Short and tight hip flexors are a known problem for cyclists and distance runners, leading to a number of complications. The role of the hip flexor muscles is to flex your hip (obviously), if you stand upright and lift your left knee upwards towards waist height, you would be using your left hip flexors to do this task. During running, the knee lift action is governed by hip flexors and during cycling the upwards part of the pedal stroke is controlled by hip flexors.
Why do we get short hip flexors?
Exercising can create short hip flexors, but every time we sit down whether working, driving or relaxing, our hip flexors are in a shortened position. Short hip flexors are common amongst the general population for these reasons and can lead to a change in your posture.
How do short hip flexors change posture?
Tight hip flexors pull the pelvis forwards (known as an anterior tilt) and this condition is commonly termed lordosis. The result of lordosis is an exaggerated inward curve of the lumbar spine (lower back) and the lower abdominals will tend to ‘stick out’ as a consequence. Often people with lordosis think they have gained weight and have a ‘bit of a belly’ in the lower abdominal region, when in fact, it is purely a postural position. You can check lordosis by standing and viewing side on in mirror, tilt your pelvis backwards (this is pelvic thrust action) and see if you can hollow your abdominals and remove the arch in lower back. Better to do this when alone with curtains firmly closed..
What are the consequences of short hip flexors?
1. May feel discomfort in the front of the groin area or lower pelvic region
2. The anterior tilt stretches the hamstrings, leading to tightness
3. The lumbar region excessive curvature leads to tight lower back
How do I resolve the problem?
1. Start by releasing the hip flexors, to do this you can visit physio or complete the stretch shown. It’s important that when completing this stretch you don’t allow yourself to twist, don’t lean forwards and when don’t allow your lower back to arch (pull your stomach in). in essence, stay square, tall and neutral.
2. Complete abdominal strengthening exercises to strengthen core. This will push the abdominal wall inwards and the lower back outwards. Unless you have completed hip flexor stretches beforehand the core work will have low impact as the pelvis will remain locked in position.