Many of us spend much of our day hunched over a desk which leads to weakness and immobilisation in most of the bodies joints and muscles. One of the most common complaints is that of tight hip flexors. The hip flexors (when seated) remain contracted in a shortened position for 7 hours+ of typical day for an office worker, which can lead to back pain.
These muscles including the sartorius, the psoas major and iliacus but to name a few are the little guys which help you to raise your leg up in front of you (Think of when someone says stand on one leg, yep, these are the guys which raise the other leg off the ground).
"Every human being should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves"
-Dr. Kelly Starrett
So, why is mobility important?
It's not, but bear with me. When we perform exercise, we need to be in the most efficient position possible to generate force. Muscles produce force to move a weight or resistance and burn calories to do so. So, doesn't it make sense to be able to efficiently and correctly activate muscle tissue and get the most out of your training?
Think of a sled drag, if you were pulling straight ahead, wouldn't it be more efficient to pull straight ahead than dragging it from the side? Muscles work the same way. Muscle fibre architecture is composed of two main forms Parallel and Pennate (don't worry you don't need to remember this, but its important to understand). It is important for a muscle to contract along its given angle, in order to generate force effectively and efficiently, otherwise you would just be wasting energy, force and time. So, what is really important here is position. If muscle tissue is so "knotted" up or you are so tight your joints are immobile, then you won't be able to reach full range of motion and thus get the most out of your training session.
Still not sure? See the example below.
Inefficient Direction of Force Efficient Direction of Force
Here are 6 exercises to unlock your hips and improve your range of motion
Banded Hip Distraction
1 - Wrap the band around a solid and stable bar at what will be hip level
2 - Step into the band with the hip you want to stretch
3 - Wrap the band up and around the glute muscle and walk back until you feel sufficient tension on the band
4 - Kneel down and allow the band to pull (distract) your hip from its socket
5 - Reach up over head and perform a slight internal rotation (lean your right hip to the left)
6 - Hold for time (e.g. 30 - 60 seconds)
The Cook Squat
1 - Reach for your toes or as far as you can comfortably reach whilst keeping your legs straight. Keep your hands here throughout every repetition.
2 - With your weight on your heels, drop your hips just like you would in a squat.
3 - Keep your elbows inside your knees and push you knees out to stretch the hip muscles
4 - Hold in the position you feel tightest, for example, if its your hamstrings hold at the top for 3-5 seconds and perform repetitions for a number / time (e.g. 10 reps or 30 seconds)
The Crab Reach
1 - Assume a the Crab Position (you should resemble a capital M from the side)
2 - Raise one hand in front of your face in the "guarded" position. For example, a Right Arm Crab Reach, you would raise the right hand in front of the face (pictured)
3 - Perform a 3 point bridge, pushing through your heels, tracking your hand with your eyes throughout whole movement
4 - When you reach the top of the bridge, keeping your eyes on you right hand "Frame" your head and redirect your vision line to your support arm.
Note: If you can't frame your head and reach to the ground, regress the movement and perform a 3-point bridge until you become mobile enough
5 - Hold for a 3-5 seconds and perform a number of repetitions or for time (e.g. 5 reps / 30 seconds)
6 - Return to Crab and perform on the opposite side.
Supine Glute Stretch
1 - Lying flat on your back, raise your left leg up and cross it over and rest it on the right leg
2 - Wrap your hands around the back of your right leg and hug it in to your chest.
3 - Hold for 30-60 seconds and perform 3-5 rounds each side
4 - Repeat on the other leg.
Supine Hamstring Stretch
1 - Wrap a rope, band or a towel around your foot
2 - Lay flat on your back
3 - Raise the leg you want to stretch straight up in the air, as straight as possible whilst keeping the grounded leg straight also.
4 - Hold for 30-60 seconds and perform 3-5 rounds each side
Note: If your leg begins to shake, release the tension a little bit, this is an in-built safety mechanism the body uses to prevent muscle tears.
1 - Begin in the hand plank position with a straight line from your shoulders to ankles
2 - Shoulders should be slightly ahead of the wrists (as pictured)
1 - Step forward with your left leg as far as is possible whilst maintaining a flat heel
2 - Squeeze the glute on the right leg to accentuate the stretch in the right hip flexor
3 - Return to the start and repeat on the other side
4- Perform Hold for a 1-5 seconds and perform a number of repetitions or for time (e.g. 5 reps or 30 seconds)
There you have it guys and gals, 6 simple exercises which require minimal equipment to unlock the hips and help you to move and feel better as well as perform better!
If there is an area you suffer with, send us a message and we will give you some tips on how to improve it.
You can also book an appointment to attend our in-house physiotherapist at 34 lower lesson street. For more information check out the FFS Physiotherapy page.
Brian is the Head of Membership Induction and Staff Development at Fitter Faster Stronger. A graduate of the BSc. in Exercise Management from University College Dublin and NCSA recognised Strength and Conditioning Coach. Brian is also a certified Level 1
Animal Flow Instructor.
Brian's philosophy is simple;
"The Mind is the Limit".
If you would like to learn more about Brian, you can check out his profile here:
Team FFS - Brian
or follow him on Instagram @brianbren