If you are sitting for a good portion of the day because your work requires you to, or you find yourself sitting a lot of the days or evenings because ambitions are low, you very well might have tight hip flexors.
What are our hip flexors? Hip flexors are muscles at the top of your legs that play a key role in moving your lower body. Walking, bending, kicking, swiveling the hips are done using our hip flexors. If your hip flexors are tight and you make a sudden move, or an explosive move they might stretch too far, or even worse, tear.
So how do you know if you have tight hip flexors? Stretching muscles for the sake of stretching is not always a good idea. If your hip flexors are long already, there really is no need to make them longer. The more you know about how your body works the more this makes sense. No one’s body is perfectly balanced but for health and well being this should be a goal. Muscles pull, they don’t push. That is how we move. The muscle that pulls is referred to as the prime mover, or agonist. The bicep is the prime mover when doing bicep curls. The opposite muscle, or the muscle that opposes the movement, is referred to as the antagonist. In the example of a bicep curl, the tricep is the antagonist. Have you ever seen someone may be at the gym who when standing their arms are always overly bent at the elbows, hands no longer at their sides but near their belly? This is usually because they have paid too much attention to the biceps and not enough to the triceps, the triceps are too long and are not able to pull the lower arm back. This is a case of muscle imbalance.
Let’s get to the test to determine if you have tight hip flexors:
- You’ll need a table strong enough to support your body weight and ideally high enough to let your feet dangle. Lay down on the table on your back having the underside of your knees at about 2 inches from the edge of the table so your legs can dangle. While laying down, keep your lower back close to the table so your pelvis is at the correct position. Now, bring up one of your knees towards your chest trying to get to 90 – 120 degrees. Keep the other leg relaxed, on the table, aiming for an 80 – 90 degree bend in that knee. If while having the one knee close to your chest at 90 – 120 degrees the other upper leg hasn’t moved, raising off of the table than we are off to a good start. If not, then either your quad or hip flexor is tight. Knowing this, with the leg that is dangling down, straighten it and see if it will now lower down so your upper leg is back on the table while having it relaxed. If the leg lowers without issue, the tightness was in your quad. If the leg doesn’t lower, than it’s your hip flexor. Be sure to do this with both legs.
- Kneeling lunge:
- Kneel down on one knee. With that leg, the one that has the knee on the ground, keep the knee aligned with the hip, not to the outside or inside, and same with the lower leg, keep everything straight behind the hip. Now with the other leg, keep a 90 degree bend in the leg, and keep it also forward of the hip.
- Keep the upper body upright, don’t lean forward. Leaning forward changes the position of the hips, pelvis. You can put both hands on your knee and upper leg if you so choose.
- Now, with the knee that is on the ground, move it back a bit so your the bend in that leg is no longer 90 degrees. Move it back to about 70 – 80 degrees. The tighter your hip flexors are the less you will want to move that knee back. You’ll see when you start the stretch.
- Now press your hips forward keeping your upper body upright. You should feel this in the upper leg area of the leg that has the knee down. Move your hips until you feel the muscle start to stretch. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds. Now do the other side.
- While doing the stretch be mindful of the knee on the forward leg. Don’t let the knee overshoot the toes.
- Do this stretch 30 – 60 seconds, 3 – 4 times on each leg.
- Kneeling lunge:
That’s it. This one stretch will help to lengthen your short, tight hip flexors. Remember to push the stretch a little further as you feel the muscles relax, usually at about 30 seconds.
Yours in health,