Flexibility is the new stability. – Logan Green
The hip joint is actually a mobile joint but I thought this quote was so inspiring. The more flexible a person is the more aware they are of their body movement, thus, reducing the likelihood of injury. When looking at the kinetic chain, the hip is the second mobile joint from the ground and is responsible for joining the lower extremities to the rest of your body. In the ankle flexibility article, I discussed maybe having tight hip flexors is due to tight ankles. The kinetic chain is exactly that, a chain of joints alternating between mobility and stability to create a perfect environment for movement.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint created by the femur with the hip bone and allows a great range of motion. Mobility of this joint is only possible by an incredible number of structures. Muscles originate as high as the lumbar spine and have insertions as low as the tibia (the lower part of the leg).
Above is a diagram of the muscles associated with hip flexion, extension, lateral rotation and medial rotation. It can be overwhelming but have no fear, that’s why I’m here. This is to illustrate how intricate this joint is. The anterior and posterior muscles are listed below. Please note that these are not the only muscles associated with hip extention, rotation or flexion.
The anterior hip muscles include: the iliacus, psoas major and minor muscles
The posterior hip muscles include: the tensor fasciae latae, gluteus muscles, the piriformis, and quadratus femoris.
One test will test flexibility of the posterior muscles of the leg (glutes, hamstrings and calves). Slightly bend the knees, bend from the hips. While keeping a neutral spine, reach for the floor and really focus on not curving your back. If you find your spine not parallel with the floor, you may have some tight muscles on the posterior side of your leg.
Another test is the squat test. The squat test will not only reveal if you have tight hips but may also let you know how flexible your ankles are. Perform an air squat, keep the spine neutral and continue until the femur is parallel with the floor. If the heels come off the floor this indicates weak ankle flexibility. If the back rounds out, this indicates weak muscles associated with the hip complex.
The last test that you can perform will also test for tightness in the hip. Position yourself on the ground and bring one knee to your chest, if the opposite leg lifts up you may have tight hips. Perform on both legs.
Improving Hip Flexibility
- Butterfly Stretch - Sit with your legs in a butterfly position. With a neutral spine, bend at the hips and move your core towards your feet. Do not round your back. Hold for 30 seconds, release, breathe and repeat 2-3 times.
- Sit on the ground with legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Place one ankle over the opposite knee, lean forward and hold for 30 seconds, release, breathe and repeat.
- Lizard Pose - Position yourself with one leg forward and the opposite leg behind your body. The front leg should be in a 90 degree angle with the back leg stretched out into extension. The knee can be resting on the ground or for a better stretch left it and hold. Remember to lengthen the core and do not round out the back. This stretch will really open up your hip flexors!
I often hear of people struggling with hip flexor problems. Our lifestyles demand for most of us to be sitting or stagnant for long periods of time, working on a computer, sitting in a classroom or even relaxing during a three day Netflix binge. Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic but you understand where I am going with this. After not activating a muscle for such a long period of time and then demanding that it bear most of our weight can be stressful on a muscle. Stretching and improving flexibility will reduce the risk of injury. Injury to such an important joint can create more weaknesses or even muscle imbalances throughout your body by favoring one side. Be sure to stretch and stay stable and strong throughout your kinetic chain.
Prentice, William E. Principles of Athletic Training. McGraw-Hill, 2014
MACKENZIE, B. (2007) Static Flexibility Test - Hip and Trunk [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/flextest1.htm [Accessed 16/12/2016]
DuVall, Jeremy. "3 Flexibility Tests For Runners." Competitor.com. Running.Competitior, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.
Jones, Oliver. "The Hip Joint." TeachMeAnatomy. Teachmeanatomy.info, 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.