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Your hip flexors aren't tight. They are weak! Common stretching mistakes and a better fix.

One thing I hear athletes complain about a lot is tight hip flexors and pinching in that area. So naturally, the first impulse is to stretch or foam roll that area to relieve this tightness. However, it might not indicate tightness. Your hip flexors are probably weak and insufficiently supported by the surrounding structures like the core and glutes. Let's see how we can fix this!


Anatomy

The hip flexor's primary purpose is to bring the legs towards the chest. As they can't (and should not) do this movement all by themselves, they are strongly related to the core. The hip flexors need a stable basis and optimal cooperation with the abdominal and gluteal muscles to work at their best. In leg raises or inversion in aerial, we want hip flexion (moving the upper leg towards the belly) AND posterior pelvic tilt and spinal flexion (rounding the back). Have a look at this video for visualization. We need to teach the body to activate and strengthen the stabilizing muscles to help the hip flexors work at their best.


The Balance

Your hip flexors might be tight because they are weak and have insufficient support. So besides stretching, it is essential to strengthen the hip flexors themselves, the core, and glutes. Below you can find some exercise suggestions.


Get more out of your hip flexor stretch: The anatomy is essential while moving and stretching the hip flexors. When stretching, we can dress the muscles more specifically by activating the core and a posterior tilting the pelvis (tucking the tailbone down). Watch the video here.


Hip flexor activation, release, and gluteal strength - an all-in-one exercise: Using what is called reciprocal inhibition, we use the activation of the antagonists of the hip flexors to reduce their muscle tone. We're actively engaging the glutes to release the tension on one side. On the other side, we're strengthening the hip flexors at their end range and shutting off the glutes on this side (making the other side work even harder).


Key points of the single gluteal bridge: Keep core engaged, squeeze your butt to extend your hip and activate the glutes!


Key points of the hip flexor march: Keep core engaged, reach actively into the floor and away from you with the extended leg, keep on breathing.




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