The hip flexor stretch has become a very popular stretch in the fitness and sports performance world, and rightly so considering how many people live their lives in anterior pelvic tilt. However, this seems to be one of those stretches that I see a lot of people either performing incorrectly or too aggressively. I talked about this in a recent Inner Circle webinar on 5 common stretches we probably shouldn’t be using, but I wanted to expand on the hip flexor stretch as I feel this is pretty important.
How to do it: Grip the barbell so you’re standing straight with the barbell at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Kick your left leg back so it’s just off the floor. Bend over so you’re hingeing at the hip while allowing only a slight bend in the right knee, and lower the barbell to the floor while keeping it close to your body. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back up to the top. That’s one rep. Repeat this movement, alternating sides each time.
Holland also suggests doing strength work in different planes of motion to keep all the muscles in and around your hip flexors, especially your glutes, firing correctly.“You can’t have good hip flexion if your glutes are tight or weak,” Nurse says, “so it’s super important that you’re always stretching and strengthening the front of your hip flexor and the back, which are the glute muscles.”
The iliotibial band is a thickening of the fascia lata, the deep fascia of the thigh. Think of it as a thick long ligament like structure that connects the hip to the lower leg along the outside of the thigh. Tightness in the iliotibial band can cause patellofemoral pain, trochanteric bursitis, and friction syndromes at the knee. This is a hip stretch I commonly prescribe to runners and people suffering from knee pain.
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An ischial apophysis avulsion is an injury to the sitting bone where the hamstring muscle meets the bony protrusion of the sitting bone or ischial tuberosity. An avulsion is an injury in which movement or injury results in a violent and sudden contraction of the hamstring which pulls a piece of the sitting bone with it. This injury typically affects young athletes, aged 13 to 25 years. Symptoms include ischial tuberosity pain, swelling and pain in the thigh area, muscle spasms, and muscle weakness in the legs. To heal the injury, extended rest and massage are typically in order as well as stretching exercises and gait work.
Tight hip flexors occur for a variety of reasons. Those who run frequently or engage in other activities that put strain on the hip flexors are likely to experience hip flexor tightness at one time or another. A blow to the hip or poor conditioning can also be causes of tight hip flexors. These causes can usually be attributed to tiny tears that occur to our hip flexors through rigorous activity.
However, even the things you do every day — like sitting in front of a computer or at a desk for hours — can both weaken and shorten (tighten) your hip flexors, making them more prone to injury. Because of this, exercises (such as squats) and targeted stretches which focus on strengthening the hip muscles and improving hip mobility are key to preventing injuries.
If the problem originates in the hip joint itself, common symptoms include groin pain on the affected side, and sometimes down the inner aspect of the thigh in the front of the leg. This pain can move to the knee and sometimes feels like a knee problem instead of a hip problem. Walking worsens the pain and with continued activity, the pain increases. Rest relieves it; however, when hip arthritis becomes severe, you may have pain most of the time. Minimal activity such as slight movements while in bed can worsen the pain. Other conditions such as advanced congenital hip dysplasia or avascular necrosis of the hip can cause these symptoms as well.
Resisted hip flexion: Stand facing away from a door. Tie a loop in one end of a piece of elastic tubing and put it around the ankle on your injured side. Tie a knot in the other end of the tubing and shut the knot in the door near the floor. Tighten the front of your thigh muscle and bring the leg with the tubing forward, keeping your leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15.
Your hips are just one of the areas of your body that are prone to tightness and injury if you are a runner. Every stride that you make requires your hip joint to pull forward, and every time that you plant your foot on the pavement, your hips feel the impact. Performing hip stretches before and after a run can help you avoid injury and keep your hips loose and limber. Ease into your hip stretches and do not bounce. Try to hold each one for 30 to 40 seconds and stop if you feel any discomfort.
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.