How To Finally Release Tight Hip Flexors With AntiGravity® Fitness
There’s no side-stepping or sneaking around it..
Well I’m here to tell it to you there’s no way to skimp here –
You’ve just got to do it…
Yep…stretching after exercise is a complicated area of science.
There is a big debate around stretching and it’s benefits
but I’m a firm believer in a holistic approach to an active and healthy lifestyle.
I’ve seen first hand how a better range of motion in a joint can help everyday life, and of course I’m not talking about being able to do the splits as a party trick.
In fact before incorporating flexibility routines into my training schedule, I couldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor for longer than a few seconds.
It was so painful!
But enough about me…let’s talk about the fact that:
Flexibility and stretching affects your health in a huge way.
But WHY? And what part does a flexibility routine have to play in having a greater quality of life?
That’s the question I’d like to help answer today. It’s all about the context. ‘Stretching’ is as loose of a term as ‘healthy eating.’ What it means to one person is completely different to another.
Today, I’m going to share some everyday movements you can incorporate into your day
and how a supportive device like an AntiGravity Hammock can help you get a great deal of bang per stretch.
Find out why we have ‘niggles’ and how the can be ironed out with a little time – especially in your hips, shoulders and back.
As promised, find out how just a couple of moves per day can target large muscle groups to allow for greater mobility and flexibility.
That means better performance in life and in your training shoes! Lets jump in and find out all about:
The Big Muscle Groups
When large groups of muscles don’t work properly i.e are restricted by lack of flexibility, it can cause injuries and a reduced range of motion (a measurement of movement around a joint.)
This basically means a hearty list of problems and ultimately could mean you saying good-bye to the marathon dreams.
And you have worked so hard, so it’s the least thing we want!
As an AntiGravity® instructor it’s my job to help people get a greater quality of life through movement.
One of the ways I like to help is to ask how everyone is feeling, and if anyone is particularly ‘sticky’.
And I usually get a resounding “yes!”
It’s usually these three main culprits:
- “In my hips!”
- “In my back and neck!”
- “In my knees!”
As we warm up, with a few clicks and pops later, I see relieved faces looking at me, smiling as if they have just un-clogged their bodies.
If you are nodding your head in agreement, then read on to see how just a few gentle to moderate stretches a day could help relieve this tension, and how in our AntiGravity® Hammock we can take these stretches to another level.
With that said, lets take a closer look at our hips first and what part they play in our everyday lives.
Hip Flexibility And The Part It Plays In Our Exercise And Daily Life
We hear it so often that the hips are the most important group of muscles in the human body.
And they are probably right!
In particular the hip flexors and the hip extensors. You will hear us focus on them a lot during class, and for good reason!
Very basically, the hip flexors pull the hips down, whilst the extensors pull the back up, working against each other keeping us in an upright position.
Any time we lunge, bend forwards or backwards we are using our hips as a hinge.
Do you have a tight lower back ? Or feel a shooting pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time?
It could be to do with tight hips. When hip flexors get tight, the hip bones become constantly pulled down creating an unnatural curve in the lower back.
This puts pressure on the spine and can causes problems further down the legs in the knees and ankles.
So runners listen up!
Tightness in the hips ie.constriction will limit the range of motion and the flow of energy.
So when we run, either on the pitch or training for running, tight hips can be a root cause of popular niggling injuries such as:
- Lower back pain
- Knee and ankle pain
The good news is, there are many ways to keep your hips healthy and happy. It could be as simple as implementing a few hip stretches into your weekly plan.
Here’s one hip stretch that is a beautiful hip opener – in yoga it is called pigeon pose. So I will refer to it as such from now.
This is a great stretch to be done after exercise to open the hips to prevent injury, say after a long run.
It’s a great way to target individual hip muscles softening stiffness and tension held in the hip area.
We often feel great relief after stretching the hips – as an exercise, feel how tight you are at the end of your run before you stretch, and how light and free you feel afterwards.
It’s as theraputic as it is lengthening for the hips, back, glutes and biceps.
Having a tight knee and a tight lower back could be barriers to comfort in this position.
