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How To Stretch Hip Flexors

“Why Are My Hip Flexors so Tight?” How To Stretch Hip Flexors (Release Or Strengthen?)

 

 

Concerning how to stretch hip flexors, I have seen, performed and taught every conceivable method of releasing them from tightness.

As a flexibility specialist, I stretched thousands of patients and athletes using the most popular muscle and fascial release techniques. I got so proficient with these stretch techniques, I taught seminars to other doctors and therapists…

As a neuromuscular therapist, I performed soft tissue techniques to release muscles from strain and tightness. I learned how to perform manual Trigger Point Therapy from a few masters.

As a performance enhancement specialist, I integrated PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching and neuromuscular therapy with dynamic exercise for reestablishing normal movement patterns for the muscles and fascia we worked on.

This journey was all in an effort to discover how to stretch hip flexors and release strain and tightness for two main reasons – to create more…

  1. Stability in the lower back and pelvis, and
  2. Mobility in the hips and the thoracic spine.

We have been in the habit of looking at certain muscles like how to stretch hip flexors, and thinking they are too short and tight. Here's what we'll cover in this post:

  • Logical thing to do with short tight muscles,
  • Primary hip flexors causing problems, &
  • 4 Reasons hips flexors are short and tight.

 

Logical thing to do w/ short tight muscles

In the past 15 years, with the help of some of the most renowned doctors, therapists, strength coaches, trainers and skills coaches, I have developed a much different view on how to treat these short, tight muscles. It has completely changed my understanding of how to stretch hip flexors.

If we have short, tight hip flexors, we should ask ourselves:

  • “WHY are they so short and tight?” And,
  • “WHAT are the restrictions to these muscles performing to their highest capability”?

Primary hip flexors causing problems

How To Stretch The Hip Flexor

How To Stretch The Hip Flexor: psoas major muscle

There are four primary hip flexors but the one we hear about most, the one that causes us the most problems is the psoas major muscle. When we hear or read about the psoas major, 99% of the problems associated are attributed to it being short and tight.

The psoas major is responsible for lifting the thigh once it gets to 90° (parallel the floor), and everything after that, about another 45%. So it would seem that if it is short and tight, it would easily be able to lift the thigh to its limit. That is actually opposite to what happens.

If it is short and tight, it will also be weak and won't be able to perform its normal function to full capacity. There are also neurological reasons it won't be able to perform, but that's a little complicated for this article.

Important to swinging and throwing athletes, the psoas major is also responsible for stabilizing the lower back, that is where it attaches to the lower spine. If the psoas major is short, tight and weak, it does a poor job of stabilizing against dynamic rotation and puts the lower back at high risk of injury.

The lower back will also become tighter as a protective mechanism and will not completely release its tension until the psoas major is strengthened through its entire range of motion, among other things.

 

4 Reasons hips flexors are short and tight

Problem #1

There are restrictors to the movement of the psoas major. These are mainly the deep hip muscles (the deep external hip rotators) and the hamstrings.

Solution to #1

Strengthen these muscles, don't constantly stretch them. A strong muscle is much more flexible than a weakened muscle due to constant stretching.

Problem #2

The psoas major is WEAK because it has been constantly stretched, massaged, released, etc.

Solution to #2

Since the psoas major is almost 100% responsible for lifting the thigh past 90° to about 135%, it needs to be strengthened against some sort of resistance through its entire range of motion.

Problem #3

Almost everyone in our society sits for most of our non-athletic activities – driving, working at a desk, watching TV, reading, texting, etc.

Solution to #3

If we sit as part of our lifestyle, we will probably not change that. What we CAN do is to super strengthen our glutes, hamstrings and the deep external hip rotators. Those are the opposite muscles to the sitting muscles and they will help to release them as soon as we stand up and start moving.

Problem #4

If the hip flexors are unequal in the balance of strength, they will not be able to lift the thigh symmetrically. If the psoas major is weak, a muscle called the TFL (tensor fascia lata) will pull the hip and thigh outward and will create very complicated problems that are difficult to resolve in both the hips and lower back.

