Look down at your hips. Chances are that you are probably sitting right now. And if you sit a lot, which most of us do, and you think about it, our hips spend a lot of time in a flexed position. Which isn’t a bad position in and of itself; hip flexion is a normal and totally ok position to be in. But, as with any single position, we should strive to vary our movements throughout the day, and to move in a wide range of motions.
This week’s stretch takes the hip into a position of extension: the opposite of flexion. I’m going to break down this stretch to show you how to make sure that you are actually getting hip extension, and not just getting around that movement by doing spine extension.
Stay with me, I’ll show you what I mean in a second.
There is usually more than one way to achieve a global movement. In the case of brining our leg behind us (as in extension), we can either extend our femur (the long thigh bone) behind our pelvis (at the coxo-femoral/ aka, hip joint). Or… we can extend our spine (think of arching the back).
See what I mean here:
Here I am arching my spine to get a deeper lunge, however, the extension of my hip joint is limited.
Here, I have my spine aligned neutrally (without excessively extending my low back), while bringing my pelvis, and everything above it, forward, while leaving my knee on the ground. So I am extending at the hip by bringing my thighbone relatively behind my pelvis and rest of my upper body.
A trick to help you to zone into pure hip extension is this: think of lifting your pubic bone (sort of like you are gently tucking your tailbone, but only to the point of being neutral). Also, watch that your ribcage doesn’t lift up, but rather, keep your sternum (breastbone) vertical. Relax your belly and breathe deeply here. This stretch can be held for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3x on each side.
I mentioned last week that the exercises I’m sharing this month will be useful for walking. So what does the hip flexor stretch have to do with walking?
Well, in order to propel our body forward, we need to push the ground backwards with our foot. This can be achieved by extending the hip. However, we can also move our body forward by bending (flexing) the hip forward, and landing on our foot. Try it out. See if you can walk both ways, by flexing your hip and landing your foot out in front of you, and by pushing your foot back to extend your hip before stepping forward with your other leg.
Can you pinpoint your usual, habitual way of walking? Does it involve hip flexion, or extension?
If you are walking by flexing the hip, and landing on your foot, could you try to get more hip extension, to use those glutes (butt muscles), and perhaps to switch the way you are walking? It can be interesting to explore different ways of moving. And if you have been suffering from back or knee pain, changing your walking pattern may also change your symptoms. Try it out, and let me know in the comments section what your experience has been like. I would love to hear about how it feels in your body!
And if you liked this post, then please, like it! And make sure share the hip flexor stretch love.
Keep on movin’!