I am going to ask you two questions. Take your time, think a little bit and try to answer before your continue to read.
1) Do you think that your hip-flexors are tight and shortened?
The majority of people answer “yes”. Most of us sit too much and the hip-flexor get shortened. We feel the tightness.
2) Do you think that your hip-flexors are weak?
This is a little bit harder answer. Maybe they are? Most probably not? We run, walk stairs, play tennis, exercise… we use our hip-flexors in each of these steps.
They must be pretty strong, right?
I haven’t seen yet one person who has strong hip-flexors. Maybe they have them “not horribly weak”, but nobody is strong, or “too strong”. They are actually never strong enough.
But is it really important how strong the hip-flexors are? We don’t see any fancy videos or read much about them much after all. Until now… keep reading and you will learn a life changing (and performance improving) exercise.
The hip-flexors connect the lower body to the upper body. One of their functions is to flex the hip (thus hip “flexors”). Each time you lift your leg, they are working. The other function that you may not know about as much is to stabilize the upper body during the movement. Your core muscles, especially the TVA (transversus abdominis) should do this stabilizing work, but are often too weak or not engaging properly, and then the hip-flexors have to take over the stabilizing work. And it is a lot of work to do. Instead of correctly flexing the hips, they get overused by stabilizing the body. From this overuse, they get tight. And then you sit too much with the hips in flexed position and they get too short.
When the hip-flexors don’t work properly in flexing the hips, the quadriceps takes over some of the load, and gets overused, tight, and short.
The short hip-flexors (and quadriceps) start pulling on the pelvis and creating an anterior pelvic tilt (too much arch in your back) and you get constant discomfort in your lower back. It can become pain and overtime chronic pain.
Because of this anterior pelvic tilt, the hamstrings need to get the pelvis back to the correct position and work overtime, and get overused… and tight.
You see the problem, right? Now everything is tight and fighting to get the pelvis back in the balance. And you go to the tennis court or the gym after all day of sitting, and start abusing these tight and shortened structures, and it just gets progressively worse. Also, you cannot expect an optimal performance if your muscles don’t work in full range of motion.
There is a way out of this vicious spiral: strengthen your hip-flexors (and your TVA—but that will come in the next article).
Here is a simple yet extremely effective exercise to strengthen your hip-flexors really fast. Within weeks—if you do the work—you will feel how everything is relaxing, your quads and hamstrings, and your stretching routines become more effective too. You will run faster, jump further, squat stronger and deeper. Your lower back pain will disappear.
Sounds too good to be true? Try it for yourself.
I have done my own personal experiment and I am beyond happy with the results. All my athletes who work with me personally or on Skype are now “tortured” by this hip-flexor “madness” but they are all improving with huge leaps.
Try it too. Let me know your results.
- sit comfortably on the floor, your hands behind you
- don’t use your upper body to do the work, keep it fully relaxed
- don’t “jerk” the movement
- keep your knees completely straight the entire time
- lift one leg off the ground one inch, move it as far as you can to the outside, hold for half second (side of the triangle)
- lift the leg above the other leg, as high s you can and hold it for a half second (top of the triangle)
- then move it down to the other leg, 1 inch off the ground and hold for a half second (bottom of the triangle)
- hold each “corner” of the triangle for a moment, that’s when you are working and strengthening the HFs
- go as high as your body lets you, keep your knee straight at all times
- repeat 20 times, then switch legs
- do 2 sets of 20
- as you can stronger, lift higher, or add ankle weights on your legs
- watch the video:
Don’t be surprised if you cramp up within the few first repetitions, either in your quads or hip-flexors… Also don’t be surprised if you cannot lift the leg just a few inches off the ground. It gets better with time. The goal is to get it above the head, even with some weights added. If your quads burn, it means that they are taking the work over the lazy hip-flexors, just keep working and over time, the hip-flexors get stronger and the quads will relax.
During my first two weeks of daily hip-flexor triangles (I was doing 5 sets a day), I was sore in my quads for 10 days in a row. I kind of liked it. I am a little weird in that way. ?
Now my hip-flexors are super strong, and I love to work them.
Hope you will love them soon too.
“Tennis Fitness for The Love of It”