Our bodies tend to adapt to postures and movement patterns we spend the most time in. And for most of us that is sitting all day. We sit in our car for a commute and at a desk doing our jobs.
Our bodies were made to move. And while they may have been made for the repetitive motion of running and cycle, when you add all those miles to incorrect abdominal conditioning you are in for a world of hurt. Core workouts are designed to strengthen your frontal abdominals but done incorrectly will actually put more strain on your hip flexors.
The chronic tightness and pain are not just for runners and cyclists. Thanks to hours and hours of sitting all day, the hip flexor is a source of pain everyone struggles with. Try this: stand with your back and your heels against a wall or closed door. Now, keeping your tailbone and your shoulder blades in contact with the wall, slowly raise one leg as high as you can without bending your knee. Did you get to 90 degrees?
Although this past year has changed our daily routines the fact remains…. not moving enough, moving too much and improper movement can shorten the muscles around the hips giving them a new “default” position. Then, when we stand, walk, run or cycle those muscles naturally feel tight because they are being stretched beyond their new normal. Adding insult to injury, this lack in range of motion is evidence of a weak muscle that fatigues quickly causing pulling in the hip flexors. And a tight, weak muscle is prone to injury.
This muscle dysfunction puts your body into poor alignment, creating strain on other muscles, and shifting the workload onto others that are now forced to overcompensate. This creates a cascading effect of dysfunction, asymmetry and injury throughout the entire body.
All day we try to do the unnatural, sitting; and then we try to do the natural, running and our bodies aren’t ready for it. It is crucial, now more than ever, to give our hips some TLC. Here are four mobility moves to strengthen, stretch and open the hips. All you need is a mat.
Kneeling lunge and reach:
Start in a low lunge with your right foot planted, right knee bent and your left knee on the floor. Place your palms flat on each side of your right foot. Lift your left arm above your head as you lean to the right. Hold for five breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
What it does: Strengthens quads and hips, lengthens psoas.
Cobra press up:
Lie prone on your stomach, elbows bent, hands flat and near your shoulders. Gently press the hands into the floor, lengthening the arms to lift the rib cage up. Squeeze the glutes and extend through the hips. Hold for five breaths, then repeat.
What it does: Strengthens glutes, lengthens psoas.
One leg bridge – lift and lower:
Lie face up, knees bent. Lift your arms. Engage glutes to lift hips. Transfer weight to your right leg and extend your left leg for five breaths. Lower your leg, hover over the floor for five breaths, then lift back up. Do eight reps, then repeat on the left leg.
What it does: Activates the glutes and strengthens the hip flexors.
Full range figure four:
Sit upright with your knees bent, hands on the floor behind you. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Let the left knee travel left, then back to the center. Slowly go through the range of motion, then hold for five breaths for a good stretch. Repeat on the other leg.
What it does: Opens hip joints and stretches the glutes.
Aim to stretch daily when your muscles are warm.. after a walk or workout. Here’s to Happy Hips!!