They say starting a narrative with definitions is not at all intriguing, but in this case, it is best for us to precisely understand where and what our hip flexor muscles are. Simply put, they are our inner hip muscles, located as outlined in the image below. The hip flexor muscles allow us to lift our knees and bend at the waist, which in turn facilitates just about all our other movements. For this reason they ought to be one of our strongest muscles.
When we feel tightness or pain in the hip area, the flexor muscles is what we should be stretching and strengthening. Imagine, for example, even before doing a workout, the time you might have spent sitting on any given day- this would shorten/tighten the flexor muscles. During one of the WODs where we had the long jumps, I wondered why my knees had a tendency of caving in when I jumped- something I feel any crossfitter can relate to in the workouts that require hip flexion. In particular the good old mother of crossfit – SQUATS! There may be a range of reasons that cause our knees to cave in, but one of them is the inefficient hip flexion often limited by the tightness in the flexors. This could also be a matter of rectifying our posture to allow for the proper abduction and rotation of the hip. But to attain this proper posture, strengthening and stretching our hip flexors is paramount. It is symbiotic- one cannot properly function without the other.
Weak hip flexors means you will not be able to perform to your best in squatting workouts, and you will compromise your back and knees. How do we fix this?
HIP STRENGTHENING AND STRETCHING EXERCISES
In this previous humorous blog, I pointed out that the awareness starts in our mind rather than our bodies. We have to consciously say “knees out, knees out” and think of those knees as two friends who just had an argument and need to be away from each other. However, hip exercises are the work we need to put into making this mantra work.
- A simple way to start loosening the flexors is by using a lacrosse ball and lying flat on the floor then moving it around the tight area as demonstrated in the image by coach Nathan.
- You can then graduate to the wall stretch as demonstrated in the image below. Here you place your knee where the floor meets the wall with your other leg parallel to the wall. Coach Winnie does it smiling but that might not work for the rest of us. However, remember to breathe in and out. (you may move your knee a bit away from the wall as demonstrated to make it easier to do).
- After that you can try the pigeon pose, once again, as demonstrated below. If your knee cannot be at a 90 degree angle you can have bent at 45 degrees. From the upright position, try lying down until your chest can touch your knee.
- Overhead Lunges: This is done as a regular lunge but while holding weight over your head. It could be a plate or a medicine ball, or a bar. Our fellow crossfitter Sameer, does it excellently.
- Overhead Squats: these not only look super cool (despite being among the tougher of weightlifting exercise), but they will also make your hips stronger and more flexible.
I hope this brief information helps you all flex those hips more efficiently. Knowing why we do what we do during WODs allows us to move our beautiful bodies with awareness of the impact we are creating.
We are always happy to receive your comments and hear of your WODlife experiences. Leave a word and meet you at the box!