Every single Personal Trainer and Physio has heard this story.
But the tightness never goes away, does it? It's funny how so many people continue to stretch and massage their hip flexors repeatedly, even though they know the tightness will return a few short hours later.
It's how Einstein defined insanity - doing the same thing over and over again, and
expecting a different result. So how about we go about it a different way and ask
"Why are the hip flexors so tight in the first place?"
A massive factor is how sedentary we are in today's society - we are living in amazing
times where technology and science is so powerful that we can sit behind a desk and run
multi-billion dollar companies.
Let's have a look at the physical stress that prolonged sitting can place on the body.
The most common sitting position is pictured above: slouched, rounded, unflattering. It's adopted all over the world by students, desk workers, IT experts, teachers, doctors and many other professionals.
What your body and mind practices, it gets very good at.
In this position, the hip flexors are working isometrically in order to keep your weight balanced and prevent you from falling backwards. After a few hours, they are going to get tight. They also get really strong after a while, which is a problem to surrounding muscles.
It can be tight enough that it inhibits the function of key muscles such as the deep abdominal muscles and the gluteals, contributing to lower back pain and instability.
So releasing the tight hip flexors is only one piece of the puzzle... we need to also strengthen the abdominals and gluteals, as well as change our sitting habits if we want to make a long-term change.
I'm going to show you how.
The first step is releasing the hip flexors. My favourite way to do this is by using a massage ball. Simply place this over the targeted muscles and put pressure on it against the ground. Spend 30 seconds and wait until the tension starts to disappear before moving onto the next spot.
Another option is of course the classic hip flexor stretch. For this stretch, make sure your pelvis is tucked under by squeezing your glutes, then gently move forwards into the stretch. I like to incorporate this with diaphragmatic breathing drills to get a better effect.
After this, what you want to do is start activating the deep core muscles to that they can support your back and pelvic positioning.
We use a drill called the "Dead Bug" to teach our clients how to maintain spinal positioning while their arms/legs move in opposite directions. Perform 2-3 sets of this exercise, making sure you concentrate on breathing and spine position.
Finally we need to get the gluteals functioning properly again. The easiest way for this is to perform the glute bridges. Make sure to keep the spine straight as you raise your pelvis into the air.
Your body learns a new skill through repetition, so follow this routine 2-3 times per day for at least 21 days - the minimum time to form a new habit.
See how you go with this routine and enjoy the freedom in your hips and lower back.
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Lawrence Khuu is a qualified Physiotherapist and Movement Specialist. His mission is to help motivated clients perform at their highest level through a combined hands-on treatment and exercise rehabilitation approach. He currently treats clients at Activ Therapy Casula.
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