3 Simple Moves for Healthy and Strong Hip-Flexors
Imagine that you no longer feel tightness in your lower back and you can participate in sports, intense training, and all the life pleasures more fully. Very often, the culprit to achy and tight lower back problems could be what you least expect – your hip-flexors are holding you back.
If you’ve ever suffered from lower back tightness or persistent discomfort, then you’re one of the millions of adults with the same condition. If you have had to slow it down in sports, training or daily life due to this consistent rough spot, then you’ve come to the right place.
The hip-flexors are postural muscles that connect your upper body and lower body together. You use them during each step you take, or each time you lift your leg. When they are weak, they get overused from the daily activities that you do, such as running, walking, or even just standing. From the overuse, they get tight and often also shortened because we sit too much between our activities. During sitting, the hip-flexors are in the shortened position for hours. When they are tight and short, they cannot perform the work they need to do correctly, and the vicious cycle repeats. They are also often the reason for the dull ache or tightness in your lower back.
Making your hip-flexors stronger and longer will improve your athletic performance and general well-being! Incorporate the following exercises into your daily routine, and see the “magic” happen. As a side benefit, you’ll also develop a stronger core, and a beast mode will and determination to do more.
Keeping your leg fully straight, draw an air triangle with your toes. Your hip-flexors should do the majority of the work of moving your straight leg around. Don’t be surprised if your quadriceps cramp up within a few repetitions. It means that your hip-flexors are weak and your quads are overcompensating by trying to do the work instead. Just stick with it, and within a few sessions, your hip-flexors will take over and your quads will be happy again.
Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Put your hands behind you to stabilize you so you aren’t able to use your upper body to help with the movement. Now, lift one leg 2 inches off the ground, move it to the side as wide as you can and pause for a half second (you just painted the bottom side of the triangle). Move your straight leg up and back toward the center, as high as you can (this was the longest side of the triangle). Pause on the top and keep your knee straight. Now move your leg down to the original position 2 inches off the ground and pause for a half second. Repeat 20 times with the same leg. Then switch and move to the other leg. Repeat twice. When this exercise gets easier, you can lift your leg higher up, or you can add 1–3 lbs of ankle weights. Point your foot, or flex your foot for a different sensation.
Start using the GB Courses today to improve the mobility, strength, and overall health of your hips.
Seated Pike Pulses
The Pike Pulses are much harder than you would ever believe! They look like not much movement is happening, but they are surprisingly hard. You get better at these by doing them regularly.
Sit on the floor with the legs straight in front of you. Lean as forward as far as possible and place your hands flat on the ground on the sides of your legs. While keeping this position, now lift both legs off the ground, as high as you can. Hard? Impossible? Move your hands a little bit further back. Find the best place where you can lift the legs, but not leaning back and using the upper body to leverage the movement. As you get stronger, move your hands forward more. Do 5 sets of 10 repetitions.
This could be one of the most important stretches for you. The more we sit, the more we need to elongate our hip-flexors so they can function in their full range of motion.
Step forward into a deep lunge and put the knee of the back leg down on the ground (see first image for a visual). Keep your body vertical, because leaning forward would take away from the hip-flexor stretch. Now tilt your hips backward. (This is also called PPT, or posterior pelvic tilt. The top of the pelvis tilts backward, and the bottom of the pelvis tilts forward. If you were a dog, you would tuck your tail between the legs.) The more you PPT, the more intense stretch you will feel in your hip-flexor or the back leg. Hold the stretch for 60 seconds, and breathe deeply. You may also lean your body to the side, away from the stretched hip-flexor. If you have particularly tight hip-flexors, you can do this stretch several times a day, or hold it a little bit longer, if you feel a good release.
You can find more amazing exercises in the GB Foundation and Stretch Courses. Give the above exercises a try for a couple of weeks and you will be surprised how quickly your hip-flexors build strength. After doing these drills regularly, you will perform better in your chosen sport, and also you will feel less stiffness and aches. The hip-flexor training is often compared to a “love/hate” relationship so stick with it to see the benefits and the bigger payoff in the end.