Solution to #4

Strengthen the TFL and hip in internal hip rotation against a strong rotational resistance, THEN strengthen the psoas major through its full lifting action, against resistance.

For those who have access to the two RotexMotion floor models, here's the Inward Hip Rotation exercise to accomplish this…

 

Softball Hitting Tips Fastpitch: Is Power ALL In The Hips?

 

This is Part-3 of a 3-part softball hitting tips fastpitch video series coming straight out of the Catapult Loading System online video mini-course…

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In this softball hitting tips fastpitch video post, we're going to answer one of my reader's questions…

“Ways to use your hips to create bat speed?”

Before I get to the #1 Biggest Lie In Hitting, we'll cover:

  • Inward hip turn towards catcher to load?
  • Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Landing open with the front foot.

 

Inward Hip Turn Towards Catcher To Load?

Softball Hitting Tips Fastpitch: Lauren Chamberlain Hitting

Are Lauren Chamberlain's hips firing on their own, or was her spine pre-loaded earlier by her shoulders? Photo courtesy: YT user – Paul Arebalo

I picked up on this in High School after reading Ted Williams's book The Science Of Hitting.

But is this really necessary?

After reading Thomas Myers's book Anatomy Trains, I don't believe that it is.

To me, ‘Loading the hips' by turning the pelvis inward towards the catcher creates more challenges, than benefits.

The biggest challenge is that if the timing isn't right, the hitter will get stuck landing with a closed front leg at landing (front toe less than a 45-degree angle).

CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment I did on landing closed versus open, and the affect on average bat speed.

Olympic Javelin Throwers, Boxers, and Sprinters do just fine without using an inward turn of the pelvis, away from their target, before throwing, punching, or running.

 

Springy ‘X' Pattern

I don't want to beat a dead horse, so here are two great video blog posts I did, that apply to softball hitting tips fastpitch, talking about the Springy ‘X' Pattern:

 

Landing Open with the Front Foot

The guys at ZenoLink are awesome!  They find the truth behind human movement science.  This video discusses how the lower body position or stride setup will dictate how well you create and utilized ground reaction force to initiate the swing process and develop power and bat speed.

They found the optimal degree that the stride foot must be open at landing to be around 65-degrees (watch around the 2:00 mark)…

So WHY are we teaching our young hitters to stride closed?!!

To summarize…

‘Loading and exploding the hips' by inwardly turning the pelvis towards the catcher can cause the hitter to land closed.  If the hitter lands closed, then bat speed WILL go down, according to the results of my Zepp swing experiment, and to the guys at ZenoLink.  As a result of bat speed going down, so will Ball Exit Speed.

‘Firing the hips' is an over-coached cue, if anything, let's ‘load and explode the shoulders', not the hips.  Us hitting coaches MUST shift our focus above the pelvis, into the shoulders by way of the Springy ‘X' Pattern.

So, what is the #1 Biggest Lie In Hitting, as it relates to softball hitting tips fastpitch?

That we MUST ‘load and explode the hips'.

You see,

We have to get away from learning inside baseball and softball hitting circles.  We must first learn human movement science, then break away, and begin thinking creatively about how to apply these human movement “rules”, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.

Pitching Instruction: 3 Simple Factors to Great Hitting (Madison Bumgarner Approved)

 

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner using human movement science in the 2014 World Series. What can hitters learn from him?

I want to focus on Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, and how the pitching instruction he's received may help hitters develop repeatable power.  Pitching instruction for hitters!

I read somewhere that when Ted Williams was asked how a hitter could get more efficient with their swing.  He responded by saying to study a pitcher's delivery.  In this pitching instruction for hitters post, we'll look at 3 human movement laws, the:

  1. Head start,
  2. Spinning ice skater, and
  3. Compressed spring.

 

The Head Start

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner “falling” photo courtesy: HNGN.com

Known to proven movement science as the Conservation of Linear Momentum, aka Forward Momentum (FoMo) or the Un-Weighting Principle.  Madison Bumgarner employs Gravitational Forces with a nice easy fall down the mound.  Gravity doesn't care if you're a Shot Putter…Trapeze Artist…Lacrosse player…or a hitter.  As sure as the sun rises and sets, Gravity will be there to flow-with OR fight a hitter's movements.  Here's what happens when we:

  • FIGHT Gravitational Forces (wide no-stride, sit back) – Reciprocal Inhibition occurs.  Muscles and connective tissues typically used to accelerate movements will reverse, slowing them down.
  • FLOW-with Gravitational Forces (FoMo) – Free ride.  Makes the Final Turn seem easier.  Increases max bat speed.  And turns a hitter's body into a projectile missile.  Thanks Bob Hall from Canada for the latter metaphor!

