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:
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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.
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.
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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.