‘Tight’ hip flexors is probably one of he most common gym niggles that trainers hear about. However, are hip flexors genuinely short, or is it simply a case of position….?
Refer back to my post here for distinguishing between something that’s genuinely tight, and something thats really an alignment issue. However, if we do come across hip flexors that need a bit of attention, then the classic kneeling hip flexor stretch is probably one of the most commonly prescribed solutions. It is also, however, one of the most commonly performed incorrectly!
To address any kind of movement deficit – we need to firstly understand how to correctly assess and quantify movement. Movement of any part of our anatomy should always (and only) be considered relative to other parts of our anatomy. Functional anatomy, therefore, should be the ultimate guidance for assessing, prescribing, and correcting movement.
Assessing or correcting movement relative to any kind of arbitrary external reference – even one as constant as the floor – is misleading. In order to understand where one part of our anatomy is, we need to understand where the other parts are. If we get this part wrong, then best case is we’re doing nothing – but in all likelihood we’re stretching into instability and setting ourselves up for bigger problems in the future.
The true hip flexor stretch involves positioning the femur and the hips in such a way relative to each other that tension is created along the length of the hip flexors, whilst still maintaining the ‘canister’ position that we work so hard to create. A true hip flexor stretch is actually a very subtle movement and should create no more than a few degrees of movement – any time we observe a hip flexor ‘stretch’ with the femur in excessive extension (travelling way behind the torso) we know that this movement is being ‘borrowed’ from elsewhere.
I put this video out giving a visual representation of what is actually happening at the FA joint when we ‘think’ we’re stretching a hip flexor, versus what is happening when we really are stretching a hip flexor!