If you’re someone who’s got a good stretching routine down, both before and after a HIIT workout, bike ride or run, odds are the discomfort you feel indicates that there are grounds for more strengthening exercises. It’s important to add that many yogis with extremely flexible hips run into overstretching injuries like hip flexor strains. But, these injuries aren’t just limited to the uber-flexible. Runners, cyclists, and Stairmaster lovers might strain these muscles due to frequent overuse. We’ll share a hip flexor workout below but, first up, some stretches.
Want to know one of the top reasons runners end up hurt? Look at your backside. Underutilized gluteal muscles are to blame for a large percentage of injuries, says Nirav Pandya, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. And it’s a weakness that often occurs because runners are hyperfocused on building strong quads and hamstrings.
Another common reason I see glutes that aren’t working properly is due to injury. Often an injury happens that changes the mechanics and motor programming of a person’s body. This can lead to some muscle groups becoming overactive, while others become underactive (think: compensation). This can alter things for a long time without the person even knowing it.
Too much sitting: You probably know it can contribute to serious health problems like obesity and osteoporosis. But did you know it also contributes significantly to back woes, including lower back pain in yoga poses? Fortunately, you can use your yoga practice to offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, relieve associated back pain, and set the stage for safe practice of intermediate poses like backbends.
This is a great, functional exercise, and one I have written about in the past. The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air. This is an excellent starting point, but most of you will quickly need to move on to more challenging variations to really get your glutes fired up. Check out my two favorites:
To begin, place the top of one foot on a weight bench (or a chair) and step forward with the other foot out in front of you, similar to a lunge position. Make sure that the front foot is positioned at least at shoulder width and it is far enough away from your body that your knee will not come over your toes when you perform the squat. Put your hands in front of your body (or overhead to make it harder). Perform a “single leg squat” by bending the front leg. The knee of the leg that is up on the bench will go towards the floor. Get it as close to the floor as you can. Do not let the heel of the front foot come up off of the floor. Keeping your heel down will ensure that you engage your glutes and hamstrings in this exercise. You should feel the tension in the hip flexor of the leg that is on the bench when you perform this exercise (you will also feel the muscles of the front leg working). It is important to keep your torso upright throughout the full range of motion. As you go down into the squat, the hip of the back leg is going into extension, which will stretch the hip flexor as well as strengthen it as it stabilizes the hip throughout the range of motion.
Are you tired of stretching or rolling out tight hip flexors with no improvements? If you are a runner, weight lifter, or team sport athlete, chances are you have heard a teammate or friend complain about having “tight hip flexors”. Either that or you yourself have had to deal with the problem. The problem with these tight hip flexors is that people will stretch, stretch, and ……..stretch some more (until the cows come home) and get NO RELIEF. This keeps people in a perpetual cycle of ALWAYS stretching their tight hip flexor with no real permanent relief. The cycle looks something like this:
Lie on your left side and position yourself so that your bottom forearm is directly under your armpit and your legs are straight with feet stacked. Brace your core and lift your hips in the air, forming a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Next, raise your top leg, without bending your knee, a few inches into the air. Hold for 3-5 seconds, lower the leg, and repeat. Complete required reps then switch sides.
Take note to see if the thigh rests down parallel to the ground (Picture 2) or if it stays up in the air (Picture 1) (You will need someone to be nearby to see what your leg does). Perform on both sides and compare. If the thigh does not stay raised up in the air then there is no true hip flexor tightness and stretching does not need to be performed. If one of the thigh/legs stays up noticeably higher than the other, then stretching will need to be performed. If your leg is able to hang down comfortably parallel to the ground or lower then you passed the test!
(5) Glycogen levels. Ever heard of Keto Diet? This diet focuses on little to no carbs. Why? Glycogen levels. Most people eat too much food and most of these foods are carb based. Which means most people have filled glycogen levels. Which means most people are having glucose spill over into being stored as fat. By dropping carbs, we stop carbs from being stored as fat. By dropping carbs, we allow glycogen to become depleted which allows another opportunity to treat carbs better. By dropping carbs, we drop our calories, which should help one enter into a calorie deficit and it’s this deficit that helps more than anything. Make sense?
Stand on your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Inhale as you step your left foot backward into a lunge, so that your left knee hovers above the ground. Exhale as you drive through your right heel to rise to a single-leg stance, bringing your left leg forward and up to hip height. Do 10-12 reps. Switch sides. Optional: Load this move by holding a kettlebell at your chest or a dumbbell in each hand.
When it comes to building muscle, your body only knows or cares about the tension, fatigue and damage an exercise is generating… not the type of equipment you were using when performing that exercise. It really couldn’t give the slightest crap about that. For this reason, ALL types of exercises and ALL types of equipment are capable of stimulating muscle growth.