Stretching the hip flexors is a very very common phrase nowadays. You will hear it from yoga instructors to personal trainers. And, the truth is that many people DO have tight hip flexors. Usually as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. For these people stretching those hip flexors can be very beneficial.
However, there are also some cases where stretching the hip flexors can actually be bad. One case in particular can be very confusing. This is because your hips may actually feel tight, but stretching them will actually make things worse. Read on to learn whether or not this applies to you.
When to stretch your hip flexors
Now, it’s important to know what ‘stretching the hip flexors’ actually means. The hip flexors are a group of muscles, collectively known as the iliopsoas or inner hip muscles, responsible for pulling your leg towards your trunk.
What these muscles do is they flex the hip, meaning they pull the leg bone up towards your torso. Now, when your hip flexors become very tight and shortened they will typically tilt the pelvis forwards or anteriorly.
In other words, when you have really really tight hip flexors it produces something called the anterior or frontal tilt of the pelvis.
This is something that’s actually pretty common. The hip flexors can become shortened like that as a result of excessive sitting. If you have that going on then stretching the hip flexors will actually be very beneficial to you. Ut will help to correct the anterior pelvic tilt and it’ll help to bring some length to those hip flexors.
If you spend a lot of time sitting there’s a good chance you have tight hip flexors. Here’s how to check.
Ok, so now you know a little bit about what the hip flexors are, what they do and what can happen when they become short. If you tried the simple test above and they are too short, stretching them will be good for you. A great program that teaches you, step-by-step, exactly how to do this is Unlock Your Hip Flexors.
This video teaches you a very simple exercise you can do to quickly relax your hip flexors.
When not to stretch your hip flexors
However, if you have the opposite of an anterior or a frontal tilting of the pelvis, where your pelvis is actually tilted backwards (posterior pelvic tilt) it probably means that your hip flexors are too loose. In that case, stretching the hip flexors will probably do more harm than good.
The reason why it’s dangerous to actually stretch the hip flexors if you stand naturally in a posterior tilt is because they are already lengthened weaker than they should be.
So, if your pelvis is tilted backwards while you’re standing naturally then the hip flexors are already going to be stretched. This can produce a feeling of tightness which may lead people to believe their hip flexors are tight, when actually the exact opposite is true.
They’ll try to stretch the hip flexors but that tightness is really coming as a result of the muscles being over-stretched. It’s like grabbing a rope from two different sides and pulling it in opposite directions. Yeah, that rope is going to be tight but it doesn’t need to be stretched any more. It feels tight because it’s over stretched already!
So basically, if you stand naturally with a posterior pelvic tilt where your pelvis is like tucked underneath you like this you have a very flat low back you shouldn’t stretch the hip flexors because you’ll be stretching on a muscle that’s already over stretched in the first place!
Over time this can damage the muscle and lengthen it even more, allowing your pelvis to tilt back even more. This can cause a plethora of different issues and injuries in the future.
So, if you look at yourself in the mirror and you see that the front part of your pelvis is higher up than the back of your pelvis and your low back is flat and has no curve in it then you probably have a posterior pelvic tilt. If you do then you do not want to be stretching the hip flexors. You should probably even be strengthening them instead.