The hip flexors are a group of muscles that play an important role in the movement and stability of the hip joint. The primary hip flexors are the psoas major (pronounced ‘sow-ass’) and the iliacus (known collectively as the ‘iliopsoas’) and the rectus femoris (one of the quad muscles). Together they help you bend your hips, extend your knees, walk, climb stairs, run, squat, jump. In summary, they are vital to everyday and athletic movement. Unfortunately, sitting for long periods, as so many of us do for work for instance, is particularly bad for the hip flexors. The muscles deactivate and shorten, getting progressively tighter and weaker. In short, this can affect your gait, which in turn can affect other muscles and joints.
How to prevent this?
Ideally, you shouldn’t sit for too long. Firstly, set a reminder to get up and move around – even if it’s just a walk around your desk every hour. (Or stand whenever you are on the telephone.)
Secondly, warm up and cool down properly before exercising with a proper stretching protocol.
Remind yourself to sit, stand and move with good posture. (Sinking down into the pelvis or jutting a hip to one side when standing contributes to hip flexor tightness.)
Lastly, add hip-flexor strengthening and stretching exercises to your regular exercise regime.
- Leg raises: Sit or lie with your legs out in front of you. Raise one leg off the ground at a time.
- Hip Flexor Marches: Wrap a resistance loop/mini-band around the feet. Lie on the ground with your legs raised (from your hips.) Push one foot out at a time.
- Fit-ball tucks: Lie face down on a fit ball. Walk forward on your hands until the ball is under your shins. Curl your knees under your torso (still on the ball). Release and curl the ball out.
Lunges, squats, planks, bridges, mountain-climbers, L-sits and forward leg kicks are also great exercises for the hip flexors.
- Kneeling stretch: Kneel on the ground and then step one foot forward, so that your knees are in two, 90-degree angles. Lunge forward into the bent leg.
- Pigeon Pose: Sit on the ground with one leg bent in front of you (as if you were about to sit cross-legged) with the other extended straight behind you. It’s usually easiest to get into this position from your hands and knees.
Stretches that you might usually perform for your quadriceps and glutes will also benefit your hip flexors.
Incorporating these exercises into your regular fitness routine and ensuring you move (and even stretch) throughout the day will help improve your hip flexor strength and flexibility, relieving pain and improving your everyday and athletic movement. For more personalised advice call 02 9838 3030 to make an appointment with the team at Philip Wood Physiotherapy. We are always here to help.