As a personal trainer the complaint I hear about most in the gym environment is “my hips are tight”, and to be honest tight hips are so common, I myself can attest to complaining about tight hips at least once or twice a month. The real question isn’t how to resolve tight hips (which we will cover shortly) it is rather what causes them to become tight initially. Tight hips ultimately refers to having tight hip flexors which are a combination of the iliacus and psoas major muscles; the function is in the name, flexion of the hip. They are combination of small muscle groups and for this reason they are generally left unstretched/forgotten or unknown to some, over time the muscles of the hip flexors become extremely tight, which in time can lead to further injuries.
WHAT CAUSES TIGHT HIPS?
The function of the hip flexors are to create flexion at the hip, bringing the knee closer to the chest (extension is the opposite of this movement). If we think carefully about what movements involve flexion of the hip in this plane of motion, we can determine the cause of tight hip flexors.
This is a fairly obvious one but commonly misunderstood, the squat not only utilizes the hip flexors for motion but also trains them to a certain degree. This is why it is difficult to say whether your squats are causing tight hips or if they training them, the best way to determine if your squat is positively or negatively affecting your hip flexors is to ensure you are squatting with correct form: chest up, back straight, toes slightly pointed out, heels inline with the shoulders. Nevertheless if you are performing your squats correctly, according to recent studies, you will be training your hip flexors.
This is a debate left unresolved, some claim remaining in a prolonged seated position can be the cause of tight hips because it puts the hip flexor muscles in a constantly contracted position. It is difficult to say whether sitting is the main cause of tight hips, but it is likely it is a contributing factor especially if you work in sedentary job position.
3. Sit ups
In my personal opinion this is by far the main cause of tight hips, confused? Allow me to explain, when you perform a sit up, all throughout the motion the hip flexors are engaged until the top most part of the motion where there is no longer any tension, and if you are performing the movement correctly, you are most likely stopping right before this point. With the hip flexors in a contracted position, over time the core is being worked less and the hip flexors take over, which is why they become tight. With almost everyone in search of the infamous six pack, we are severely taxing our hip flexors as a result.
HOW TO PREVENT TIGHT HIPS?
It is not fully known if stretching is a proven method for preventing tight hips, it truly depends on what is causing the hips to become tight, but it is best to try out stretching 7 days a week post exercise and record any improvement or change, two examples of some great stretches for the hips include the: hip flexor stretch and psoas kneeling stretch. Try these out and track for improvement.
Stretches can be a great prevention tool for injury but they are not the best, a better option is to train the muscle so it is at a level where it is less prone to injury, for example: squats and Bulgarian split squat. Strengthening the hip flexor is probably your best option, overtime they will become more trained and thus less prone to injury because they are able to function under more load.
If you found this post insightful, why not check out some of our previous posts on our blog page or if you are interested in becoming a qualified personal trainer check out our main page for course information.
Written by Daniyal Siddiqui.