Type ‘what does the devil look like?’ into google in 2017 and half the results will be pictures of chairs and sofas. What happened to the man in red with the pointy ears?
Sitting is the new smoking, so we’re told. The dangers of sitting have been heavily publicised by the media recently and as a result, we’ve got the world wanting to do all they can to reverse the effect of sitting so much.
The office workers invest in yoga classes, foam rollers and venture to stretch the living daylights out of their hips. Spend 8 hours with your hips flexed then go home and spend 2-3 hours on the couch with the hips flexed again………
It doesn’t matter though because all that’s needed is a couple of hip flexor stretches a day! So they use good old google and look up some hip flexor stretches and get down and dirty with the positions. They drop into a back knee grounded lunge and try to slide the knee back as far as possible; the lower back arches and they feel a strain in their quadriceps……I mean they’re close to the hips, so it’s all ok, right?
Or is it?
Could you really be ‘stretching your hips’ and not actually stretching them at all?
The sad truth is this: Most people actually have little to NO hip extension (The ability to truly extend the hips and not just the quads and lumbar spine). This was evident at Emmet Louis’ Modern Methods Of Mobility seminar I attended last month (read about it HERE); Emmet commented that 80% of us fitness enthusiasts only had neutral hips whilst in a ‘hip stretch’ position!
What’s going on?!
I recently had an epiphany with this, as someone who has taught many a stretch based classes and spent plenty of time doing yoga, it’s crazy how easy it is to end up by-passing the hips and just over arching your back.
A good way to avoid this is to really emphasize pulling the ribcage down and keeping the glutes squeezed. Notice the difference between the 2 photos. The first is with excessive anterior pelvic tilt and the second has a far more neutral pelvis.
An idiot’s guide to knowing whether you do this or not is to ask yourself: Where am I feeling the stretch? A common reply is in the quadricep – the rectus femoris to be exact.
Simply put, if you’re not feeling it cross the joint of the hip, coming up from the legs and into the lower abdomen almost, then you’re not getting into the psoas (deep muscle of the hip).
The dangerous thing with this is the vast quantities of people suffering with anterior pelvic tilt that set out to correct it by stretching their hips, and not actually stretching them at all, just further tilting their pelvis anteriorly by arching their lower back!
To avoid this stark situation you need to be almost posteriorly tilted at the pelvis; so we’re not stretching the abs and the quads but never the actual hip. This post isn’t to bash any hip stretches as I believe they all have their place, you just need to execute them correctly; and that means ensuring the lower back stays neutral while the hips are the ones that extend – even if only a marginal amount.
For a visual demonstration of what I’m talking about, here’s a quick video I shot.
I started noticing recently that my own pelvis alignment started to creep back into anterior territory, despite rectifying this issue a while ago now. I attribute this to sloppy hip flexor stretching. Don’t fall victim to more is better; you need to feel your way into stretches not force your way into them.
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