In today’s work environment people spend eight to ten hours a day slumped over their computer typing away on work reports. In an old post 9 to 5 Back Pain Part 1, I talk about how sitting for so long can wreak havoc on your body. Then in Part 3, I give you some ways to fix the tightness of the hip flexor to allow for better posture and alignment. One of the best ways to help is obviously applying a proper hip flexor stretch.
The only way to describe most people’s hip flexor stretch is “cringe worthy.” My goal in today’s post is to hopefully show you what you may be doing wrong and how to perform a proper hip flexor stretch so that the stretch is on the desired tissues.
How People Screw Up The Hip Flexor Stretch
When most people perform the hip flexor stretch, they mean well but they are misguided. People will stretch for days, weeks, and even months and wonder why they are still tight and nothing ever changes. I am of the belief that if you haven’t seen some sort of positive gain from a stretch or corrective exercises you are wasting your time. You would be better off doing something else or maybe you just aren’t doing it write, and that may be the case with the traditional hip flexor stretch.
The way most people perform the hip flexors stretch looks a little bit like this….
The first thing you see is lumbar hyperextension, which then leads to anterior pelvic tilt. As you lunge deeper into the “stretch”, it may be felt at the front of the hip but it may not actually be the hip flexors being stretched. In fact you may be putting unwarranted stress on the anterior capsule of the hip joint.
The “stretch” you may be feeling is actually your hip flexors “firing” or tightening to help provide stability to the hip. So are you really stretching a muscle that may actually be trying to shorten to provide stability to a joint?? Probably not.
Proper Hip Flexor Stretch
So now that you know what you’re doing wrong, it is time to correct it! It’s like disciplining my two year old…first you scold, then you teach(scold may be a bit harsh haha).
So most people are headed in the right direction but a few tweaks will make the stretch much more effective.
First, you must learn to own the half-kneeling position. Most people who have truly tight hamstrings will begin to feel a stretch here. Pictured below is the half-kneeling position.
While in the half-kneeling position I cue to contract their glute on that side. This will prevent the anterior pelvic tilt that many people fall into during a poor hip flexor. By contracting the glutes and anterior core you create posterior pelvic tilt.
This can be a bit of an eye opener. At this point you may not have to move into the stretch. The slight adjustment may be enough to elicit an intense stretch of the hip flexors.
Once you have created proper pelvic position, you can then add a small lunge movement. This may be no more than an inch or two. Again, focus on creating the pelvic tilt by activating your glutes and anterior core to help prevent lumbar extension.
Cues to remember
- Own the half-kneeling position
- Squeeze your glute on the side being stretched
- Activate anterior core by “pulling ribs down”
- Slowly forward into the lunge. 1-2″ may be all you need