Common causes of tight hip flexors

Sep 15, 2020

Tight hip flexors are the most common form of muscle imbalance in the hips. So what causes this problem?

There are two main causes of hip flexor dominance; the first is poor technique and the second is lifestyle. We'll look at technique in subsequent newsletters but this week, let's delve a little bit into lifestyle.  

Ask yourself this question: What do many athletes do for hours every day?

The answer is that they sit at their desk at work.

Sitting, by its very nature, places you in a position of hip flexion. So this means that for a large portion of the day, the office working athlete is in a position of hip flexion, which serves to further reinforce the tightening of the hip flexors.

So what’s wrong if the hip muscles are unbalanced and the hip flexors are too tight? Dominant hip flexors can lead to injury and an inefficient pedal stroke.

Here are some detriments that can occur due to muscle imbalance in the leg:

Knee Pain – If the quads are dominant it can lead to knee pain. If there is a left side right side quad imbalance it can lead to patella tendinopathy and hip problems. Finally, if the hip flexors work too hard, they can recruit the ITB fibres to help do the work. This overwork of the ITB can also cause pain.

Reduced Power – Overuse of the hip flexors means the glutes and hamstrings are not able to contribute fully to the movement, which results in the athlete being unable to produce their optimal amount of power. It’s better to have all of the muscles involved in a movement contribute optimally, than for a couple of muscles to contribute too much.

There is a Catch-22 at play here – the tighter an athletes hip flexors are, the harder it is for them to engage their glutes.

Pilates is fabulous, as it brings muscle balance back to the hip joint. It enables the athlete to strengthen their glutes, hamstrings and inside thighs and to lengthen their hip flexors.

Think about it – any kneeling or standing exercise in Pilates requires the middle of the hip to be over the middle of the knee. The exercises we teach are constantly training the body to be in balance.

Also, Pilates teaches the athlete to be aware of the muscles they are engaging and enables them to practice and refine the correct movement patterns in the workout, so that they learn to use the correct muscles in the correct sequence when they are training or competing.

The ultimate outcome is that the hip muscles work in a balanced manner, so that the athlete can move efficiently and produce optimum power and stability with reduced likelihood of injury.



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