If it’s one thing we know in the world of “fitness for sport and everyday life” it’s that it’s essential to keep the hip flexors, aka the muscles that cross the front of the hip, happy.
When they’re short and angry from sitting down for hours and hours each day, it causes the top of the pelvis to tip forward into what we call an Anterior Pelvic Tilt.
Flat Bums, Tight Quads, Low Back Pain, Knee and Nerve Issues
Since the pelvis is the central balance point in your body, this Anterior Pelvic Tilt creates a shift of the thigh bone (femur), moving it forward into the hip socket. In fact, most of us walk around with tight hip flexors and our femur in this position, causing a lot of problems like a flat, weak bum (tight hip flexors inhibit the glutes from working and thus, from developing). Having glutes that don’t fire properly, plus tight quads on the front of the thighs, often results in low back pain, knee pain or other joint/nerve issues.
Hip Flexors Relax = Glutes Can Fire
As you can imagine, stretching the hip flexors is needed to help facilitate the mobilization of that femur to “the back of the bus.” This descriptive phrase is used by Meg Frens, MS, AT, ATC during our Functional Strength & Mobility Workshops…we want to constantly think ‘mobilize the femur to the back of the bus’ – that is, don’t let it tip forward, but push it back into the socket so the hip flexors can relax and the glutes can fire.
How do you do you do that?
Below is a picture of a true HIP FLEXOR STRETCH – one that will release the femur so it can move to the back of the bus.
- Stay tall with both knees at 90 degrees. Resist the urge to lean into the stretch, a common mistake we see. Leaning could actually make your tight hip flexors WORSE since it shifts that femur to the front of the hip socket. In return, this signals the hip flexors to react: Tighten! Prevent that femur from flying out of the joint! (it won’t…but our bodies still respond with a protective mechanism). This is not good! So, don’t bend or lean at the hips – just stay tall.
- Incorporate a Posterior Pelvic Tilt – aka a “hip thrust” that moves the top of the pelvis back. You can do this by contracting your abdominals – don’t suck in, but rather, brace as if someone is going to punch you in the stomach. Hold this brace while simultaneously squeezing the glute of whatever leg is back. You should really feel those hip flexors stretch now!
- If you don’t feel it quite yet, try raising your arm and squeeze your glutes even harder or consider adding some core engagement by pressing down with both hands on top of your knee. Key is to push down and engage your core, not your triceps.
- If you need a deeper stretch, you may lean in slightly – but only 1-3 inches and only if you can still maintain a posterior pelvic tilt when doing so.
Hold this posterior pelvic tilt / hip flexor stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides and do this mobilization move OFTEN during the day, especially if you have a sitting job.
We utilize this true hip flexor stretch in nearly every RAMP (warm-up) protocol for our members since our goal is to keep the pelvis in a beautiful and functional neutral position so your back, hips, knees and entire body can feel and perform their best!
To Happy Hips!
Jess + Team Valeo
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