The Real Cause of Your Tight Hip Flexors (and how to fix it)

I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have complained to me that their hip flexors are “tight”.

 

What usually follows is a declaration to start attending yoga and stretching more in the evening.

 

What follows after that is usually an admission two days later than they done neither of the above, or that the hip flexors still feel tight.

 

So, what’s going on?

 

Well, to find that out we need to ask what actually makes a muscle feel as if it’s tight?

 

Muscle stiffness is often a symptom.

 

If you were completely unconscious, your muscle stiffness would cease to be a thing and I could move your hips through their anatomically available ROM (what a cool way to say that!)

 

But you’re not unconscious, it’s a Tuesday and you’re far from the blackout drunk episodes of Friday and Saturday.

 

So why do these damn hip flexors feel stiff all the time?

 

Well, one reason could be that your brain clearly isn’t a fan of what you’re doing so it’s telling those hip flexors to stiffen up.

 

If like most people, you spend most of your time sitting down at some sort of screen, then your hip flexors are spending a lot of time in a shortened position.

 

Often times, they start to like this position; it becomes somewhat the norm for them (especially when you do little activity to address your sedentary lifestyle).

 

This chronically shortened position can promote a feeling of tightness as when you stand up, your hip flexors are now working outside of their new comfort zone.

 

Could it be a mobility problem? Maybe.

 

But another symptom of all of this is that your hips flexors are also most likely weak AF.

 

Stretching them will probably give you some relief in the short term, but you’ll soon revert back to the feelings of stiffness when your hip flexors realise they haven’t got the strength to be operating in this newfound range, and are constantly being overworked.

 

This is where we enter the cycle of no real improvement.

 

You stretch, it feels good, they get tight again, you stretch more etc, etc.

 

The solution?

 

Strengthen them.

 

One of the best ways to improve your mobility (and strength) is to actually strengthen muscles through their full available ROM.

 

This shows the brain that “hey, see – it’s safe out here, we can move”.

 

It also is an active way of moving the muscles, rather than more passive modes such as stretching.

 

Of course, there could be numerous reasons to as why your hip flexors feel stiff – and this may not be the case for everyone.

 

But it’s worth a shot and chances are you’ll find improved functionality, less pain and stiffness.

 

Here’s are some of my favourite hip flexors strengthening exercises for you to try.

Angled Hip Flexor March

These have quickly become a favourite of mine as the setup forces you into a good start position.

 

I also like the iso row position as it gives your back a bit of a workout too (however this can be a limiting factor if you’re not strong enough to hold it)

 

 

  1. Use a mini band of your choice (perhaps start lighter)
  2. At an approx 45 degree angle, pull yourself to the bar and hold.
  3. With pelvis stacked in line with your ribs, drive one knee up towards your chest, whilst drive the heel of the other into the floor.
  4. Use a more upright angle if you struggle.

Banded Dead-bugs

Dead-bugs are fantastic and frequent tool of mine.

 

  1. Lying on the floor, with your hands above your shoulders, knees at a 90 degree angle (knee in line with the hip joint)
  2. Keeping your ribs and pelvis in a stacked position, extend opposite arm to leg, pushing against the mini-band
  3. Keep the opposing knee above the hip joint as you push out and maintain the stacked position.

KB Hip Flexor Raise

This one can be a bit more fiddly as you have to balance the kettlebell (can also use a band if you wish)

 

But it’s typically harder and can be loaded heavier for those wanted a bit more of a. challenge.

 

  1. Using a step or raised platform, hook the kettlebell onto you foot.
  2. Keeping a stacked position (ribs over pelvis), drive your knee up towards your chest
  3. Avoid compensating through the hips and tilting your pelvis.

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Sam is a Personal Trainer, Online Coach and Fitness Educator with background in achieving results for a variety of clients. Sam now specialises in Pain Free Performance, helping people across the world to achieve their goals safely and effectively. 

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