Hip Flexor Stretches – Getting Results Outside of the Gym Part I

Posted: July 12, 2015 by dannytwoguns in Articles

We’ve used the term “sitting is the new smoking” before and it seems to be coming to the forefront how bad sitting actually is. I came across this statistic the other day…

Sitting = Death

Crazy. Past generations didnt know how bad smoking was (as per everyone in the 70s/80s smoked) initially but all of the damage it caused eventually came to the forefront. Sitting is the same thing, it will soon be common knowledge just how bad sitting is for you. But lucky for you we are at the forefront and are able to attack it now before it is either too late or we’ve done so much damage it takes a long time to fix it.

I talked about a great substitution for sitting in this blog – “Sitting Will Kill You – A Simple Yet Highly Effective Mobility Exercise You Can Do At Work or Anywhere” as something to do instead of sitting, and while it may get you funny looks, it is very effective for office time where you are bound to sitting.

Now we are in a generation that loves meetings etc and I understand and acknowledge that if you are in a meeting, being on the floor in a Tall Kneel position isnt as acceptable as it is if you are working at your desk alone or informally, I know.

So this series of articles assumes you are trying as best you can to avoid sitting as much as possible and will address the things you can do to offset some of the damage. You need to perform constant maintenance on your body to keep it moving optimally, well and burning fat. Part 1 talks about a stretch that has gained popularity but is often done wrong – the Hip Flexor Stretch – a great stretch to offset the negative effects sitting has particularly on your hips but posture and shoulders as well.

Static stretching aka holding a position/stretch for a fixed duration of time without moving has gotten a bad rep lately, and rightfully so – it doesnt prove well in making any range of motion change in isolation, so we generally dont recommend a whole lot of it – the main and primary exception is the Hip Flexor Stretch because it allows us to reverse the poor position of sitting and that makes that front of the hip and hip flexor region shortened and tight and since we spend time actively shortening it, we need to be able to do something that stretches it. It makes sense, if you spend time in a bad hip position ie sitting, it is beneficial to spend time lengthening the areas it shortens.

As mentioned before, it is becoming more and more well known we need to do it, but it is often performed either inefficiently or just completely wrong.

I came across two videos, one here locally and a mainstream one (not local) that both did exactly that. They acknowledged the need to stretch the hip flexor area, which is a start but did so incorrectly and inefficiently so here is my answer to how to do it correctly, with how’s and why’s.

This is what a correct hip flexor stretch looks like…

Court Good HFS

– Both knees at 90 degree angles.
– Back foot is flat on the ground.
– Lower back is completely neutral – no extension aka arching.
– Upper back is completely flat, shoulders back, ribs down – no flexion aka rounding.
– The pelvis as a slightly “posterior pelvic tilt” aka imagine your hips as a bucket of water and slightly tip the bucket so water spills out the back, not the front.
– There is a straight line from crown of the head to the knee that is on the floor.

Two biggest faults with the hip flexor stretch are stretching the hip capsule not the hip flexors and extending or arching the lower back.

Simple one first – extension in the lower back.

Court Bad HFS 1

There are two main problems here, the first is that you cannot posterior pelvic tilt when your lower back is arched, thus you cannot get the actual stretch in the front of the hip flexor group. The second is that that position is a common fault in a lot of exercises and leaks energy so we dont want to spend time promoting a bad position – added this isnt good for your lower back anyway. This is seen a lot when people are cued to “keep a proud chest” or something similar. A better way would be to “get tall” or think shoulders back, without your ribs coming up.

The second is slightly more complicated but probably the more common mistake.

Court Bad HFS 2

Sometimes people who have a little more mobility than most or people who think they need to do the stretch further, will do so by leaning their body forward, way ahead of the down knee. The problem with this is people tend to “feel the stretch more” but it is stretching the capsule of the hips and other things we dont necessarily need or want stretched, not the actual muscles and flexors of the hip we want stretched and can lead to instability issues that we dont like. Think about it this way – the top/head of the femur (thigh bone connected knee and hip) in that position is literally being pushed forward through the capsule it sits in, whereas in the correct position picture, it can sit safely, while sitting getting a stretch in the actual muscles that need stretched.

You can increase the stretch on the hip flexors by doing what we mentioned earlier in emphasizing a posterior pelvic tilt aka slightly tipping the bucket over backwards aka tucking your tail. This is the solution for a lot of people and especially people who sit a lot.

If you are still on the mobile side, and emphasizing the tipping of the bucket isnt enough of a stretch, you may need to progress to a more advance hip flexor stretch, not do mistake number 2 we just mentioned. We go over the progressions and advanced variations of hip flexor stretches in August edition of the Twoguns Training Systems Inner Circle. Be sure to get signed up early so you can get July’s edition and have August sent to you as soon as it comes out.

Stay tuned for part II and the following parts of this series for tips and tricks to keep you moving well, moving often and getting results outside of the gym.

  1. This is actually quite helpful, but I’m confused about the last picture. Since this is not an unfamiliar position in yoga, would you still deem it harmful?

    • dannytwoguns says:

      Hey Carmen, the short/easy answer is yes. The long and not so easy answer is, “it depends”.

      There are some really mobile and flexible people who do yoga, and for those people who not only do not lack mobility, but probably have too much, that position isnt going to be as inefficient and harmful as it will be to someone who has an anterior pelvic tilt or lacks mobility as since they dont have it, they “hang” on things like the hip capsule and things that arent meant to be, which is what we want to avoid.

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