The hip flexors are actually a group of muscles that work together to move your legs. They are hard to injury but they can definitely be tight from sitting at a desk all day. The hip flexor is a crucial part of human functioning in everyday life. From basic activities like walking, standing up and sitting down, to physically demanding activities like sports and weight training, it is involved more than you might know.
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What does the Hip Flexor do?
It has both major and minor functions and is able to fulfill different roles because it is composed of several muscles, the largest ones are discussed below. The primary goal is to facilitate flexion of the hip joint. In normal terms, this means that the hip flexor is used anytime the knee is lifted up, a step is taken, or a stair is climbed. The muscle group also has those smaller muscles whose purposes are mainly stabilization roles, so when you lift up your knee on an angle, these muscles provide the power needed in the lateral (horizontal) direction.
Anatomy – Location?
Everyone knows all about the hamstring, the quad, the groin, but the hip flexor gets far less exposure, even though it is just as important as any other muscle in your body. It is actually a muscle group located towards the front of your leg/abdomen; it is composed of smaller, but sizeable muscles as shown in the picture. When looking at what they do, we must examine the role that the Psoas and Iliacus play in movement; these are the two main muscles in the Iliopsoas, which is by far the largest and most important muscle group.
- The Psoas: The Psoas muscle is actually divided into 2 distinct sub-muscles: Psoas major and Psoas minor. The Psoas major is the larger muscle that connects the pelvis to the lumbar region, as shown in the picture and is one of the major muscles at risk for an injury. The Psoas minor, on the other hand, is a muscle located slightly in front of the Psoas major in the muscle group; however, it is important to note that only about half of humans have this muscle! The minor muscle supports the same role that the Psoas major plays, which is to facilitate flexion of the hip joint. If you have recurrent pain in the psoas area, you might want to read about hip tendonitis.
- The Iliacus: The Iliacus is that small triangle shaped muscle shown in the picture, its role is to assist with movement, but mainly it functions by connecting the hip bone to the Psoas major. This is considered a secondary muscle for hip flexion and is rarely injured compared to the Psoas.
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Hip flexor exercise (Psoas Stretch)
To activate your glutes, you want to get your psoas muscle firing. This can be achieved using the slow, static hip flexor stretch. To start, get in the regular forward lunge position and drop your back knee to the floor. Keep your upper body straight with your arms and head up. Now slowly press your hips down (and forward) towards the floor. You should feel a stretch through your hips, groin, and thighs. Repeat the exercise for the other leg. Work your way up to holding each stretch for 30 seconds. This should be a comfortable stretch – never overstretch. Also, don’t allow your front knee to move past your toes.
The following exercises will help improve the strength and flexibility in area of your body:
These lunges will help stretch the hip flexor. Start in a standing position, with your arms stretched above your head. Hold a medicine ball or a lightweight plate above your head. Step forward with your right leg and bend the knee. Lower your torso straight down without bending over until you can feel the stretch in your hip. Stand back up and bring your right leg back in line with your left leg. Repeat on the left side.
Stand with your feet together. Pick up a bar or a light dumbbell set and hold it above your head. This will help keep your body straight while you do the exercise. Once you’ve picked up the bar and are standing straight, lower your body weight down until you’re in a seated position, like you would with a regular squat. Hold the squat at the bottom of the movement for a count of five and then come back up to a standing position.
Lie face down. Place your hands at your shoulders with your palms flat. Push your body weight up, like you would if you were doing a push up, however, keep your hips on the floor. Raise your upper body toward the sky until you feel a stretch at the front of your things. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat.
Hip flexor exercises can help improve flexibility and give you better posture. Since the hip flexors affect the way that you hold your pelvis, tight or weak hip flexors can produce bad posture.