By Katie McLean
US Myprotein Writer
Your hip flexors are a group of skeletal muscles that are responsible for flexing your hip joint, pulling your knees upward, moving your legs from side to side and front to back, and helps to stabilize your lower body.
Tight hip flexors are a common issue however. Most hip flexor tension/tightness is usually experienced from a lack of activity, when we sit, for example. When we sit, our legs and hips are held at a constant 90 degree angle, instead of being fully extended at a 180 degree range of motion. Not only does this tighten overall hip mobility, but it can also cause tension in your thighs and lower back.
Here are ways that can help release the tension in your hips.
Mobilizing Hip Flexors
Mobility drills can improve the range of motion of muscles and joints. Training your mobility also assists in improving posture, and ease aches and “kinks”. A good mobility drill for opening up the hips is the goblet squat hold. The goblet squat hold is an isometric hold at the bottom position of a goblet squat.
How to mobilize your hips with the goblet squat hold:
✓ Lower into the bottom of the squat while holding a moderately heavy weight.
✓ Keep your elbows inside of the knees and feet straight.
✓ Hold this position, and use your elbows to slowly drive your knees outward. This will increase the stretch on the adductors.
✓ Remember to deeply breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth during this drill.
✓ Hold this stretch for about 10 complete breaths, or for as long as you can hold it with proper form.
It’s never too late to start mobility training, as it’s always something that can be improved. You may feel less stiff after a few sessions, but the key is to stay consistent. With consistency, you should be able to notice and increase in your range of motion and possibly overall improvement in performance in other activities.
Releasing Hip Flexors
When our muscles and fascia get injured, they become tight in order to protect it from further damage. We all have heard of foam rolling, or self-myofascial release.
Self-myofascial is an absolute must if you’re wishing to improve your flexibility.
It helps break up muscle knots, lessen soreness, and aide in recovery. You don’t necessarily need to own, or have access to, a foam roller though. You can use anything such as a soft ball, baseball, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, etc. This technique massages the affected area by using compression which smoothes out the fibers and fascia along the muscle. The amount of pressure that is used all depends on how severe the injury is and your sensitivity to it.
Stretching Hip Flexors
Stretching out your hip muscles and joints can decrease the risk of low back pain and knee pain. Once the tissues have been released, it’s good to follow up with stretching exercises to maintain total joint and muscles mobility. Stretching also prevents stiffness from returning as you progress further in training.
Static stretching, specifically, is when you stretch a muscle group or joint in one direction for a certain amount of time (usually 20-30 seconds). Doing this helps promote relaxation of the fibers through elongation.
Some common stretches to open up the hips are:
✓ Butterfly stretch
✓ Pigeon pose
✓ Seated saddle stretch
✓ Head to knee stretch
You could also incorporate dynamic stretching, by moving your joints and muscles in their full range of motion in a repetitive manner. This stimulates neural activity by increasing your body temperature, which also improves tissue elasticity. Examples of dynamic stretching exercises are front to back leg swings, side to side leg swings, knee to chest stretch, and lying leg crossover.
Dynamic stretches are best to use prior to exercise to get your body warmed up, where as static stretches are generally used afterwards and best used as a cool down.
The Bottom Line
It’s vital to keep the hip joint flexible and loose to maintain comfortable exercise and every day life. To do this there are a number of ways you can release, mobilize and stretch out the muscles and tendons surrounding the hips to help keep everything in good working condition. Try some of the stretches highlighted above and let us know if they help.