Three reasons to stretch the hip flexors
By Al Kraft, MS, ATC, CSCS
With all the sitting we do in today’s world, we may create and hold tension in our hip flexors, and overly tight hip flexors can impair performance and contribute to injury. Because of this, the following are three reasons to stretch the hip flexors:
- Improve Vertical Jump: Tight hips resist hip extension, which is a major contributor to the triple extension (hip extension, knee extension, plantar flexion) that takes place during a vertical jump. Now, current research tells us that static stretching can temporarily decrease the strength of muscles and connective tissue, impairing performance and increasing the likelihood of injury; however, the hip flexors are an exception. By stretching the hip flexors prior to a vertical jump attempt, we can temporarily inhibit them, put them to sleep so to speak, and increase the explosiveness of our extensors as we set a new vertical personal record!
- Improve Running Speed: Just as tight hips limit our vertical jump, this restriction can also reduce stride length as our legs push back against the ground and reduce our top speed potential. Speed is a factor of stride length and stride rate, so anything we can do to increase stride length without reducing stride rate, will increase speed. Again, by decreasing hip flexor tightness, we can push our thighs back into greater hip extension, lengthen our stride and improve our speed.
- Reduce Injury by Activating the Glute Muscles: Altered reciprocal inhibition describes a phenomenon where if one muscle becomes overly tight, the opposing muscle may become inhibited. The opposing muscles to the hip flexors are our vital glute muscles, so if our hip flexors are tight, this can cause our glutes to become weak. Strong, active glutes help to reduce both knee and back injuries. By stretching the hip flexors, we allow the glutes to turn on, improve performance, and reduce our chance of injury.
Now that some benefits of stretching the hip flexors, how should we go about stretching them? The basic lunge stretch shown below in Image 1, is a great place to start.