When we use a hammock to support our leg, gravity gently encourages the knee to open releasing the muscles in the pelvis. The weight of the leg gently stretches the hip-flexor (the big muscles at the front of the pelvis – and believe us it feels like bliss!
How Even Gentle Exercise Can Strengthen Your Back
Your back is another large and important cluster of ligaments, muscles and tendons that we need to take care of.
One of the major functions of the back muscles is protecting our spine. Now the body does a great job at this.
Sometimes too much of a good job! If our brains sense the spine is in danger, (i.e squished from sitting all day) our muscles will lock and tighten creating painful muscle spasms and inflammation.
Our spine is of course a huge topic we will save for another day. But what we can do today to keep our spine healthy is to keep the spine mobile and capable of day-to-day movement.
These are some common things we hear at Float Fitness, and I can guarantee that we can all relate to at least one of the following:
- “I wake up and I am stiff in my back-I even find it hard to pick something up!”
- “I drive all day and my lower back just cramps up when I sit for long periods of time”
- “I work in an office and have such tight shoulders and neck – now I am getting migraines”
- “I think I over-did my workout – I can hardly walk!”
We may be able to help with these common complaints.(depending on if there is any complication with injury)
I’m not saying that this next stretch is a miracle cure by any means.
However, you may be surprised how implementing a few warm-up stretches can help you ‘free up’ your back allowing for a greater range of motion, and a pain-free day.
One of these great stretches is the cat/cow stretch.
The cat/cow stretch is a lovely freeing movement to prepare the body for exercise – it’s a dynamic stretch best performed before you workout.
Or first thing in the morning before you go to work, even try it in the middle of the day if you can find a quiet spot!
Just a couple of times over the course of the day can be enough to mobilise the spine enough to free tight muscles in the shoulders and middle back.
Breath as you perform this – a long inhale through the nose as you curl into cat, and a long exhale through the mouth as you release into cow.
However, weak wrists and sore knees from running can be barriers to this pose.
Let’s take a look at a cat/cow pose in the hammock. Here, the upper body is nicely supported by the hammock leaving no weight driving down the wrists.
Why Our Knees Need A Little Love And Attention
If there’s a place in the body that I hear the most complaints about it’s our knees.
It’s no surprise as they have a lot of hats to wear!
Running, crouching, bending and straightening the legs…so many jobs for such a small joint.
Take walking up the stairs for example. Every step we take upwards the pressure across the knee is four times the weight of the body! So again no surprise that a small tweak could land in surgery.
In fact, in 2013-2014 alone 11,891 kiwis had knee surgery on ACC. Now that’s a good enough reason to take care of this small but terribly important joint.
Some of the most common complaints I hear from my students are: (let’s see if any of these ring true for you too)
- “I had knee surgery a couple of years ago and still get pain from time to time”
- “In netball last week I over-stepped and tweaked my knee”
- “Marathon training took it’s toll this week – my knees ache to the bone!”
The good news is that just a little maintenance can keep our knees healthy and happy.
A combination of strength exercises and stretches will help keep the knee joint healthy and supple.
So how I take care of my students with knee pain is try to get the best alignment possible so the muscles surrounding the joint get the safest workout.
Here is one exercise that is great for strengthening the muscles around the knee – that’s right- the good old lunge.
A great little exercise that can be performed any-where and everywhere!
Let’s take a look at a lunge in the hammock:
The aim of having the hammock is to provide a supported stretch for the groups of muscles that make the knee strong and supple.
So now you have a couple of common stretches and how we have taken these to our AntiGravity® hammocks.
AntiGravity® Fitness can easily slot in with your fitness goals and can provide a fun and engaging way to get your weekly flexibility training.
We have a large range of static and dynamic stretches all providing length and strength in some of the largest muscle groups in our bodies.In fact, there are over 1000 variations of movements in the AntiGravity® hammock.
To say thanks for reading, we’d love to be able to give you an exclusive offer that will help you in our AntiGravity® journey.
Health and Happiness,
Freyja at Float Fitness