The Hip Flexors
Tight hip flexors are a common problem for a lot of new and even seasoned trainees. If you have a job that requires you to sit for most of the day, chances are your hip flexors are tight. This happens because sitting puts the hip flexors in relaxed and shortened position, they don't get stretched out and eventually they become tighter.
Another culprit, when it comes to tight hip flexors, are inactive glutes. When you're glutes aren't doing the brunt of the work during activity the majority of the stress is placed on the hip flexors and lower back. They over work and become tighter over time.
Tight hip flexors aren't just a problem for inactive people, they can also occur in very active people! Lots of running, biking, and traditional abdominal exercises can lead to tight hip flexors. A combination of no stretching/mobility work, lack of a proper warm up, or an imbalanced program can all attribute to tighter hip flexors.
Tight hip flexors can cause both anterior (front of the body) hip pain and lower back pain as well. They can also inhibit sport performance and every day activities. If you're hips are tight, you need to start working towards opening those suckers up!
So just how to you go about opening up those hips?
Well the first step I would suggest is a simple combination of glute activation and hip flexor stretching. This is called "reciprocal inhibition". Such a fancy word, but all it means is that we're going to activate one muscle group to help alleviate the opposing muscle group.
Think of it like this, your muscles work like a pully system. When one muscle group contracts (shortens) the opposing muscle group lengthens. Your hip flexors are primarily used to bring the knee towards the chest. Your glutes are used primarily for hip extension, thrusting your hips away from the body. Those are opposing movements. When we work the glutes, we help relax the hip flexors.
With that in mind
Let's take a look at the 2 exercises you'll need!
First we get the glutes turned on with some bodyweight glute bridges. They're a simple exercise that requires no equipment at all.
Glute Bridge Tips:
- Lay flat on your back, bend the knees and place your heels directly under the knees, hip width apart
- Squeeze your glutes, drive through the heels, and press the hips up towards the sky
- Don't allow your knees to open up outward, keep them hip width apart
- If you feel this in your lower back, only go as high as you can without the lower back being involved
- Don't arch the back
- Keep the pressure in the heels and slowly lower down to the starting position
- If you want to give the glute bridges a little extra kick, you can wrap a resistance band around the knees and fight it's pressure.
Then we get the hips stretched out with a basic lunge stretch. This isn't the only stretch for the hip flexors, but it's a basic one that can be done anywhere.
Lunge Stretch Tips:
- Don't arch your back and don't round your back, keep the spine neutral
- Squeeze your glutes (reciprocal inhibition) this will help get into the hip flexor
- If you only feel this in the quads, try using some fascial release with a foam roller or lacrosse ball before hand
- To increase the stretch raise the arm, on the side of the outstretched leg, over head as if your were reaching for the sky.
How to put it together
- Perform this sequence daily, multiple times a day, or before your workouts.
- Exercises are performed back to back with no rest
- Perform 1-3 rounds as needed
- 10 glute bridges (lift into position, squeeze and hold the top position for 10 seconds, and return to the starting position. That's one rep)
- 10 Lunge Stretches per leg (move into the lunge stretch, hold for 5-10 seconds, relax and repeat. That's one rep)
This is just one of many ways to help open up the hip flexors and prevent them from being tight. Give it a try and you should find it helpful in relieving those tight hips!