The April issue of Running Times include an article entitled “It’s All in the Hips”, which I felt contained useful information for runners at all levels, on improving running performance, and factors which can negatively affect running performance and potentially increase injury risk. The hips and the pelvis play very important roles in running, in fact I refer to the hips as the steering wheel to help us run effectively. Originally I planned to hilite and elaborate upon the important points of this article in one post. However, I soon realized this would result in a post that was much too long! So I will be sending out multiple posts hiliting the important points and elaborating upon these.
In this article, elite running coach Bobby McGee, who I’ve had the privilege of meeting and who has helped me as a runner and coach, states that the first issue that should be addressed to improve running performance is tight hip flexors. In fact, approximately 85% of runners have tightness in the hip flexors. Therefore this article will focus on the importance of hip flexors, what causes tight hip flexors, and what can be done to address this.
What are the hip flexors and what is their function during running?
• Muscles located on the front (anterior) and inside (medial) of the hip
• Includes the rectus femoris, iliopsoas, hip adductors (longus, brevis, and magnus), tensor fascia latae (TFL)
• Allow us to bend at the hips for such activities as sitting
• During running allow us to, both accelerate our thigh forward, or decelerate the thigh as it moves backward
What causes tight hip flexors?
•The primary cause is overuse of the hip flexors because they are constantly being contracted and shortened while we sit for hours at work, while driving, and during leisure time
• In addition, while sitting the glutes become deactivated and weakened, this will be discussed further in my next article
What are the potential issues related to tight hip flexors?
• Ideally the pelvis should be properly aligned (think of the pelvis as a cup of water, or your drink of choice, which we don’t want to spill by the pelvis tipping too far forward or back), which allows the hips to be more stacked under the torso. This allows you to increase power as your leg drive pushes your body forward (hip extension), rather than twisting your hips forward, arching your back and losing energy in the torqueing. Tight hip flexors will cause the pelvis to “spill forward” and reduce or inhibit the amount of hip extension.
• Low back pain, strains in the hamstring, quadriceps, and groin
• Knee issues such as patellar tendinopathy, patellar femoral syndrome
• IT band tendonitis
What can I do if I have tight hip flexors?
• There are several muscles that flex the hips and these should be foam rolled and stretched
• Ideally, foam roll hip flexors 4-6 days per week
• General guidelines for foam rolling:
• Roll on tight, overused muscles until a tender/sore spot is found
• Apply pressure to tender/sore spots and hold for 30 seconds
• Foam rolling exercises:
http://stoneathleticmedicine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/TFL-Foam-Roll.jpg Hip adductors: http://icraved.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/foam-roll-adductor.jpg
• After foam rolling, stretch the hip flexor muscles. Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds, perform 1-3 sets of each stretch.
• Hip flexor stretch:
– Kneel in the right knee, with the left knee bent and directly over the left
– Lean forward, shifting your body weight on to your front leg. You should
feel a stretch in the right leg.
– Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times
– Keep the back straight and abdominals tight. Do not allow the front knee to
pass over the toes.
– A folded towel can be placed under the knee on the floor for comfort
• Yoga variation of hip flexor stretch – Kneeling lunge (Anjaneyasana) http://www.yogachuck.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Low-Lunge.jpeg
• Hip adductor or “butterfly” stretch: http://www.velogirls.com/resources/publications/stretching101/butterfly.jpg
• TFL Stretch:
Please contact me with any questions or comments.
See you on the road or trail,