Stretches for Tight Hip Flexors
Tight hip flexors are one of the plagues of the pole and aerial world and digging to the root of the problem is complex. The synopsis is tight hips come from repeat movement patterns, muscular imbalances and overworked hip flexors. If chronic tight hip flexor issues are occurring see a physical therapist. However, find a PT who understands that aerial arts and pole are an amalgamation of gymnastics, strength training, dance and acrobatics. And also recognizes that aerialists and polers build strong and flexible bodies. The normal prescribed stretches for hip flexor release may not be enough. Thus meaning, a great PT may suggest alternative measures such as myofascial release, dry needling, massage, acupuncture or other bodywork. Your hip flexors attach to your spine and into your legs. They are involved at the largest joints in the body – the hips. They influence and are affected by the core muscles, leg muscles and gluteus group. When the hip flexors are tight, the muscles in the hip flexor complex, usually at the hip joint, actually shorten causing other muscles overwork. How Tight Hip Flexors Develop Tight hip flexors develop due to numerous reasons. The most obvious starting place is from sitting at work. When the hips are locked into a flexed position for many hours, this can cause rigidity. One of the best ways to relieve this is by taking breaks every hour to stand up and stretch the hips. Participating in sports, such as running, cycling, hiking or leg-based cardio sports can also tighten the muscles around the hips. Stretching at the end of a workout provides the most benefit for opening the hips. Weightlifting also falls into the realm of sports, but weight lifting can exacerbate the tightness of hip flexors, as full body lifting moves require flexing at the hip joint while carrying load. This can make the severity of the issue worse. Pole and aerial arts require gymnastic movement and strength work in tandem. Repetitive movement patterns, such as inverting in class cause shortening in the hip flexors. The straddle back or inverted V is often the guilty move. Proper core engagement can take the burden off the hip flexors, but any repetitious movement is going to cause muscular imbalances if not countered. Obviously, taut quads or inflexibly hamstrings can contribute to hip flexor tightness. However, a weak core can pilot instability in the spine causing the hip flexors to take on abdominal work. By overworking, the hip flexors grow tight. And another widespread hip flexor aggravator is underdeveloped glutes or hamstrings that possible don’t even fire correctly. In the opposite direction, underdeveloped hip flexors can cause massive problems as well. Check out the five-part blog series on Tight Hip Flexors for more information about causes and other techniques to release. Stretches Basic Lunge Stretch Try this lunge with the back knee on the floor, and oodles of padding under the back knee. Begin with the front leg at 90-degrees, release the back hip flexors down toward the floor squaring the hips. If this stretch is not giving enough sensation, walk the front leg forward past 90-degrees to get a deeper release in the hips. The arms may also come up to rest on the thigh or be lifted up overhead. Hold for thirty seconds to a minute on each side. Ankle Grab Lunge Start in a basic lunge stretch with the back knee padded significantly. Reach back for the ankle of the back leg. If you cannot reach the ankle, try a strap around the ankle. Hold for thirty seconds to a minute. Please note, this is an intense stretch and places extra pressure on the rear knee joint. Protect the back knee with extra mats, rugs and cushion. These stretches are acute and are not for everyone. Be body aware and realize it’s okay to back down from a stretch. Pushing too hard may lead to injury and no pole time. The Frog Begin in a table-top position and slide the knees apart. It’s recommended to pad the knees. Keep the hips and knees in alignment and place the forearms on the floor for a deeper release. This stretch opens the inner adductors and hip flexors. Hold for thirty seconds to a minute The Camel From kneeling, align the hips over the knees. Place the hands on the lower back in the kidney area, making fists with the hands can prevent wrist strain. Lengthen through the spine and slowly release into a back bend. Keep the core engaged and find low back bending by lengthening the rib cages and spine, not by compressing the low back. Keep the hips aligned with the knees. If available the hands may be places on the back of the heels. Rebecca is the author of TotallyStokedFitness.com and co-founder of Atmosphere Fitness, an instructor training company for aerial arts and pole. Rebecca is a personal trainer, aerialist and poler of 8 years and studio owner. She specializes in training tips, injury prevention and tutorials for pole and aerial arts.She will be launching a series of e-books offering workouts, corrective exercise and training plans for pole and aerial arts.