The hip flexors are a group of skeletal muscles from all around the pelvis that work together to flex the femur, ie pull the knee upward. They all work in unison to achieve the intended movement, which is why it is important to do total body workouts as opposed to isolation. (High Five Crossfit) When you run (especially sprinting), box jump, step up, or walk, these muscles are acting to move legs and hips.
In descending order of importance they are:
1. Iliopsoas (inner hip muscles):
- · Psoas major
- · Psoas minor
- · Iliacus muscle
2. Anterior Compartment of thigh:
- · Rectus Femoris
- · Sartoris
3. One of gluteal muscles:
- · Tensor fasciae latae
4. Medial compartment of thigh:
- · Pectineus
- · Adductor longus
- · Adductor brevis
- · Gracilis
Although all of these muscles make up the hip flexors the iliopsoas and the iliacus are the big men on campus. The iliopsoas, the strongest of the hip flexors, attaches to the lower back while the iliacus attaches to the hip bone. Without the iliopsoas muscles, flexion in a sitting position is not possible across the horizontal plane.
Why do most people’s hip flexors hurt?
Since these muscles are dominated by slow-twitch fibers they are susceptible to shortening or contracting. Sitting down contracts these muscles into a shortened position, which can lead to not only pain in the hips and upper legs but severe back pain as well. Such shortening can lead to increased anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis (i.e. big ass, beer gut) and limitation of hip extension.
Chances are most of us have some tightening in the hip flexors and have experienced the effects without even noticing it. Just raise a hand if this sounds familiar.. You stand up from a chair at work and your lower back starts quivering, and then before you know it you walk down the hall and your knees ache. Both of these symptoms can originate from tight hip flexors. Crazy right?! Our body is a sneaky little thing. Now while a little tightening may not be a big deal to the average person, for crossfitters it can greatly inhibit performance and progress.
Government statistics suggest that almost 50% of people report sitting more than 6 hours a day; 65% say they spend more than 2 hours a day watching TV.
OK we get it.. SO now what?
First and foremost.. Prevention! For those of you who have jobs where you sit all day it is important to get up as often as possible to move around, stretch and even show off doing some wall squats. Here are some exercises and stretches for loosening your hip flexors.
1. Overhead Lunges
This is possibly the best exercise you can do for opening up your hip flexors. It is basically a normal lunge with the addition of holding a medicine ball or light plate over your head. Why make it harder by holding something of your head!? Well the fascia, which is a sheath that runs over the muscle, acts as accessory to the crime of muscle tightness. Holding something above your head while lunging stretches this bad boy out which is an added benefit.
2. Reverse Lunges
When you step back you activate your butt which relaxes your hip flexors. The key to this exercise is LONG LUNGE. Reverse Lunge.
1. Foam Roller
2.Couch or Wall Stretch