Conquering your hip flexors for a healthy back

The hip flexors are muscles most people don’t think about unless they are too tight or in spasm or simply get injured. As I mentioned on my last post, the main hip flexors are the iliopsoas and the quadratus femoris.  When they are very tight, they tend to make your low back an excessively arched appearance (anterior pelvic tilt see previous post) as if you were trying to stick your butt out.  If you sit for long periods of time during the day, practice any sports or do exercises that involve bringing your knees towards your torso (sit-ups, stair-climbers, stationary bikes, sprinting, jumping plyometrics…), chances are that you have short (tight) hip flexors.   Don’t worry, most people in the western world do.

The issue with tight hip flexors is that they increase the pressure on the posterior elements of your lumbar vertebrae when they tilting your pelvis forward particularly in the standing position.  This decreases the amount of shock absorption that your back can take when you walk, run, jump or exercise making you susceptible to injury and pain.

Additional to the tips that I gave you on my last post on extending quad stretches into your hip flexors, there are are a few stretches that target the hip flexors directly very effectively.

An easy hip flexor stretch

  • Get into a lunge position.
  • Reach down to the floor with both hands.
  • Support your body with your front leg, your hands and your back foot.
  • Straighten your back leg.
  • Thrust your hips towards the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • If you are doing this correctly, you should feel this stretch  high on the thigh of your back leg.

The Discovery of America Stretch

I gave this name to this stretch because it reminds me of the classic pose on paintings depicting the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors as they set the Spanish flag on the ground to claim their territory.

  • Get into a lunge position.
  • Make sure your thighs are forming a 90 degree angle with your lower leg.
  • Tuck your hips under your  body (posterior pelvic tilt). This is a very important step since this action lengthens the hip flexors by increasing the distance between the origin and the insertion of the muscles. Do not fret if you don’t undertand this explanation.  Just tuck your hips in!
  • Now, bring your torso forward without slouching or losing your posterior pelvic tilt.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • You should feel a stretch towards the top of your thighs.

So let’s recap.  On my last posts dealing with stretches, you have learned stretches for your low back (erector spinae), glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and now the hip flexors.  One common denominator among all of these muscles is that when they are not flexible enough or strong enough they cause postural problems, joint pain, gait dysfunction and the like.

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About nuchiro

I graduated from National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL in 2005 with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. I have also been a certified personal trainer since 1999. I believe that Total Wellness, of which physical fitness is only a part, can be achieved relatively easily when people focus on attaining a harmonious balance in the different aspects of their lives. For an appointment, feel free to contact me at dr.veaz@nuchiro.com .
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