Posted January 27, 2015

How to Actually Stretch Your Hip Flexors

After spending the weekend in Saskatoon for the Canadian Strength Symposium alongside Dr. Stuart McGill, Andre Benoit, Lon Kilgore, and a bunch of other speakers, as well as concurrently with a powerlifting meet, strongman competition and olympic weightlifting meet, my hips got a bit tight. Simply put, traveling and speaking sometimes takes it’s toll on my hips, and even after spending some time in my hotel room rolling out and hitting up some mobility and stabilization drills, I still felt a little worse for wear when I got home. A walk by our new house to check on progress definitely helped, but the best benefit I had was the workout I put myself through this morning.

I did some relatively heavy squats (315 for 5 sets of speed singles from rock bottom, which is about 85% of my max) after hitting up a couple of hip mobilization drills, specifically speaking some active hip flexor mobs. Which brings me to the point of this article.

Many people know how to stretch their hip flexors in theory, but in theory pretty much everything works until you put it to the test. Here’s a few things that work in theory:

  • Communism
  • The Oilers having a chance in the pre-season
  • The Interview movie
  • The Mighty Ducks “Flying V” is a viable formation
  • A girl who is both hot and crazy, while simultaneously being wife material

[embedplusvideo height=”367″ width=”600″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1JT7cSI” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/vwbKYcBdVyk?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=vwbKYcBdVyk&width=600&height=367&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep1959″ /]

Now the thing is, with stretching the hip flexors we can figure that most people don’t want to stop when anatomical limitations happen, and would rather win the world by going as far as possible into the stretch, which means you wind up seeing a lot of people reaching their face ahead of their front knee, saying they feel something in the front of their leg which somewhat resembles femoral nerve entrapment, and a funny feeling that they are going to be doing this dance for a long time. That or the lean back and create a golden arch in their spine not unlike how healthy the other golden arches are.

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Now the funny thing about any flexor is they usually are antagonists to extensors. Weird how most of these stretches don’t do much to actually involve the glutes, right? Also, if you look at the hip being stretched, in many cases the hip isn’t even approaching extended and sometimes it doesn’t even approximate neutral, so how the heck does hip flexion occur? Well, through massive spinal extension of course. When I see stuff like that, it’s not looking like a great stretch, it’s looking like a cry for help.

Here’s a good idea when it comes to a stretch. Get into a slightly extended position, then actually contract the extensor muscles to get some controlled activation and relaxation of the flexors.

[embedplusvideo height=”367″ width=”600″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1JTaNjI” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BkD7oUZP6uQ?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=BkD7oUZP6uQ&width=600&height=367&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep6114″ /]

This surprises a lot of people with how deeply they feel a stretch through their rectus femoris (typically the muscle that actually is tight in the crowd of people who complain of tight hip flexors), and also how small the effective range of motion needs to be. Some people get smashed out just by getting into a well aligned half kneeling position, and then throwing some glute activation in the mix makes their life even better.

Some key things to think about with this stretch: the spine shouldn’t go into further extension, the pelvis would be best in a slight posterior tilt, and Indiana Jones played absolutely no role in the outcome of the Raiders of The Lost Ark.

In many ways mobility like this is incredibly simple, yet incredibly misunderstood. My main goal with being a fitness professional is to make it easier for people to get better results, and this is one of those exercises that can help get this done.

I cover these concepts in depth in Ruthless Mobility, which is one of the workshops I’ll be presenting when I come to New York at the end of February. It’s the only time I’ll be speaking on the east coast this year, and I’m guaranteeing it’s going to be one of those events you won’t want to miss if you’re a trainer, medical professional or fitness enthusiast.

Click HERE for more info and to get the Early Bird before January 31st.

  • TonyGentilcore

    YOU LIE DEAN SOMERSET!!!!! MORE ROM IS BETTER!!!!! YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO STEAL MY GAINZ

    • deansomerset

      COME AT ME BRO!!! COME AT ME!!

    • Shawn Blanchard

      Being an athlete all my life and having endured multiple knee surgeries due to blowing out ACL’s in both knees, I later started to develop a hip issue in my right hip due to the years of wear and tear.

      These days I’m stronger and faster than ever and still competing in sports.

      This site fb.me/7iW9sE50u/#/_EXERCISES_FOR_HIP_FLEXORS/ gave me the ability to perform at my highest level as a coach and regain the athletic ability I had lost over the years from wear and tear

  • Brad

    I find the the Thomas test variation (where you lay on your back with your other knee held to your chest while a partner pushes your leg down and foot toward the table) to be way more intense and effective. The drawback is of course you cant do it alone. What is your opinion of how much glute activation and posterior tilt of the pelvis is optimal for this variation? Should the low back lift off the table at all? Do you use the table variation on yourself or clients and would you recommend the half kneeling version over it?

    • deansomerset

      I’ll use the Thomas test as a screen, but I don’t really use it as a stretch very often as it’s not that user friendly for a client to do on their own as you mentioned. I find people get good results from this, or even in a standing position with their feet split apart, and if it works I don’t try to mess with it. It’s quick, easy, and dog gone it, people like it.

      • Brad

        Would you use the same coaching cues such as posterior tilt of the pelvis and glute activation on the Thomas version (even for a screen) as you would for the half kneeling version?

        • deansomerset

          Not at all, because they’re two different beasts. The screen is looking at resting passive length of the region, whereas the half kneeling version is imparting a force into the system other than simple gravitational. The Thomas test is more of a “look and observe” thing where you just want to see what position and angle of the dangle the leg gets to, whereas the half kneeler is going to involve some coaching and actual effort from the individual.

          • Brad

            Yeah I understand if you’re screening to see the level of tightness you would just let the leg hang off the table and observe the angle. But if you were using the Thomas position on a table as a stretch, such as you pushing your client’s leg down would you cue them with the same cues (posterior tilt, glutes tight) as the half kneeling version?

          • deansomerset

            Sure.

  • Shane Mclean

    You two cut it out. how did Indiana Jones and hip flexor get mentioned in the same sentence? Brilliant.

  • Mark Morrison

    Being an athlete all my life and having endured multiple knee surgeries due to blowing out ACL’s in both knees, I later started to develop a hip issue in my right hip due to the years of wear and tear.

    These days I’m stronger and faster than ever and still competing in sports.

    This site fb.me/7iW9sE50u/#/_EXERCISES_FOR_HIP_FLEXORS gave me the ability to perform at my highest level as a coach and regain the athletic ability I had lost over the years from wear and tear (Y)

  • Mark Morrison

    Being an athlete all my life and having endured multiple knee surgeries due to blowing out ACL’s in both knees, I later started to develop a hip issue in my right hip due to the years of wear and tear.

    These days I’m stronger and faster than ever and still competing in sports.

    This site fb.me/7iW9sE50u/#/_EXERCISES_FOR_HIP_FLEXORS/ gave me the ability to perform at my highest level as a coach and regain the athletic ability I had lost over the years from wear and tear