The hip flexors are a group of muscles that includes the hips and upper thighs. The hip flexors move your knees into your chest and also move your legs from the front to back as well as side to side. Since many people spend most of their work days seated, the hip flexors have a tendency to be tight and prone to injury. Runners in particular should pay attention to stretching this muscle group. Tight hip flexors are a widespread complaint with runners, because of the repetitive movement when running if the muscles are tight. Women tend to have tight hip flexors more than men, which often results in poor flexibility and injury. To have limber hips, hip flexors exercises are highly recommended.
Stretching the hip flexor well can be difficult because it is located in an awkward area. Not stretching your hip flexor properly before you do any kind of exercise can result in painful injuries in the groin and hip region. Hence, it is highly recommended that you strengthen hip flexors for a variety of reasons. The hip flexors are not a single muscle, but are a group of muscles that consist of the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles including the rectus femoris and sartorius, the tensor fasciae latae, the inner thigh muscles including the adductor longus and brevis and pectineus and gracilis. Tight hip flexors ignored may lead not only to hip pain, but lower back pain too. Stretches for hip flexors and exercises to aid in releasing the tension of the muscles may be a good strategy at preventing an injury from developing.
Here are known ways to keep hip injuries and pain at bay:
1. Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch (From shape.com)
This is similar to the hip flexor lunge but is different since you begin in a kneeling position. Make sure you do it on a soft but firm surface.
“Kneel on right knee, with toes down, and place left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent and aligned with ankle. Place hands on left thigh [shown].
Press hips forward until you feel tension in the front of your right thigh. Extend arms overhead, with elbows close to head and palms facing each other, and slightly arch your back while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.”
2. Increase Your Flexibility (From fitnessmagazine.com)
A lot of women have stiff hip flexors, which can lead to poor flexibility and even injury. To keep your hips loose, perform this stretch from Robert Reames, the instructor of the Extreme Makeover Fitness DVD, twice a day.
“Lunge forward with left foot, bending left knee 90 degrees and lowering right knee to floor.
Tilt pelvis forward until you feel mild tension in the front of the right hip.
Raise right arm overhead, reaching to the left side.
Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.
Return to start and repeat on opposite side.”
3. Front-to-Back Hip Swing (From prevention.com)
This front-to-back swing of your leg is a first-rate exercise for your hip flexors. Be sure the rest of your body doesn’t roll with this movement. Place one hand in front of your belly and the other as support to your head to help stabilize your upper torso.
“Lie on your left side, hips stacked one on top of the other. Prop yourself on your left elbow and raise your right leg, toe pointed, to hip height.
Keeping your abs tight, sweep your right leg forward as far as you can without moving your hips or upper body. Then sweep your leg behind you as far as you can, squeezing your buttocks. Keep the movement controlled.”
4. Butterfly Stretch (From familycircle.com)
This movement stretches the hips, groin, inner thighs, as well as lower back. If you are predisposed to lower-back pain, take extra care when leaning forward from your hips instead of rounding your lower back. This stretch may also cause some discomfort in the knees. Proceed with care.
“Sit down on the floor, keeping your back straight. Bring the bottoms of your feet together in front of you so your legs form a diamond. Hold on to your ankles or feet. 1) Feel your inner thighs open up, so knees are about level with elbows, and hold the stretch for 10 to15 seconds. 2) Bring your knees off the ground so they’re almost 90-degrees from the floor and hold for two seconds. Then lower knees back down so they’re about level with elbows again and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat sequence three more times.”
5. Pigeon Pose (From womenshealthmag.com)
“Step your right leg forward between your hands.
Drop your back leg to the ground. Keep the back leg turned under.
Keeping your front leg bent, place it shin down on floor behind your right wrist.
Tip: Align your right knee straight in front of your right hip and your right shin parallel to the front of your mat.
Lower your hips, bringing your left knee to the floor and walk your left foot back a few inches to straighten your left leg directly behind your left hip. Then rest the top of your left foot on the floor.
Walk your fingertips out to 18 inches in front of your right shin and bring your elbows to the floor, forearms parallel to each other.
Draw your right hip back, and your left hip forward.
Take quite a few breaths in Pigeon (as much time as you can allow). Make sure your front foot is well flexed. You may feel this pose in your hips as they open up.”
6. Do the Perfect Pose in Yoga (From wikihow.com)
The Lotus position, or Padmasana, is easy and a relaxing stretch that many people link with yoga. The pose opens up your hips while stretching the ankles and your back. This is a pose often used for meditation purposes.
“Sit on your yoga mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Imagine a string pulling your spine up towards the ceiling.
Performing the Pose
Using your hands to make it easier, draw your heel towards your abdomen, and place your right foot on the top of your left thigh.
Pull your other heel up towards your navel and rest your left foot on the top of your right thigh.
Hold the pose for several seconds. Breathe deeply and place your hands gently on your knees, with your palms towards the ceiling.”
In our contemporary, sedentary world, many men and women spend a lot of time behind a desk, staring a t a computer. This prolonged position can lead to tight hips, and if left unchecked, possible pain or even injury. Counter this sedentary situation with hip flexor stretches such as those outlined above and you will be able to hold on to the flexibility of your hip flexors.