Hip Flexors is a word you’ll hear tossed around quite a bit, especially by your trainer. Have you ever heard that you have tight hip flexors and that sitting all day is the culprit? Has your trainer ever talked to you about your immobile or tilted hips? If so, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘hip flexors,’ and in this week’s “lesser-known muscle groups” blog post we’ll talk about what they really are.
What are your hip flexors and what do they do?
Your hip flexors are composed of quite a few different muscles, but the biggest players are the psoas and the iliacus.
The function of these hip flexor muscles is exactly what they sound like – they flex the hip. What does this look like exactly?
Or in its more common form:
This is why sitting at a desk all day makes your hip flexors tight – because they are constantly in flexion in a seated position. As you can see in the first picture, the psoas is also connected to your lower back, one cause of low back pain. Tightness in this muscle will compress your lumbar vertebrae together, giving that exaggerated lower back arch and all of the back pain that comes along with it. This tightness can also lead to a loss of glute activation, making exercises such as lunges, step-ups and squats difficult and possibly even painful on the knee joint.
However this should not lead us to vilify these muscles! Often, thinking that a muscle is tight leads us to believe that it should not be strengthened or specifically targeted. Tight muscles DO NOT mean strong muscles! Having strong hip flexors is very important for all athletes (especially sprinters) and general exercise.
Hip flexors drive the leg up in a sprint, and also act as a brake when slowing down. This will help not only performance, but preventing injury as well.
So take a look at your exercise program with new eyes: what movements do you perform that involve flexing the hip? Running, sprinting, jumping, sit-ups, leg lifts, hanging leg raises? If yes to any of these, you may benefit from strengthening your hip flexors.
Later this week we will take a look at ways to stretch as well as strengthen the psoas and iliacus.
B.S. , NASM-CPT