Remember you were able to do a split anytime when you were little and now you can barely spread your legs more than 90 degree? Thanks to a desk job that puts our hips in a constantly flexed position, tight hip flexors are now almost a universal human experience.
In this article, we explore how tight hip flexors can affect our lives other than stiffness and what you can do to counter the effects of sitting down all day.
You might not have realized that you have tight hip flexors, yet. Here are some of the most common symptoms that point to tight hip flexors:
You have anterior pelvic tilt (butt sticks out more that it should).
You have lower back pain and/or knee pain.
The muscles in the front of your hip joints are sore to the touch.
You can’t freely move your hips while performing certain exercises like lunging, running or jumping.
How your hip flexors can affect more than your hips:
Dormant Butt Syndrome: Tight hips and weak glutes come hand in hand.
Let’s put this in simple words – locked up hip flexors put a limit on your hip mobility and strip away your ability to fully activate your glutes.
When your glutes are unable to provide the strength to drive hip extension, that’s when your lower back comes into play. It overarches to compensate for the work that your glutes should be doing and this results in an anterior pelvic tilt that can be commonly seen among women. (See Figure 2 above)
Injuries happen when a particular group of muscles do more work than they are built for. This posture places an excessive pressure on the anterior portion of your lumbar disc, which can lead to injuries such as slipped disc.
Your squat effort is not paying off.
Here is a good explanation of how tight hips can affect your booty goal. Since people with tight hips have a smaller range of motion, they tend to not fully extend their hips during squats (see Figure 1 above), which results in minimal glute engagement. This also explains why it is harder to engage your glutes in squats than in other glute-focused exercises.
It seems inevitable for lower back to be the punching bag for tight hip flexors.
You may be surprised that tight hips are the common root of knee injuries. Shorten hip and glute muscles allow an internal rotation of your thigh and put excessive stress on your knee joint. It does not end there, this misalignment of your entire kinetic chain (neck, spine, hip, knee and ankle) can lead to more severe injuries.
Muscle imbalance from tight hip flexors can increase the risk of urinary incontinence from pelvic floor dysfunction. Statistics show an estimated 17% of women over 18 years old experience urinary incontinence, and this percentage increases with age, especially among female runners.
Higher risk of getting a hip labral tear
A hip labral tear is an injury of the cartilage within your hip joint. It can be caused by an extreme rotation in the hip from childbirth process, aging or wear and tear from repetitive sport activities like running and cycling.
Test your hip mobility:
Why Your Hip Flexor Health is Vital
It gives you a better range of motion in your daily life.
It helps alleviate, eliminate or prevent lower back pain through a good posture.
It improves your strength and power performance with a higher level of glute activation.
It slows aging process through a stronger core and the ability to walk longer.
It spices up your love life by improving your sexual performance.
It eases your menstrual cramps.
Lastly, it helps grow your booty faster! Happy hips allow a greater glute engagement which means your glute muscles will get stronger AND bigger!
Who should stretch their hip flexors?
Literally every single one of us should do it!
Runners, cyclists and dancers who perform repeated extreme movements of the hips will benefit greatly from this too as a mobile and flexible hips can have a significant influence on their performance.
Main question - what to do to unlock your hip flexors?
It is not impossible to regain your long-lost hip mobility and flexibility, here's what we can do:
1. Stretch to unlock your hip flexors.
2. Hip strengthening exercises to wake your glutes up from deep sleep.
However, if you have persistent pain in your hips, we'd recommend you visit a doctor or physiotherapist before you do any of the following stretches or exercises.
Here is a series of stretches/yoga poses you can do to unlock your hip flexors:
Hip Strengthening Exercises:
How often should you stretch?
Although you will notice a significant relief of tension after a session or two, it is likely that your hips will be tight again on the next day.
Try to make it a routine, even just a 10-minute session before bed 2-3 days a week will bring you a great deal of health benefits in long term.
Damages are usually done when we perform our daily activities mindlessly. Try to bring mindful attention to your daily movements, from how you stand to how you walk. Not only it can help reduce the chance of injury and improve your posture, it also does wonder to your mind.