Most people know they are working their hip extenders when doing squat exercises, but they often forget about their hip flexor muscles. The truth is, your hip flexor muscles are just as important as your hip extenders when performing squats. Stretching these muscles before squatting will help you benefit more from the exercise and can also prevent serious injury.
What Are Hip Flexors?
Your hip flexor muscles allow you to bend at the hips. Although there are a few muscles that stretch your hips, the psoas and iliacus muscles are considered the primary hip flexor muscles. The psoas and iliacus muscles both attach to your femur, but the former is connected to your lower back and the latter connects to your hipbone. When performing squat exercises, you may not be getting the best results if your hip flexors are too tight. The best way to loosen them up is with an effective stretch.
Hip flexion is the term used for the decrease in the angle of your joint between your femur and pelvis. This decrease in angle always occurs when you squat. Some people develop a lot of pain in their knees and back when doing squats because their hip flexors are weak and not prepared for the squat. As a result, they have to draw strength from the knees and back. Couple the hip flexor stretch with glute and lower abdominal strengthening exercises to ready your hip flexors for squats.
Squats and Hip Flexors
Hip flexors hold great importance when squatting, even though they are often overlooked when lifters are stretching. If your hip flexors are too tight, they can prevent your glutes from working to their full potential and, because of this, you won't get the maximum benefit out of the workout. Loose hip flexors allow you to keep your torso long and straight while tight hip flexors will cause you to bend forward and draw strength from your back. Tight hip flexors cause your glutes to do less work and your lower back to do more, possibly resulting in serious back injuries. Do yourself a favor and stretch your hip flexors before squat workouts.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on the ground with a towel or yoga mat under your knees. Lift your left leg up and set it in front of you so your knee is at a 90-degree angle and your left foot is flat on the ground. Put your left hand on your left quad for balance and keep your back straight. Resting your right hand on your right hip will help keep your back erect. Lean forward gradually putting more weight on your front leg and feel the burn in your right quad muscle. Hold this hip flexor stretch for 30 seconds. Now switch your legs and kneel with your left knee on the ground and your right leg in front at a 90-degree angle. Keep your back straight and lean forward to feel the burn in your left quad. After holding the stretch for 30 seconds on each side, your hip flexors are ready to work.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.