Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the nation’s workforce has been forced to work from home, go through layoffs, furloughs, and define what it is to be an “essential” business or employee. Either way, we have all been moved to our couches more than before in our already sedentary society. So what typically happens when you sit for long periods of time for days on end? Your hip flexors start to tighten up and all the feels start to happen… (not good feels). So you are probably wondering what in the heck is a hip flexor and why should I care about their level of tightness as if it you don’t have enough to worry about. Great questions! So let us talk about it and how this directly affects your current lifestyle in this time of couch potatoes and sofa supervisors.
What are hip flexors and how do they get tight?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that allow your hip to do exactly with their name says, flex. Or in more scientific terms, flexion. This movement of flexion is what allows you to bend forward at the hips when you find a lucky penny on the sidewalk and just HAVE to pick it up. It is also the position we are in while sitting at our desk, watching a movie on the love seat, riding in the car, and any other time we are resting on our rear-end with our back upright. The fact that we are in this position often allows for these muscles to become tight and relaxes the opposing muscles to the point where some people do not know how to properly activate them (story for another day). There are 5 main muscles that contribute to hip flexion and are the main focus for trying to achieve relief.
Iliopsoas – This muscle is actually two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas, which pair together to work in a synergistic relationship. Together, they are the strongest hip flexor in the body and control spine stabilization and posture.
Rectus Femoris – This muscle is part of the quadriceps and runs straight down the thigh. It is the only muscle in the quadriceps that crosses the hip and assists the iliopsoas pair in hip flexion.
Ilioscapsularis – Sometimes called the iliacus minor, this is like the baby brother to the iliacus since they work together during walking motions. It also controls hip stability.
Sartorius – This muscle is indisputably the longest muscle in the body and is located in the front of the thigh, also called the anterior compartment.
Tensor Fascia Lata – The TFL is a smaller muscle that is considered to be more of an accessory muscle as it helps the others in hip flexion.
Signs of Tight Hip Flexors
At this point you are probably wondering how you even know whether or not your hip flexors are tight and are a little oblivious to the muscles I just mentioned. No problem though. Let’s simplify it just a little so at least you know what to look for when trying to identify symptoms of hip flexor tightness. Some of the most common things we have seen in regards to this issue are:
· Low back pain
· Poor posture
· Lack of ability to stand upright
· Pain in glutes (butt)
· Pain in groin area
· Excessive forward lean during squatting
If you think that these symptoms might be related to tight hip flexors or your are unsure, try this quick assessment.
How to fix tight hip flexors
Now you know what they are, what they do, and how to decipher if yours are tight or not. And now you ask “Well how do ya fix it?” Another great question! There are a number of stretches and exercises out there that will achieve the results you are seeking, but it would literally take me for-ev-ver to go through all of them. With that said, I have narrowed it down to a few of my favorite ways to reduce the tightness and make them “less active”. Check out these videos below that and give them a try.
1. Lying Hip Flexor Stretch
2. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
3. Supine Floor Bridge
4. Dynamic Pigeon Stretch
5. Hip Flexor Deactivators
It’s A Wrap
Remember that in this day and age, sitting is the bane of all existence if you commit to it for long periods on end. Don’t let tight hip flexors be the reason you experience pain daily or can’t reach your fitness goals in the gym. All it takes is a simple assessment and a few minutes of your time to reduce those “feels”…you know...the not so good ones. Take a little time for yourself and release those tight muscles.