Tight hip flexors can be annoying for lifters and runners. It can limit your ability to squat, run, or even walk. Everyone’s instinct when they feel tightness is to stretch the “tight” muscle, but what if that muscle is not the real problem?
What is “Tightness”?
I will have people tell me that their hamstrings feel tight, yet they can bend over and touch their toes. In most cases, it’s not that the muscle is short. Instead, the nervous system is increasing the “tone” of the muscle which creates the sensation of tightness. The same thing goes for the hip flexor muscles.
Are Your Hip Flexors Short?
The Thomas Test is a classic test for assessing hip flexor tightness. If you do this test and your thigh can touch the table with knee straight and knee bent, then you do NOT have shortened hip flexors.
Why Do Your Hip Flexors Really Feel “Tight”?
The psoas is one of the main hip flexors that is a common culprit of feeling tight. The poas has attachments to the spine and has been shown to be a contributor to spinal stability. When the core muscles are weak, then the body searches for somewhere else to gain stability. So it calls upon the psoas and reflexively tightens it to support the spine.
How to Remedy Tight Hip Flexors
So instead of stretching the hip flexors constantly, work on improving core stability. No, this does not mean do more crunches. Exercises that require you to round your back are fine, but they do nothing in terms of stability. Work on stabilizing in all planes of motion (flexion/extension, lateral bending, and rotation). The McGill Big 3 is a good place to start. The three exercises are the curl up, side plank, and bird dog. Here is a good video explaining them!
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