Release Your Hip Flexors- Improve Performance
The hip flexors play a massive role in our day to day lives, they flex our hips! Our busy population actually spends a lot of time in hip flexion, because we are a population of sitters! We sit at our desk jobs, we sit during our commute, we sit when we get home from our day (when we can at least), and students are actually a big sitting population! Students and young people are very vulnerable to sitting for most hours of the day, they have to sit and listen to their teachers or professors, and then they go home and sit and do homework or work on the computer. Unfortunately, we are only seeing more sedentary behaviour in young people with WIFI access everywhere, less “spontaneous play” happens and more sitting on phones or ipads occur.
Most people’s hip flexors are over-active for the majority of our day. When we are in constant hip flexion, therefore it is common sense to assume the hip flexors will become tight from over use. The big problem with having an overactive and tight muscle is…compensation for this over active muscle will pop up and cause problems in other areas of your body. We work as a kinetic chain, our nervous system sends signals from our central nervous system/spinal cord and branches into thousands of nerve pathways, innervating our brain, organs, eyes, mouth, fingers, every single muscle body has a nerve innervation and without adequate nerve innervation the signal is not hear “loud and clear”. Muscle rigidity, tightness, and ultimately completely cement muscle fibers will 100% interfere with nerve signals and innervation. If one muscle is tight, there is another muscle being stretched, and when a muscle body and its fibers are being stretched (think eccentric phase of the rep), then there is weakness.
Let’s use tight hip flexors as an example to show you other problems that can arise due to muscle tightness:
1. Anterior Pelvic Tilt begins to occur. As the hip flexors become more tight, picture the muscle squishing together, like pushing a slinky together. Since our muscles are attached to our bones, and the hip flexors attached to our hips and spine/vertebrae, a tight muscle will also shift your bone structure, in this case pulling your hips into an anterior pelvic tilt.
2. When your hips are in Anterior Pelvic Tilt, your hamstrings are now being stretched and pulled. So tight hip flexor muscles have now caused your pelvis to tilt forward, and now the anterior pelvic tilt is causing tight hamstrings. I went through a full year of a critically tight hamstring, due to anterior pelvic tilt. So now the hamstrings are becoming stretched, and therefore weak.
3. If the hamstrings are being affected, then their opposition i.e. our quads, are going to become tight. Our quads are not just tight because our hamstrings are being stretched/lengthened/weakened, but also because of the tight hip flexors as well as the anterior pelvic tilt.
4. Since our hamstring is being stretched, then this is eventually going to translate into our calves (remember we are a kinetic chain…energy must flow). However, since our hamstrings are weak, the load is going to be placed on the calves, so our calves are going to become very over-active in exercises and movements.
The most important step to fixing the issue is being aware of the problem.
Once you are aware of your overall movements in your day to day life, you will notice how under-active your glutes are, and how overactive your quads/hip flexors have become. Stretching, glute activations and hip exercises, and MONTHLY massage tension with purposeful muscle tension release is crucial. Purposeful massage therapy visits with RMT’s experienced with muscle tension release would be ideal, a relaxation massage at the spa is not enough. Even if you are not physically active I guarantee you will still get a lot out of a muscle tension release, or muscle fascia release therapy. If you are trying to work your glutes but mostly feel your quads and lower back, then you need to see someone asap before continuing exercise. Don’t let a simple thing like over active hip flexors affect your overall progress.