Half-kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
By Brennan Mickelson MS, CSCS, RSCC, Seattle Mariners
Players who sit a lot in class, as well as parents, coaches and umpires who sit at work and while driving can have excessive exposure to anterior pelvic tilt and tightness in the muscles that flex the hip. The hip flexors help ensure core stability and proper gait when walking, running, and performing game-related movements and skills. Tight hip flexors have been shown to have a negative effect on posture, running speed, mobility, power, etc. and an increased risk of injury in regions above and below the hips. While there are several effective ways to stretch the hip flexors, the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch in which the pelvis is posteriorly tilted with the core and glutes activated is the most effective way to alleviate tightness in the hip flexors.
“What are Hip flexors?”
Hip flexors are a group of muscles that are located on the pelvis and attach on the upper leg. This group of muscles flex the hip and tilt the pelvis anteriorly.
“How do I know if my hip flexors are tight?”
If your hip flexors are tight, the opposite action of hip flexion will likely be deficient. This means that hip extension range of motion will likely be poor. By putting yourself or your client/athletes into an un-cued half kneeling (HK) position you will likely see some compensations that would be indicative of having tight hip flexors, such as the following:
Hip behind knee
Excessive lumbar arch:
“I fall into one of these compensation patterns, so how do I stretch my hip flexors?”
Assume a good HK position, this position will have a straight line from your knee that is on the ground, through your hip, all the way up to your shoulder, something like this:
Posteriorly tilt your pelvis “tuck your back pockets underneath you.”
You should feel a stretch on the on the anterior portion of your upper leg.
Inhale and exhale completely during each repetition.
To increase the intensity of the stretch, lightly squeeze your glutes.
To further increase the intensity press with both hands into the knee that is up to activate your abdominals, continue to fully inhale and exhale.
Reset your pelvic position after each breath cycle repeat this from 3-8 repetitions.
If you are having knee discomfort or feeling too much of a stretch a good regression is to utilize a more forward torso lean which puts the athlete out of their end range of motion. Just like with pressing into the knee pressing into a medicine ball or a bench helps with abdominal activation which assists with the posterior pelvic tilting that we are cuing for our athletes.
When performed properly, the exercise should look like this:
As with anything that you do with your clients or athletes ensure that they are feeling the stretch in the correct spots. Don’t be afraid to utilize internal cues or feedback with stretching in particular, if the athlete says they don’t feel it where they are supposed to take a step back, regress the exercises, and ask yourself why?
Brennan Mickelson MS, CSCS, RSCC, is a Minor League Strength Coach for the Seattle Mariners.