Hips Don’t Lie. Tips to Strengthen, Stretch and Soothe Your Lower Body.
We are a nation of sitters. Desk jobs, long commutes or sitting and watching a lot of tv can make your abs and hip flexor weak and contribute to low back pain. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where constantly exercising the large muscles in the lower body has most likely contributed to the hip flexor and surrounding muscles becoming very tight. I found this tension is a great source for my back pain.
- Lay flat on the floor or on something firm similar to a massage table.
- After a minute or two notice if you start to become uncomfortable and wanting to bend your knees.
- This is a sign for tight hip flexors.
- Those are the muscles attaching the front of your hips to the base of your spine.
- They can become shortened and weak from sitting in a flexed position for long periods of time.
- This can cause your pelvis to give into the restriction of these muscles, tilting forward and putting pressure on the discs in your lower spine.
Now that I’m teaching Yin Yoga, a form of yoga allowing for a deep stretches reaching into the connective tissue under the skin and the ligaments of the joints, I am noticing how many people are very tense in this area. Whenever I include, a long hold in the Pigeon pose, a juicy release for the hip, I’m sure to get rave reviews from participants as they exit.
Strong butt and abdominal muscles along with flexibility in the hips can help relieve tension. Here is what I found helpful in relieving my pain as well as bringing much joy to my clients.
Keep Strong Abs:
Forget 100 sit-ups for a goal. You want to strengthen your abdominals without contributing to the tension in the hip flexors. It is hard to train the abdominals when the hip flexors are tight because the hip flexors are keeping the abdominal muscles stretched out and therefore not conducive for taking on the load for flexing. They are also involved in most abdominal exercises so you need to find exercises that take the work out of the hip flexors.
- Side planks with leg abduction.
- Torso Twisting at the waist while holding a band anchored to a post.
- If you must do sit-ups, slip your feet under an anchor so you can flex your gluteus and hamstring muscles as you crunch, thus taking work out of the flexors.
Strengthen Your Butt and Legs:
Strong gluteus and quadriceps along with abdominal muscles will keep your low back from compensating for bad posture or under developed muscles when carrying heavy items, bending over or simply moving outside of you normal activity.
- Lunges are great for strengthening the thighs into the butt and hip area.
- Add an extra bonus by also stretching the hip flexors if you lunge into the front leg while straightening the back knee. You can also do this while sitting in a chair.
- Go slow and maintain good form during lunges and squats taking body through full range of motion and careful not to put the work into the lower back
Stretching is Imperative!
Most people don’t take time to properly stretch after their workout allowing a warm muscle to elongate instead of tensing up right away. Neither do most people stretch outside of a workout when muscles are cold thus allowing ligaments and muscle tissue to open and get fresh circulation.
- Always Stretch after exercising. If time is an issue, at least identify the muscles you worked and try to hold stretches 20 to 30 seconds.
- Try a passive hip flexor stretch by lying flat and then bending the knee and propping the calf on a chair or block. Hold for five minutes or longer while watching t-v and then switch sides.
- Try Yin or Restorative Yoga where you take on a stretching position but instead of pulling or pushing you relax and allow gravity to do the work of opening up joints and muscles for circulation.
By paying careful attention to my form, strengthening my core in all plains and relaxing for several minutes into yin yoga postures I have managed to loosen my hips and find relief in my low back. By working a physical therapist or health care provider you too can find ways to be attentive to your singing hips. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
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