There has been a lot of debate in recent years about what stretching actually does, and whether or not it is necessary. Current belief holds that oftentimes muscles feel “tight” because the brain is sending the message through the nervous system to stiffen muscles around a joint due to perceived weakness or lack of stability.
Many times, my patients are surprised to find that as their strength and stability increase, their feeling of “tightness” decreases.
What Does Stretching Actually Do?
It has been proposed that what is actually happening when we feel “increased flexibility” from stretching is that we are increasing the nervous system’s tolerance to moving into a new range of motion.
Mobility drills can be considered a form of “stretching” as they increase your available or usable joint range of motion. When performed dynamically, they are a great way to warm up before for your workouts.
As I’ve previously written, a part of the body that often seems to feel sore and tight is the hip. In this article, I want to share three hip mobility drills that can help to address that.
Before jumping into the drills, however, let’s take a moment to review the anatomy of the hip.
Anatomy of the Hip
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The “ball” is formed by the head of the femur, and the “socket” is the acetabulum of the pelvis. The muscles in the front of the hip are collectively referred to as the hip flexors. The hip flexors are listed here in order of greatest contribution to smallest contribution:
Psoas major and Iliacus (often referred to as Iliopsoas)
Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
The muscles in the back of the hip are referred to as the hip extensors. They are:
Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosis, and Semimembranosis (the hamstrings)
Other Contributors to “Tightness”
In a previous article, I discussed how weakness or lack of coordination in the pelvic floor and deep central stability system can lead to “tightness” or increased risk of injury to the low back, hips, and legs. We need to incorporate exercises for deep central stability into our training programs.
Additionally, in this article, I explained how a feeling of “tightness” in the hip flexor muscles may actually be weakness of the muscles surrounding the hip.
Hip Mobility Drills
The following drills are a good adjunct to your training program assuming you’re also incorporating deep central stability (core and floor) training into your current strength training program.
These drills can be performed as part of your dynamic warm-up. Spend as much time as you like on each one. Perform these drills within your comfort level, moving slowly and respecting your own body’s current joint mobility.
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About The Author: Ann Wendel
Ann Wendel is an internationally-recognized women's health Physical Therapist (PT), a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), and a Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (CMTPT). In addition to owning and operating Prana Physical Therapy in Alexandria, VA, Ann writes, travels, speaks, and consults with other physical therapists and business owners. You can connect with Ann on Facebook and Twitter.