By James Goodwin, PTA, CSCS
The kids have headed back to school. Although parents may be saying “hoorayyy!” the kids are most likely dreading the long hours of sitting in class. It is important to discuss the problems associated with prolonged sitting, especially for young athletes trying to get their Fall season off to a good start.
One common issue is developing tight hip flexors, which are the muscles that run up the front of the hip. When we sit, our hips are flexed causing these muscles to shorten. Over time this can lead to a plethora of symptoms including altered biomechanics when walking, running or jumping; anterior hip soreness; low back pain; and much more. Below are great stretches to perform at school or at the field after practice to increase the flexibility (lengthening) of this tissue for optimal performance.
The first stretch focuses on your iliopsoas (the main hip flexor muscle). The leg being stretched is the straight leg on the ground. Turn your stance foot inward and shift your weight to the foot on the chair, keeping your trunk upright until you feel moderate tension (stretch) in the front of the hip.
The second stretch focuses on the both the iliopsoas and rectus femoris (the quadriceps muscle that both flexes the hip and straightens the knee) but in a half-kneeling position. The kneeling leg is the leg being stretched and by raising the arm on the same side, as depicted, the stretch in front of the hip will increase. Again, slowly shift your weight forward onto the front foot. Be sure NOT to lean forward, arching your back. A good tip is to perform a posterior pelvic tilt (tucking the tail bone underneath and trying to flatten your low back).
The third stretch is a quadriceps stretch. Place the foot of the leg being stretched on a chair, table or back of a bench and stand up tall (hold onto a chair in front of you if needed—unlike picture). You should feel a stretch down your quad/front of thigh.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds x 3 repetitions at least once a day*. Tightening the abdominal muscles helps stabilize the pelvis making for a more effective stretch.
*The more often you stretch the more opportunity the tissues have to lengthen.