Hip related injuries are a huge problem in sports such as hockey or soccer, and can come about due to a number of reasons including under-preparation or from overusing your muscles.
Basically, if you don’t properly warm up the muscles involved in moving your hips – then you are putting yourself at a higher risk of injury. Hip injuries can be so painful that they can cause you to dip out of your routine and end up taking a lot of time off to recover.
And once you have recovered, how do you get back into your routine? And what can you do to help prevent yourself from injuring your hips again?
For help when it comes to restoring your hips to their former glory, here is everything you need to know about your hips and your flexors, and how to properly stretch and exercise them.
Why You Should Improve Your Hip Flexion
One way to help your hips function like they should is by exercising and improving your hip flexion. Hip flexion involves your hip flexors – several muscles that allow you to move your leg or knee up towards your toso and bend your torso forward at the hip.
These muscles can strain or tear, and when this happens your movement is restricted and your performance suffers.
There are several hip flexor muscles including:
- Psoas Major – a deep muscle that connects your spine and leg. This muscle is pretty important as it is the only hip flexor that can produce a lot of force even when your hip is flexed above 90 degrees.
- Iliacus – a flat triangular muscle in your pelvis that attaches to your thigh bone.
- Sartorius – a long thin muscle runs the length of your thigh.
- Rectus Femoris – one of the four quadriceps muscles that attack your pelvis to your knee.
- Pectineus – a flat quadrangular muscle that lies on top of your inner thigh that is sometimes known as your groin muscle.
- Adductor Brevis – a flat triangular muscle found in the inner thigh.
Although there are many more hip flexor muscles, these are some of the most vulnerable muscles that end up damaged and cause the most problems to athletes.
Your psoas major is the muscle most commonly affected with such injuries and this has a domino effect on the rest of your body – if your psoas major doesn’t produce enough force, your body tries to compensate.
So how do you help prevent these muscles from injury and strain? You exercise them of course!
Exercise focuses on activating your flexor muscles and strengthens them (especially your psoas major). Moving and flexing these hip flexors keeps them active and strong so they are less likely to pull and strain when you need them the most.
How To Exercise Your Hip Flexors
There are many different exercises you can do to build the strength in your hip flexors. Most of them mainly focus on flexing these muscles by either 90 degrees or full range, but they all work at flexing and stretching muscles like your psoas major.
Add three of these sets to your exercise routine and repeat them 8-12 times to get those flexors moving and back to fighting form:
Pigeon Pose – This popular yoga pose is pretty advanced, but if you are particularly flexible, then it is worth a go.
Begin in a plank position, then lift your left foot off the floor and slide it forward so that your knee is on the ground next to your left and your foot is near your right. Slide your right leg back as you can while keeping your hips square and lower yourself to the floor.
Try and move onto your elbows, bringing your upper body down as far as possible. Hold the pose until you feel you have had a good stretch, then switch sides.
Straight Leg Raises – This move really strengthens your psoas major, which makes this move one to really consider adding into your routine. It starts in a standing position, then bend your knee 90 degrees and lift your leg like you are about to take a huge step forward.
Balance on one foot for about 30 seconds, keeping your knee in line with the top of your thigh, then slowly lower it and repeat using your other leg.
Lunges – This form of exercise is already pretty standard when it comes to exercise routines, but they are still very important for you to do to strengthen your hips. Stand up straight and look ahead, then give a generous step forward.
Bend your extended knee 90 degrees and lower yourself slowly until your other knee is about to touch the floor. Step back into a standing position and repeat the pose with your other leg.
Seated Butterfly Stretch – What makes this simple stretch so great is that you can do it sitting down. To try it, sit on the floor with your back straight. Push the soles of your feet together in front of you and bend your knees to the sides.
Pull your heels towards you and relax your knees. Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
Squats – Another form of exercise that is already commonly found in most routines, squats are simple to do and are a great way to work those hip flexors. Start by standing up straight and stretching your arms out straight in front of you.
Bend your knees by 90 degrees at minimum (you can go lower!) while keeping your back straight. Then, stand back up. It’s easy!
So if you are trying to avoid a hip injury or are rehabilitating yourself after one, then practicing these exercises and incorporating them into your daily routine is a great way to work those hip flexors.
By moving and stretching muscles like your psoas major, you will build strength in them that will reduce the risk of pulling or tearing a hip muscle while you are exercising or competing in a sport.
Your hip flexion will improve and so, your hips will function properly. This way you can practice your sport or exercise in confidence, knowing that you are less likely to hurt yourself.
So go ahead and add some of the exercises and stretches above into your routine. Build up your hip muscle strength so you can move your hips the way they are meant to!