But muscle can’t turn into fat, just like mud can’t turn into gold. If you quit lifting, your muscles mass will decrease over time because there’s no training to stimulate your body to keep it. And your body-fat level will increase if you don’t start eating less (since you burn less). The obvious solution when you stop lifting is to also stop eating so much.
Other muscles that can be recruited to assist with hip flexion include the tensor fascia latae (TFL), the pectineus, the adductors, the gracilis, and the anterior aspects of the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. The contribution of these secondary hip flexors largely depends on the position of the hip at the time at which movement is initiated.
When it comes to finding the right meal plan, you have to start somewhere. Start with writing down what you eat in a food diary, calculate the calories you’re consuming daily (ex: 3,000 without protein shakes), and break those up into six meals (ex: 500 calories each), says Heath. Then, choose a macronutrient ratio. For example, the 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat ratio is what Heath used to get bigger when he first started bodybuilding. “Buy a food scale, learn how to use it, and you may even have to learn to use the metric system, like grams instead of ounces,” Heath says. “You need to train your body to process food quickly, so eat every three hours.”
Just because your hip flexor region feels sore doesn’t necessarily mean the muscles there are tight — in fact, they might need strengthening. This is where that sports science debate we mentioned earlier comes into play. It’s important to identify whether you’re tight or if the muscles are weak. Again, the Thomas Test will help you identify if you’re maybe stretching something that actually needs strengthening.
There are several ways to enhance the quality of a workout, and some changes can even be made during each rep. “Constant tension should be applied to the last five reps of every working set, meaning, do the first 5-6 reps normal tempo, and the last few reps should be held for at least two seconds at the peak of the contraction,” says Heath. “This allows your muscles to have more time under tension and you work different muscle fibers.” Hold the weight at the top for a maximum pump.
Of the three, protein will of course play the most important role in the muscle building process (like calories, it’s one our required “supplies”), although fat and carbs will still be important for other reasons which range from optimizing hormone production (e.g. testosterone, the muscle building hormone) to enhancing training performance and recovery.
Muscle imbalances are quite common among strength athletes and are arguably the most common cause of their injuries. Many times this is due to a “weak link” in the kinetic chain of muscles that activate during their activity. Identifying the “weak” muscle and being able to feel, isolate and contract that “weak” muscle makes correctional exercise and rehab much easier. Bodybuilding training, with its focus on “feel” rather than movement, helps to train and develop the mind to muscle connection. This comes in handy when you need to train a muscle imbalance with correctional exercise and, in the case of injury, for rehab.
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Of course, you know what it feels like to have a tight muscle. But tight hips aren't just uncomfortable—they can lead to all sorts of other aches and pains, especially in the lower back. "People focus on the hips and say their hips are tight, but we don't always think about the fact that the lower back connects to our legs at the hip," Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., instructor at Soul Annex in New York City and creator of Le Stretch class, tells SELF. Tight hip flexors make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, which can cause your lower back to overcompensate, "and this can be a setup for lower-back injury," Teo Mendez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at NY Orthopedics who focuses on operative and non-operative management of sports-related injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and arthritis, tells SELF.
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