When routine bites hard…

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

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.

How

Getting into the lunge

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.

Stretch

      • 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.

Finally

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,

Darryl

 

To the seat with the clearest view

How are you hanging in there? I hope everyone is doing well in this trying time. Stay busy, I think that’s the trick, sort of. But we can’t escape those surreal moments of our new reality.

Over the last few weeks I have given you exercises to build what are for the most of us weak areas on our body. Now it’s time to look at how we can also stretch those areas, or lengthen the muscles.

What

Most of us, a very high percentage of us, have tight anterior deltoids, also known as the front shoulders. So knowing that, lets start stretching them.

How

        • Chest Reach Back: Lay on your stomach, legs together and hands by your side. Now, extend your left arm out perpendicular to your torso, PALM down, in other words make half a T with your left arm. Now, gently roll your whole body to your left side. Keep that arm perpendicular and feel the front of the shoulder stretch. Hold it, hold it. Hold for at least 90 seconds and try for 2 minutes. As you get into the stretch, and things loosen up, increase the stretch, lengthen the muscle. Now do the other side. Here’s a bonus, you just also stretched your pecs.
        • Chest Expansion: Think of the classic pose when someone yells: ‘Put your hands up!’. Hands up, but bent at the elbows, making a 90 degree angle with your arms hands aligned with your head, like a blocky capital Y. Make sense? Know, bring your elbows back and really stick out your chest keeping good posture, bringing the shoulder blades back like you are trying to make them touch. Again, hold for 90 to 120 seconds expanding the stretch as muscles loosen.
        • Hand Grab: Reach behind your back and clasp your hands keeping your arms straight. Focus on your posture and keep upright. Now bring your arms up behind your back, keeping them straight. Ease into it and when you feel the tightness, that’s when the stretch begins. As always, hold it for 90 – 120 seconds.

Those muscles that we work constantly especially need stretching. Don’t neglect them.

Finally,

Stay strong, grow, and lengthen.

Yours in health,

Darryl

But the monkey on my back

Wont’ stop laughing

Stretching before exercising, specifically static stretching (no movement) will hinder your performance. Then why do people static stretch before working out? Good question. I see it often myself. Classics such as crossing an arm across the body to stretch the shoulder to the good ole hamstring stretch while sitting on the floor. But kidding aside if there is any stretching to be done before working out it should be only dynamic stretching.

Why

shoulder stretch
Static shoulder stretch should be done after the work has been done

Let’s look at static stretching. Why do we do it? Static stretching is done to become more flexible, to lengthen short muscles which in turn should help in injury prevention whereas dynamic stretching (stretching with movement such as crossing your arms back and forth) helps to lengthen muscles but more importantly warms up the muscles and tendons.

So why is this a bad thing to do before working out? Because of the strain you are putting on your muscles. With this strain you are actually decreasing muscle strength. Studies have shown that the decrease in strength can be upwards of 30%! Yikes!

To prepare for your workout, or event a proper preparation should help increase performance not negatively impact performance. It should do this by warming up the tendons and muscles thus loosening them and increasing the range of motion. Warm muscles and tendons use oxygen from the blood stream more efficiently and also use glycogen, stored fuel, more efficiently. Static stretching on the other hand can leave strained muscles weakened for up to 30 minutes because of the stress put on them.

What

warming up
Warming up incorporating dynamic stretching will increase your performance

It’s like almost anything we do. Unless we have educated ourselves on the matter we are usually doing things that we learned a long time ago by someone with good intentions but not educated in the area. I think, and I may be wrong, that a lot of things we do when it comes to working out, running, swimming, biking, or any physical activity unless at an elite level where there are professional coaches and trainers, were learned from school. Learned from the gym teacher who might have been a great football player, or might have done well in track when she or he were in school years ago but doesn’t have formal training in these areas. So they pass on what they learned years ago by someone who was great playing football, or might have done well in track….

Do you get the point? This is why I became a certified personal trainer when I received the rank of Nidan (2nd level) black belt and started running students through workouts more frequently. I felt I would be doing a disservice to our students to be doing the same thing my teacher did and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted our students to be the best they could be, properly prepared to excel physically and mentally.

Who Cares?

growth
Everyone can grow

But you might be saying what’s the big deal? I still get in my workout regardless. This is correct. For some people showing up, doing the workout is all they need. But to others it’s more than that. Also, think of it in another light. Success is a great motivator. I really believe that you are your own competition. You compete against yourself every time you workout. How many burpees did you do, how quick were you when doing bag work. How we workout could determine if we workout again. If you constantly feel like you are not improving then it could get tough to find the motivation to go back and workout again. But, if you performance is increasing because of doing a lot of right things than who does not like that? Success is a great motivator and this is why I believe in keeping  a journal of workouts. It shows you the growth you have made and with seeing that how can that not motivate you?

Finally

Static stretch after your workout. Dynamically stretch before your workout to warm up your muscles, tendons and to dynamically lengthen the muscles through movement.

Another tool to help you succeed!

Yours in health,

Darryl