I’m not breaking any news to you if I tell you that the hip flexor group is usually a problematic area in many people. There are numerous reasons for that, including the fact that nowadays we sit way too much and the hip flexor muscles can get short or stiff from spending so much time in that shortened position. Because of that, we prescribe a lot of hip flexor stretches in hope of getting some slack to those muscles. But there are a couple of problems with that.
First of all, sometimes the cause of the stiffness in the hip flexors might be neurological, rather than just muscular (I’ve talked about that in a previous blog post). If it’s the case, you’re not going to win that battle by stretching your hip flexors because the brain will always win and your hip flexors will keep stiffening right back.
Another problem I can see with that is that it is easy, very easy to screw up a hip flexor stretch. In fact, a lot of people stretch their hip flexors the wrong way and put all the stress on the anterior capsule and ligaments.
The first problem with the picture above is that there really isn’t that many people, if at all that have that amount of hip extension, or hip extension should I say at that point. What happens with this position is the pelvis will anteriorly tilt, the the lower back will arch and even if the hip flexors will be stretched a little bit, it is the anterior hip capsule and ligaments that will be stretched. This can further cause hip instability and other issues you really don’t want to deal with.
Because of that, you need to be careful when prescribing a hip flexor stretch. You want to make sure that your client or your athlete is doing it the right way; you can’t assume that just getting in the position will be good enough. When getting down in a half-kneeling position, you want your back knee (the side you’re going to stretch) to be right underneath your hip. You want to initiate the stretch with a posterior pelvic tilt and a contraction of the glute on the side you want to stretch. By doing this, there are little chances that you’ll get into hyperextension. You’ll also notice that you won’t be able to get your hips forward much (assuming your maintaining the posterior tilt and the glute contraction).
Is there any ways to know if you’ve been stretching the wrong way? Yes. There are a couple of simple tests you can do to check if you have lax anterior ligaments. I’ll go over them in my next blog post on Thursday. Stay tuned!
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