doing these stretches should help you feel better! You should notice relief, so if you’re not, you may have something else wrong besides “tightness,” or you might need to address what you’re doing the other 23 hrs and 50 minutes of each day.
How to: Sit down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you (a). Place your right ankle on top of your left thigh and flex your right foot (b). Put your hands behind your body, fingertips facing away from your body and begin to press your hips toward your heels until you feel a stretch through your outer left hip. Keep your back tall and chest open (c). Hold for six to eight breaths, then repeat on the other side.