For runners, the hip flexors play an important role in the running flow and form, these are the muscles that allow flexion at the hip joint, tight hip flexors can really affect the biomechanics. One muscle runners tend to ignore is the iliopsoas, the strongest muscle group in the hip flexors, it is connected from the spine to the femur. This group of muscles is what helps contract and pull the thigh toward the torso, allowing to bring the knee up while running. When running, we constantly tighten our hip flexors, when sitting, we also shorten the hip flexors and make it even worse, never lengthening them can lead to imbalances. The more time we spend sitting the more the iliopsoas shortens. Shorter psoas, tight hip flexors affect our running stride. The lack of flexibility will affect our natural running gait. Other muscles will have to take over which can lead to injury in the muscles that work to move us forward and stabilize our running form.
More than ever it is essential to look after our hip flexors. Strength-training, stretching, mobility and flexibility work has never been so important for runners. With our different lifestyle in the past decades, with too much unnatural-sitting, going from sitting for hours a day to some natural running, our body is not ready. In order to avoid pain and injuries focusing on strengthening and loosening our hip flexors need to be part of our regular training routine.
Hip flexor training plan:
Start with a pre-run dynamic warm-up. Two or three minutes of a good dynamic warm up will save your muscles. To save your hip flexors, you need to fire up all the muscles in and around the hips, especially the glutes. We can’t have good hip flexion if our glute muscles are tight or weak. Pre-run, include some lunges, squats, hip rotation, high knees, butt kicks, and leg swings.Always include a post-run stretch for 4-5 mins. Start with a reverse lunge hip flexors stretch, hamstring stretch, quad stretch, calves and figure-four glute stretch.Add these five hip stretches and glute strengthening exercises 3 times/week in your training plan:
1. Squat with back leg extension– Lower into squat, shift weight to the right leg as you come up to standing and extend your left leg back. Alternate for 1 min. (Strengthens the glutes and loosens the hip flexors) 2. Runners lunge with overhead arm extension– Low lunge with right hand outside the right foot and left leg back, lower left knee on the ground, lift the left arm overhead and lean to the right side. Hold for 30 secs each side. (Strengthens the quads and hips, stretches the psoas) 3. Single leg bridge– Lie face down with feet flat on the ground, engage the glutes to lift the hips. Push through the heel and transfer to weight to the right leg and extend the left leg up, hold for five counts, lower and come back up. Do 10 reps and alternate. (Strengthens the glutes, lengthens and strengthens the hip flexors) 4. Forward lunge knee up– Start with a forward lunge, lift arms straight up and as you go back up lift your knee towards your chest. Do 10 reps, then repeat on the other side. (Strengthens the glutes and hip flexors) 5. Full-range figure four stretch– Sit upright with knees bent, hands behind you and cross your left ankle over the right knee. Move the knee out to the left then back to the center, go through this range of motion to loosen the joints then hold the stretch for 30 secs and alternate side. (Opens hip joints and stretches the glutes)
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