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Fitness Questions From Instagram (December 2020)

(Best stretches for hip flexors, a safe blueprint for returning to pistol squatting after knee issues & how to program for online/offline clients if you’re a trainer/coach………..)

My hip flexors have been feeling pretty locked up after recently working hard on improving compression. Do you have any particular stretches/strategies to alleviate this?

The good news here is at least the hip flexors are working! Although you’re right, if left alone they can get pretty locked up and you’ll almost feel like your hips are in a constant state of being locked in and almost impinged……….

This is why it’s crucial to counter stretch after extreme bouts of any plane/pattern really. True hip extension is woefully lacking in pretty much all of us anyway, with all the sitting and byproducts of modern living! And to be honest, it’s as much about glute weakness as it is a tight psoas (hip flexors).

A great go to for tension clearance is the wall couch stretch. What’s nice about it is it flexes the knee more than the floor lunge and thus, hits the quads (if they need slackening) along with the deeper hip flexors (psoas/iliopsoas). And it can be progressed or regressed as needed; you can move the knee and hip further back to progress or move the knee/hip further forward to regress.

(‘El Eggs’ of Calisthenic Movement demonstrates and advanced version of the couch stretch)

Holds of between 90 and 120 seconds per side are nice to do to restore resting length. You can do it 3 times per week or in direct opposition to the compression work you’re doing.

Another one I like is the reclined hero pose. This can be tricky to get in and out of but if you can get into it and relax, it really gets the hips and quads nicely. A trick I like to use while doing it is to squeeze the glutes and push the hips as much as I can, WITHOUT letting the back arch. In terms of positioning the difference is subtle but in terms of effects from the stretch, the difference is vast!

Reclined Hero Pose

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to train ACTIVE hip extension drills in the form of lunge heel drives and active long lunge holds/pulses or even split squat drills. This way you’ve got a full toolbox at your disposal.

I’d like to get back into full range pistol squatting again but have had lots of trouble with my knee – everytime I go too mad on certain moves it flares up and I’m back to square one again! Do you have any ideas as to how I could sensibly progress to doing these in a way that DOESN’T flare up/give me knee trouble, please?!

Pistol squats are an admirable goal for anyone and actually one of the few squat patterns that force you to full flexion of the hip, knee and ankle (dorsi-flexion). BUT, if the musculature around the knee isn’t up to full strength, the joint can take a beating due to the higher sheer forces here.

What I’d be looking to do first is replicate the same knee, hip and ankle mechanics with less intensity. A great move for this is the FRONT FOOT ELEVATED split squat. This allows a great knee angle very similar to that found in the pistol. And because it’s easier load wise and neurologically (less balance demand), you can really focus on keeping the knee aligned with the ankle and not letting the foot collapse and go valgus.

The Front Foot Elevated Split Squat -a great conditioner for pistol squats

After proficiency here I would look at Cossack/’archer’ squats where your focus is loading the working leg as much as you can, through as much range as you can, with the best form you can.

After that I would look at assisted pistol squats but only lightly assisted ones. Too many people jump into assisted pistols where there arms get a better workout than their legs as their legs simply aren’t strong enough to support the mechanics, yet.

Do you have any advice on programming for clients? I noticed you sharing something on your stories about using templates that are adjustable for any client, as opposed to designing fresh workouts from scratch. I design all my clients’ workouts from scratch and it’s super time consuming! Is there a set way you like to do it? Basically any tips here would be great!

One of the toughest things about this line of work is when you first jump into the big wide world as a trainer/coach. You get your first client or two and you have to come up with a workout for them each time. This can be daunting and to be honest, is the hardest part. You want to tailor it to them as much as possible yet still within the realms of the basic fundamentals.

This is where templates come in; when you get more and more clientele and there’s simply not enough time to rewrite everything from scratch. At first you don’t mind doing it for few numbers but past a certain level, time efficiency becomes a more pressing issue.

What I personally do is set the template from the beginning and then tweak it every session as they progress. In the online world you can do the same at pre-determined intervals. Every 4 weeks works well but you can do longer. Obviously the specifics of what to use in the programming comes down to your clients’ personal aims, goals and needs but once you get a basic framework you know works, you can repeat accordingly.

Never get caught up in the enter-training trap; where you feel you need to keep reinventing the wheel and coming up with more and more hip and funky exercises to keep them entertained. You can still keep it pretty varied within the realms of a preset template by altering exercises from session to session, week to week and so on.

If you would like your questions touched upon in next month’s feature, feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or if social media isn’t your gig, drop me an email (

Thanks as always for reading!

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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