In medicine, the term flexion describes the action of reducing the angle between two bones connected by a joint.
For instance, when you place your right hand on your right shoulder, you will flex your elbow joint. The muscles that ensure this action (e.g., biceps brachii, brachialis) are also known as the elbow’s flexors.
Hip flexion occurs with the help of several muscle groups; however, the two main muscles that ensure this movement are the Psoas major and the Iliacus muscle, which are collectively referred to as the Iliopsoas muscle. The function of the iliopsoas muscle is to lift the knee and hip closer to the abdomen.
Besides the iliopsoas muscle, the rectus femoris and sartorius contribute to hip flexion.
In this article, we will learn about the importance of hip flexors, as well as the exercises that strengthen these muscles.
Why are they important?
When your hip flexors contract, your thigh gets closer to the abdomen. During standing, however, the hip flexors are relaxed.
We should note that the contraction of the hip flexors shortens their length, whereas relaxation lengthens the muscles.
Now that we got the basics out of the way, let us see why it’s important to work on your hip flexors:
Today, we spend hours sitting on our desks, which makes the hip flexors contract passively. On the other hand, walking or running makes these muscles contract actively.
Regardless of the type of contraction, the final result is the shortening of the hip flexors. Over the years, this can be problematic, presenting with numerous adverse effects, including a reduced articular range of motion, stiffness, reduced flexibility, pain, and in some cases, complete immobility.
Furthermore, the shortening of the hip flexor muscles disrupts the structure of your spine since the psoas muscle originates from the lumbar vertebrae L1 to L4 (look at the illustration above).
As a result, the lumbar portion of the spine might get pulled forward, leading to the disruption of normal curvature – a condition known as hyperlordosis.
Hyperlordosis precipitates an imbalance of the mechanical forces spread across your spine. Consequently, you will develop pain, stiffness, weak abdominal muscles, and weak hamstrings.
How to stretch your hip flexors
The following exercises recruit several muscle groups, including the ones responsible for hip flexion. You should include these exercises in your fitness routine to lower the risk of hip flexor injuries.
Standing stretch is a fantastic way to extend the hip flexors. You can do this exercise at home, in the gym, or anywhere comfortable.
Here are the steps of standing stretch:
- Stand straight next to a wall with your feet slightly widened and toes pointed forward.
- Place your right arm on the wall to stay balanced and bend your left knee till your heel reaches your butt.
- Grab your left foot with your left arm and hold it there.
- Keep holding your foot for 30-60 seconds, and then repeat the whole process for your right side.
The Waiter’s bow
The Waiter’s Bow is an excellent way to learn how to hip hinge by switching the workload from your low back and knees to spread it equally across the body.
Performing this exercise frequently is essential to prepare yourself for engaging in more complex workouts that require back and knee involvement.
Experts recommend doing the Waiter’s Bow every morning for a set of 10-12 repetitions.
Here’s how you do it:
- Cross your arms on your chest and place a dumbbell between them.
- Each hand should be holding one end of the dumbbell while stabilizing it with your chest.
- Lift your chest upward and forward.
- Bend your knees slightly (too much bending will turn this exercise into a squat) and gradually descend your upper body to the hinge position.
- Maintain a straight back (crucial!) until the spinal and hip axes form a 90-degree angle.
- Return to the initial position while squeezing your glutes.
- Repeat this exercise 10-12 times.
The hip swing is simple to perform but very effective.
Here is how to do it:
- Stand next to a wall and place your left hand on it.
- Tilt slightly to the left side, so your right leg is a couple of inches above the ground.
- Start swinging your right leg forward and backward for one minute.
- Repeat the process for your left leg.
To perform heel prop, you will need a pillow.
Here is how to do it:
- Put the pillow on the floor.
- Lie down on your belly with the pillow under your hips.
- Put your hands under your head.
- Bend your left knee 90 degrees with your foot facing the ceiling.
- Lift your hip as if your foot is going to touch the ceiling.
- Lie down your left leg.
- Repeat the process for your right side.
The benefits of stretching your hip flexors
They provide stability
The hip flexors are responsible for the stability of your core.
Strong hip flexors lower the risk of lower back injury. However, you need to be careful due to fear of injury when you perform the exercises incorrectly.
They optimize your performance
The hip flexors are an integral part of explosive sports such as jogging and running.
Sadly, most athletes overlook the value of strong hip flexors, which increases the risk of injuries. In fact, some experts believe that hip flexors are the missing piece of the puzzle for athletes to optimize their performance.
They prevent structural abnormalities
Working on your hip flexors lowers the risk of spinal misalignment and maintains the structural integrity of your back.
If you injure your hip flexors, you will be at a higher risk of spinal misalignment disorders (e.g., hyperlordosis).
Our modern lifestyle gave birth to several musculoskeletal injuries, including the issue with hip flexors and mobility. For this reason, it is vital to include some of the exercises we cited above in your fitness routine.
We hope that this article successfully conveyed the value of hip flexors and how you can strengthen these muscles.
If you still have any questions or concerns about this topic, please don’t hesitate to point them out in the comment section below.
For a free personal training session visit www.onthegofitnesspro.com