Now that spring is here and it is beautiful outside, a lot of runners really begin to build their mileage. When this happens, I usually start to see a lot of hip flexor pain and tightness. This problem is really common in distance runners. Tight hip flexors are a major cause of many posture problems. In runners, it is mainly caused by repetitive use and weak glutes. In people who sit a lot, well, it is caused by sitting a lot. This posting covers what to do if you are running a lot.
The main purpose of the hip flexor is to bring the thigh up towards the stomach. When the hip flexors are excessively tight, they cause exaggerated pelvic anterior tilt (the person sticks his or her butt out and the lower back arches). The upper back curves and rounds, and the person’s chin can stick out and “lead” in front. Sometimes tight hip flexors can begin to do the abdominals’ work and make it difficult to benefit from some abdominal exercises. Tight hip flexors cause the primary hip extensors, the gluteal group, to become lengthened and weaker.
One big contributing factor to hip flexor tightness is that the glutes just aren’t as active as other running muscles during most activities. This causes your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves to become much stronger. Also, let’s face it, do most people have a strength-training program that isolates and increases glute strength? Probably not. Most of us do squats and lunges and call it a day. However, if an exercise requires several muscles to perform the movement, most of the work is done by the strongest of those muscles and those aren’t your glutes.
The good news is that you don’t need to join a gym, buy a lot of expensive special stuff, or even leave your house to remedy the situation. There are a lot of body weight and resistance band exercises and stretches that you can do at home that will help you resolve this problem. Here they are!
Remember to dynamically stretch BEFORE exercise and statically stretch AFTER exercise.
I call my number one, go-to hip flexor stretch the Pirate Stretch. It is very easy, and I call it the Pirate Stretch because, well, you look like a pirate when you do it.
FOAM ROLLING (AKA: Self-Myofascial Release)
Foam rolling is a form of massage that enables you to release the tension of your muscles by yourself. Let it be noted that I LOVE foam rolling. I am a total geek about it. That said, if you are tight and are new to foam rolling, when you first start it will probably hurt. Keep at it, it really works.
Lateral band walks
These stretches and strengthening exercises will keep you fresh and on the move throughout the endurance season. If you do them consistently, you will feel much better before, during, and after your runs.
If you would like to learn more about hip flexor tightness from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to schedule a complimentary injury screen at a clinic near you.
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