The Importance of Hip extension
The Importance of Hip extension
When I first came across the significance of good hip extension, I was I young beaten up middle distance runner having an ongoing battle (10years) with a debilitating lower back pain. All I wanted to do was run, I didn’t care about stretching for flexibility I thought al you needed to do is train hard and run all the time to get better (man I was wrong!)! It wasn’t until a friend who I respect highly when it comes to body and muscle /skeletal dysfunction, said mate you need to work on getting some hip flexibility so you can get into hip extension so you can actually use your glutes! I remember the pain like it was yesterday when I first started stretching my hip flexors man my range was so poor! It took all my will power to stick at it and I set the clock every day without fail to 5mins each leg. The improvement was nothing short of amazing, my performance improved not to mention the pain in my lower back dropped of considerably. This got me curious why did I lose that range of motion in the first place? And also what changes were being made to my body by opening up my hip flexors?
There are many ways of losing the ability to extend through the hip, I won’t list them all, the list could be endless, and I find the main cause to be sitting. This leaves the legs in a relaxed flexed position so after long periods of time things lock up and adapt to this and the ability to extend authentically through the hip is lost and extension through the lower back and a pelvic tilt tends to be the substitute. Not exactly ideal for people wanting to be able to move well and stay active, and also at the elite level being able to stay injury free and perform at there best!
The muscles that get tight that inhibit Hip extension are the ilio-psoas, rectus femoris and also the lumbar erectors. The gluteus maximus is the prime hip extensor, so when the flexors are tight the glutes get what can be best described as amnesia. They shut of because they never get the chance to activate; they are really fighting a losing battle with the opposing flexors. The glutes are or should be the strongest muscle in the body! So you can imagine how much the body is missing out on, it’s like playing a game of gaso breako( having one foot on the break and the other on the accelerator )especially when running.
So how do you get yourself some high quality hip extension? I find designing a routine that starts with a bit of muscle tissue work maybe with tennis ball or foam roller on the quads, then get into some good long hip flexor stretches to gain some new range, next gaining some stability in a tall kneeling and half kneeling position this will engage the hip and core together to allow your body to figure out the new changes, this is reflex driven. Then finish with some glute bridges and or hip thrusts. This is kick starting the glutes to get your hip into extension and in the case of the hip thrusts even hip hyperextension. This mini program is just a simple design there are many different variations. Just remember the formula. Tissue prep with ball or roller, stretch the tight area, Gain stability at new range, then add specific movement strength.
In conclusion opening up the hips and gaining strength and stability enables carry over to everyday bipedal life, and takes the compensation out of play which more than likely is causing pain or is affecting efficiency and performance.
(Figure 1.) is a very effective stretch for the hip flexors and really puts an enthuse on the rectus femoris. Things to remember, contract the glute on the side being stretched and don’t let the back extend (arch).
(Figure2.) This is another good hip flexor stretch concentrating on the ilo-psoas Muscle group. Things to remember: contract the glute on the side being stretched and flatten the lower back to get more of a stretch. (Notice in the picture the knee is behind the hipline that means he is in hip extension.)
(Figure 3&4). Half kneeling balancing is a great way of getting stability with the new range of motion. Things to remember: the knee on the ground needs to be directly under the hip, and making sure the hips are even (tuck your top in and use your belt line as a guide) Most of the weight should be on the knee, keep tall and skinny. Stay relaxed and let your body figure out the balance, don’t muscle your way through this.
(Figure 5) The bridge is an effective way of getting good glute activation and hip extension. Things to remember: Hinge through the hips only, keep the core tight and don’t let the back bend at all. Push through the heals
(Figure 6&7) Hip Thrusts are in my point of view the best for getting glute activation. Things to remember: Hinge through the hips, keep the core tight and don’t move the head and neck keep it at one with the rest of the spine. Concentrate on squeezing the glutes throughout. At the top of the movement be careful not to arch the lower back we want hip extension not back extension.