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Tight Hip Flexors and Hamstring Pain

Jaime Alnassim

Online Coaching | Strength & Conditioning

April 30, 2020

Custome Online Coaching & Workout Plans

Every time you go to the gym there is a good chance you’ll see someone stretching their hamstrings. The hamstring muscles are by far some of the easiest to stretch and “feel” like you are making progress in your mobility. Most of us don’t need to stretch our hamstrings as much as we do. The quadriceps and hip flexors are always tight, it almost seems impossible to get them to relax after leg day. When you stretch your quadriceps but standing up and pull your foot to your butt, you are stretching the quadriceps at the knees. This does work, but if you are trying to get the full quadriceps muscles to lengthen, you need to hit the muscle where it crosses over the hip. The hip flexor, the iliopsoas (psoas major and iliacus), are the only muscles in the body that attach to the anterior and posterior.

“The psoas major originates along the lateral surfaces of the vertebral bodies of T12 and L1-L3 and their associated intervertebral discs. The iliacus originates in the iliac fossa of the pelvis. The psoas major unites with the iliacus at the level of the inguinal ligament and crosses the hip joint to insert on the lesser trochanter of the femur. The iliopsoas is involved in flexion and lateral rotation (supination) of the thigh. If the limb is fixed they involve inflection of the trunk.”1

When the iliopsoas becomes tight, it can cause an anterior pelvic tilt on the hips. This is what ladies with who don’t squat do in their selfies to make it look like they have a nice booty. What an anterior pelvic tilt does is cause the hamstrings to be at a constant stretch. When the anterior pelvic tilt happens, the origin of the hamstring will be raised with the booty going up. This will cause the hamstrings to get a little “pissed off” over time. So stretching an already stretch muscle does not help with feeling better in the long run. When it comes to little pains from muscles, rather than dedicating a huge amount of time on where the pain is. Look at what is causing the pain to be there in the first place.

Going after your anterior pelvic tilt starts with learning how to stretch the hip flexors properly. I’m sure everyone has seen the hip flexor stretch where you are on a knee with the other leg out in front of your body, like a lunge. This is a basic and very common stretch, however, there are a few tweaks you can make to it that will make it that much more effective. Keeping it basic, with the back foot on the ground, drive the toes into the floor like you are going to take off on a run. Too often you see people just lay their foot flat on the ground. This is the easier way to do the stretch and takes some of the hip flexors out of it. Driving the toes into the ground (like the photo) will activate the iliopsoas muscle more. Make sure that you squeeze the glutes and keep the torso straight up. You don’t want to lean forward and lose the hip flexor stretch. Another tip would be to raise the hand, of the back leg over your head. You will not feel anything different unless you are crazy tight. This is just another way to get more of a stretch in the hip flexor. Once the basics have become easier, take it up a level and but the back foot on top of a bench, box, or anything that is level with your hip. Now you are getting more of a stretch across two joints, the knees, and hips. You were before, but not as much on the knees. You will feel this a lot more than with just having your foot on the ground.

Foam rolling the iliopsoas can be done, it is not easy, and can be a little pain fun… but it does work well. You want to be smart and safe while doing this because the area that you will be foam rolling is very sensitive. If you put your hands together and place them palms down on your leg, right below the hips. You’ll see the triangle where you will be rolling out. Keeping to the KI.S.S principle (keep it simple, stupid) you will be able to get your hamstrings, iliopsoas, quadriceps, and hips feeling better in no time.

Check out this video:

Video from William Richards

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