Welcome to the second Factoid Friday!
Okay, so today's fact is about your Hip Flexors. These are probably the most over-used and under-stretched muscle in your body. They are located where your hip and legs meet. They sit directly opposite of your Gluteus, on the front side of your body. We actually have four muscles that flex the hip, but we are only going to talk about the main two.
The strongest and main hip flexor is called the Illiopsoas, which is made up of two muscles: the Iliacus and the Psoas Major, but because they do the same actions, they combined the names to get Illiopsoas.
What do they do? Well they flex the hip, bringing your thigh up to your stomach or trunk to your knees, so if you are marching in place with your knees high, doing a knee tuck jump, a situp or a bicycle crunch, then you are using your hip flexors to do those actions.
The Psoas Major helps keep the lumbar curve in your spine. If there is a weakness on both sides, there will be a tendency for your low back to flatten, which will cause walking and posture imbalances.
So, why would they be over-used and under-stretched? Think about your body position throughout the day. Most of us sit all day at our jobs or on the couch. We are bent in the sitting position all the time. Think about the kinds of exercises you do most. Do you ever think about the backside of your body, a.k.a. your posterior chain? The lower back, glutes, and hamstrings get pretty neglected. Therefore, when you sit all day, your hip flexors are tight and then you go exercise and do a bunch of flexion exercises that make them even more tight and sore, and then what happens!? Does anyone think about stretching them? Probably not much.
First: Exercise your posterior chain! Do dead lifts, squats, back extensions, and opposite arm and leg raises to strengthen your back and help correct posture imbalances. Check out the pictures below for some examples.
Second: STRETCH your hip flexors! I'm sorry I don't have a picture for this, so I will explain the best I can. My instructor taught us an excellent stretch for the good ole flexors. A good way to do this is to get in a lunge position with your back knee/shin resting the ground, like a runner's stretch. Put your arms straight over your head and then turn your torso and lean toward the side of the leg in front, or the one supporting you. You should feel a stretch in your opposite hip flexor, as well as your obliques.
So, next time you have to sit all day, take a minute to get up and stretch your hip flexors and then try to incorporate some back exercises in your next workout routine! I can tell you that mine like me so much better now that I have started doing those stretches! :)
Good luck and go stretch!
See you next Friday with a new fun-filled fact!