The Forgotten Muscle: The Hip Flexor

The hip flexor muscle (the psoas) is used in the split leap, straddle jump, glide kip, running, and many other gymnastics and dance skills. But it is often overlooked in training – overlooked until pain is involved. Then it gets some attention!

Back and hip pain can be related to tight hip flexors. Is this something you consider when your gymnasts have such pains?

It really should be and here are a few reasons why:

  • Young athletes get fatigued and use their hip flexors rather than their core strength (abdominal muscles.)
  • Gymnasts don’t fully use their butt muscles (gluteus maximus) during jumping.

These two actions combine to keep their hip flexors engaged all the time so they become overused and put extreme pressure on the spine. Hence – the back pain.

Hip flexors can also be the cause of pain in the back and hips from neglecting warm-ups. Warm ups are very important and potential for injury or muscle strain is one of the most serious reasons why.

After you’ve overused or strained your hip flexors, what do you do?

To heal the immediate injury, KT Tape Pro can be used. This tape increases the proprioception of muscles and joints which allows the body to know where it is in space better. This allows young athletes to move their bodies in smarter ways and keeps them using ranges of motion that reduce the risk of more injury. Here are some tips on how to apply KT Tape Pro for a hip flexor injury.

There are ways to improve their hip flexor health. One fuels the competitive spirit in your gymnasts by turned the exercise into a challenge.

The Thirty-Day Hip Flexor Stretch Challenge

This is a challenge to stretch hip flexors for 30 days. The first 3-7 days, the participants will experience soreness, but they must continue! At day 10, they will notice a huge difference!

Follow these instructions:

  1. Body in lunge position.
  2. Shoulders up and back.
  3. Core tight, glutes squeezed.
  4. Tuck hips under (posterior pelvic tilt.)

Participants with tight hip flexors will feel them stretch.

  1. If participants desire more of a stretch, they should gently push their hips forward as if someone was pushing on the lower back.

Is there a way to prevent hip flexor pain?

To answer this, let’s look at why hip flexors get tight.

The cause of this condition is generally lack of rest for the hip flexors. Gymnasts just don’t give them a chance to rest. And doing this takes some work because hip flexors are an antagonist muscle to the butt muscle (gluteus maximus). When the hip flexors are contracting, the butt muscles are relaxing and vice versa. So the goal is to contract the butt or glute muscles so that the hop flexors can relax. This is done by squeezing the glutes as hard as possible during jumps. When gymnasts are doing this they will have no pike to their jumps.

If your gymnasts don’t use their glutes to jump and land, they will:

  • Experience back pain (before puberty.)
  • Experience stress reaction in their spine (after puberty) and potentially stress fractures in the spine called pars fractures or spondylolysis.
  • Experience limited ability to jump and leap due to their inability to recruit their glutes.

What is the correct technique for jumping and landing? Watch this video.

How else are hip flexors overused?

Overuse can take place on the bars. Bars is a combination of rotational physics and extreme core strength. The hip flexors are overused in trying to achieve position.

But bars also offer opportunity for relaxing hip flexors because the glutes must be used to bring the body into a straight line.

How can hip flexors be somewhat protected?

Helping gymnasts develop incredible jumps and protective landings helps.

  • Stress learning to squat provides a powerful base because it the source of other athletic movements.
  • Stress learning the positions of take-off and that of landing.
  • Stress learning to initiate core without shortening the abs.
  • Stress the important of not tucking hips under when engaging the core.
  • Stress elongating and keeping it tight.

A great resource for injuries and how to get their gymnasts back in the gym ad healthy is GymnastCare.

According to Dr. Joshua Eldridge, becoming a core superstar can help protect gymnasts from hip flexor issues and therefore help to prevent back and hip pain.

Resource: Dr. Joshua Eldridge has specialized in protecting gymnasts from injury. He is the inventor of The X Brace, and has developed a treatment protocol for Sever’s disease and heel pain that has helped thousands of gymnasts throughout the world.

By |June 9th, 2015|Health & Fitness, Teaching|Comments Off on The Forgotten Muscle: The Hip Flexor

About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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