Tight Hip Flexors & Nordic Skiing

Nordic skiers suffer from tight hip flexors because of the constant hip flexion required to propel them forward.
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Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. James Ames, suggests that nordic skiers are susceptible to tightness and pain in the front of the upper thigh. Each of these winter sports requires strong hip flexor muscles (ref. 4). The rectus femoris, which lies at the front of your upper thigh, and the iliopsoas, which lies deep in your abdomen, tighten under constant contraction. These muscles work together to allow your body to bend forward by lifting your upper thigh toward your chest. Tight hip flexors limit the overall movement of your legs and torso, resulting in decreased performance.

Preventative Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching warms up this area of your body to increase the range of movement in the hip joints and improve performance. It also decreases your risk of injury because the muscle tissue is less likely to be overstretched during a ski. Dynamic stretching also improves posture by realigning the soft tissue and preventatively balancing muscle distribution. To practice a dynamic hip swing, begin by standing next to a shoulder-height wall. Balance yourself by holding onto the wall with your right hand. Start with your feet together directly under your hips. Swing your right leg forward and back, increasing the range of motion with each swing. Repeat 10 swings on each leg.

Passive Static Stretching

After skiing, passive static stretching reduces muscle soreness and increases the flexibility of your hip flexors. Lie on your stomach on a table with your knees together. Keep your legs straight as a partner or therapist raises your leg toward the ceiling. Keep your hips on the table and feel the stretch along the front of your upper thigh. Have your partner hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat three to four times with each leg.

Active Stretching

After skiing, stretch out your hip flexors on your own to improve their flexibility and relieve tightness. Practice a hip flexor lunge by starting in a standing position with your feet together. Take a large step forward with your right leg and lower down until your left knee is resting on the ground. Keeping your chest upright and lean your hips forward to increase the stretch in your left hip flexors. Repeat this sequence, but step forward with your left leg to stretch the right hip flexors. Repeat three to five times on each side.

Muscle Balance Strengthening

Stretching your hip flexors is an effective way to reduce tightness, but if your hip extensors are weak, the muscle imbalance will reduce the effectiveness of stretching. To maintain proper muscle balance, strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. Begin on the floor, on your hands and knees. Maintaining a level back, straighten your right leg and lift it toward the ceiling. Next, lower your right leg so it is parallel to the floor. Bend your knee to 90 degrees so the bottom of your foot becomes parallel to the ceiling. Press your flat foot toward the ceiling. Repeat this sequence eight to 12 times with each leg.

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