The hip flexor is a muscle that is often strained in athletes. One of the main reasons is that the act of sitting, which we all do too much these days, causes this muscle group to stay tight. In this article we will discuss three key stretches that you and/or your athletes need to do daily to help alleviate this issue.
Why is it important?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that begin above the pelvis and end at the knee. Hip flexor strength is important for generating power through knee drive in running and sprinting. The hip flexor often lacks flexibility in athletes who run long distances at varied speeds such as soccer players. A lack of flexibility in the hip flexor can limit the ability of the athlete to use their hamstring and gluteal muscles which decreases the athlete’s power and running efficiency. Decreased flexibility can also tilt the pelvis forward, which places more stress on the lower spine. It is important to stretch the hip flexor on a regular basis, because it is a commonly strained muscle group in soccer players.
How to stretch: When stretching the hip flexor, a stretch should be felt in the front of the leg from the hip down to the knee. The stretch should be held for a minute and at the end of the minute the intensity of the stretch should decrease. If the muscle does not relax after one minute, the muscle is being stretched too far. Setting a timer for one minute will make it easier for both the athlete and muscles to relax.
Stretch #1: In the lunge position with good posture, tighten the stomach and buttocks to get a stretch in theFront of the leg.
Stretch #2: To get more of a stretch, obtain the same position as the last stretch and then place the back foot up on a chair. The quadriceps muscle crosses the same joint as the hip flexor, so putting the foot on the chair will put the quadriceps on stretch and induce a greater stretch of the hip flexor. Just as in the above stretch, tighten the core and buttocks to feel a stretch in the front of the leg.
Stretch #3: To achieve a more passive stretch of the hip flexor, lie on the edge of a bed or table with one knee pulled to the chest with other leg relaxed off the edge. Gravity will pull the weight of the leg and stretch the front of the hip as long as the athlete is fully relaxed. Make sure the leg hanging down is not out to the side and that the core is tight so that the low back does not arch.
Recap: Each stretch should be held for one minute, decrease in intensity after a minute, and be performed at least once a day on both legs, especially after a training session or game. Daily stretching of the hip flexor is especially important for soccer players to prevent injuries and increase athletic performance.
Try these stretches daily and especially after a hard practice. This new-found flexibility will aide in reducing soreness after a game or practice and help with stride efficiency which will make you run more efficiently. Good Luck!