Do you dread getting into a low lunge during the Front Splits class because you know it's time to warm up the hip flexors? Are your hip flexors on fire any time you do one too many leg lifts in Sunday BarreFit classes?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that, as made obvious by their name, help facilitate flexion at the hip (aka whenever you bring the top and the bottom halves of your body closer together with the hips as the folding line). The opposite to hip flexion is hip extension - and that's exactly what's happening in your back leg when attempting the front splits, so if you have weak or tight hip flexors, you will feel it.
Read below for some fun facts on the 3 biggest players in the hip flexing game:
- combination of two muscles (iliacus and psoas major) - the strongest of all hip flexors
- crosses 9 joints on its way from the back to front of the body
- related to your "fight or flight" instincts: help you curl up into a ball in times of danger
- if you believe in energies: these guys are located in the origin of energetic circulation and are related to the first 3 chakras
2) Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
- the name, from Latin, translates into "stretcher of the wide band"
- helps keep the pelvis neutral through movement
- most famous for its association with the iliotibial (IT) band, but make no mistake: this one also spends lots of time with the glutes as well as the adductor group. A friend to all, exclusive to none!
3) Rectus femoris
- not to be confused with biceps femoris which is part of your hamstrings
- also part of the quadriceps - the only one of those 4 muscles to cross both the hip and knee joints
- it's fusiform in shape (shaped like a spindle with yarn spun on it)
So, what can be the cause of your hip flexor discomfort?
1) WEAKNESS: if you lead a sedentary lifestyle and rarely use the hip flexor muscles, they will become underused and weak
2) SHORTNESS: if you are regularly contracting these muscles and never lengthening them (e.g. running or doing battements), this may lead to imbalances. Sitting can also shorten these muscles, especially the iliopsoas
3) INCREASED TONE: if you have poor stability around your midsection (core/lower back), the hip flexors help compensate and can lead to that "tight" feeling
If you are healthy, you will always benefit from a combination of strengthening, stretching, and releasing/relaxing instead of just focusing on one. Of course, if you suspect an injury or if the problem persists, talk to your physical therapist and make sure you work with them to identify the underlying issue.. At FLEXSPACE, we are huge advocates of a Full Body approach: the more you strengthen and stretch everything in your body, the more it will thank you!
How are you taking care of your hip flexors?