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #1: Mad-Bum has a nice easy fall down the mound with minimal push with the back leg.  Too much push activates Reciprocal Inhibition.  Hitters employ a fall by committing the body-weight to the stride leg at landing, or the Fight Position.

 

The Spinning Ice Skater

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner high angular photo courtesy: ConcordMonitor.com

Known to proven movement science as the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Madison Bumgarner is also known as the Candor.  As you can see from the photo of him above, his arms are stretched completely away from his body.  Imagine an ice skater who jumps off the ice, bringing her arms in, and spinning really fast.  She's increasing what's called her angular momentum, or rotational speed.

Now, imagine the same ice skater as she's falling back to the ice from her jump, and she lengthens out her arms and one of her legs to slow down her body's rotation.

This is referred to as increasing her moment of inertia, or inertial force.  You can't maximize both rotational speed and inertial force at the same time.  They have an inverse relationship.  When one is up, the other is down.  Although, we can optimize both…

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #2:  Mad-Bum opens his “wings” like a condor right before his torso begins rotation.  As his torso starts rotating, he bends at the elbows and cuts his inertial force in half.  This gives his turning speed a boost.  Hitters like Hunter Pence, can do this by keeping a slight bend in the front arm at the initiation of the Final Turn.  Once the barrel's on the plane of the pitch, then it becomes more important to increase inertial force (extending the front arm) rather than turning speed.

 

The Compressed Spring

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

According to Thomas Myers (no relation) from AnatomyTrains.com, fascia is:

Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. Fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement. Understanding fascia is essential to the dance between stability and movement – crucial in high performance, central in recovery from injury and disability, and ever-present in our daily life from our embryological beginnings to the last breath we take.”

Fascia is to the human body like steel is to the building industry.  It's very stiff and resist immediate change in shape.  CLICK HERE to see if Andrew McCutchen loads this springy connective tissue.

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #3: 

Mad-Bum compresses the spring in two ways:

  1. Slight uphill shoulder angle, and
  2. Shows hitter his numbers.

A hitter like Hunter Pence will do this slightly different in three ways:

  1. Slight downhill shoulder angle,
  2. Shows pitcher his numbers, and
  3. Hides the hands from the pitcher.

In This Baseball Hitting Video Spine Mistake,

 

We're going over:

  • The One-Joint Rule (how-to test “Spinal Integrity”, also known as head and spine alignment),
  • Spine Engine Theory (how ALL athletic movement is driven), and
  • Tensegrity, OR Tension Integrity (discover how explosive the body's own natural springiness can be).

Here's a video of Physical Therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD.com demonstrating the One-Joint Rule:

In case you missed it, in the above video, Dr. Kelly Starrett said:

“Hinging at one of the segments [vertebraes in the neck]…when we put a hinge across the central nervous system, the body recognizes that as a primary insult, or threat to the body, because you’re basically guillotining or kinking the nervous system.  You’ve kinked ‘the tube’, so it [force production] just drops off.”

He also mentioned:

“The spine has major potential to decrease your force production.”

Here's video of 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen breaking his head and spine alignment.  This is actually a semi-common hitting power mistake made by quite a few of my young hitters – as you'll see in a bit.  Scary to think that Andrew McCutchen was bleeding force at impact with the numbers he put up this past year:

Baseball Hitting Video Spine Mistake Andrew McCutchen

Watch Cutch's chin nod to his chest at and through contact…

The first baseball hitting video spine mistake was leaked from The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course.  This is all a part of the human movement rules.  As you can see, breaking our spinal integrity at contact can have a bleeding force effect on performance.