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3 Dimensional exercises to correct tight hip flexors

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: athlete wakes up early to go for a run before work, doesn’t have time to stretch after, then proceeds to sit at his or her desk for 8-10 hours working on the computer.

Or here’s another scenario: athlete sits at work all day, goes for a run that evening without warming up, then doesn’t make time to stretch after.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, most athletes commit one or both of these errors on a regular basis.

Our computer culture has taken a toll on our overall posture (see the negative effects of sitting).  Activity and inactivity both contribute to soft tissue restrictions and can impair quality of motion. I might go a step further in saying that it can actually prevent an athlete from achieving his or her peak performance.

Think of how your body is positioned when you sit:

  • your hips are restricted
  • shortening your hip flexors (reduced range of motion)
  • forward head position negatively affects your cervical spine (neck), scapula (shoulders) and thoracic spine (mid- to low-back)
  • forward head posture may reduce lung capacity up to 30%

There’s not much we can change about our daily computer usage or the amount we sit at work – but there are simple things we can do at work to reverse the daily stresses of sitting which can lead to what is called an anterior pelvic tilt…what does this mean to runners??
hipflexors

  • Tight hip flexors - can’t extend properly which slows us down
  • Weak abdominals - can’t stabilize the body properly
  • Tight lower back muscles - can’t stabilize the body, all day soreness
  • Weak glutes and hamstrings -- can’t produce as much power
  • Basically it’s just not good -- to put it technically

AT WORK BEAT THE SITTING DISEASE
First thing’s first: get up throughout the day!
Set a timer for every hour and get out of your chair for a few minutes (and make sure to leave your smartphone on your desk – it’s part of the problem!).

Hydration is a crucial, often overlooked, component to optimal function and pain-free movement.
One formula for rehydration is to drink 0.6 multiplied by your body weight in # of ounces of water/day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 90 ounces of water/day. Be mindful of how much coffee, tea and alcohol you drink. Every 6 ozs of a caffeinated beverage requires approximately 10-12 ozs of water to rehydrate you.  

3D RUNNER STRETCH ROUTINE
No we aren’t talking movie time, we’re talking about moving your body through all planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse), which increases circulation to prevent stiffness and mimics the natural way we move when walking and running.

Three-dimensional stretches are the most effective way to improve flexibility and joint mobility. Try doing these once in the morning and evening to see major improvements in your posture.

3D Standing hip flexor stretch (great after any workout):

  • Lunge out with your left foot, making sure right foot is pointing straight forward. Reach both arms up to the ceiling with arms touching your ears (or as close as possible). Drive hips forward while extending your arms back, making sure to squeeze right glute to feel the stretch through the front of your hip x10 (this will address the sagittal plane / front & back).
  • Next, drive hips forward while leaning your trunk towards your front leg (left) to feel an increased stretch in your right hip x5. Repeat this motion in the opposite direction x5 (these two will address the frontal plane / side to side).
  • Next bring arms down to shoulder length. Drive hips forward while rotating your trunk towards the leg in front x5. Repeat this motion in the opposite direction x5 (these two will address the transverse plane / rotation). Switch legs and repeat the sequence. 3D Hip Flexor Stretch

3D Hamstring stretch (great after any workout):

  • Extend your left leg out in front of you with knee slightly bent and toes pointing towards the ceiling. With your arms overhead, drive your arms and chest forward x10 (sagittal plane).
  • Next, place your right hand on your hip and reach your left arm overhead as you drive your chest forward x5. Switch sides, reaching your right arm overhead and driving your chest forward x5 (frontal plane).
  • Next, bring arms down to shoulder length, rotating to the right x5. Switch sides, rotating to the left x5 (transverse plane). Switch legs and repeat the sequence 3D Hamstring Stretch for runners

3D Seated thoracic matrix (good during mid-day):

  • Sit at the edge of your chair in an upright posture. Reach both arms up to the ceiling with arms touching your ears (or as close as possible) and extend back behind you x10 (sagittal plane).
  • Next, place your right hand on your hip and reach your left arm overhead x5. Switch sides, reaching your right arm overhead x5 (frontal plane).
  • Next, bring arms down to shoulder length, rotating to the right x5. Switch sides, rotating to the left x5 (transverse plane).
    3D Thoracic Stretch to reduce impact of all day sitting

Almost as important as getting up throughout the day is making sure you properly warm up before you exercise.  Checkout this quick dynamic warm-up!

Need a better visual? Watch the video demonstration.
Need more hip stretches? Checkout these hip openers
Need a little more strength? Checkout these hip stability moves

Thanks to Michael Conlon owner and physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City for helping me pull together these great stretches and tips. He’s a guy who knows his stuff and walks the walk, so to speak -- He is a Fellow of Applied Functional Science from the internationally-acclaimed Gray Institute and a 23-time marathoner and 3-time Ironman triathlete. He is also the head marathon coach for the NYC chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Confession time…tell me in the comments below:
How often do you do post workout stretching?

Following that up…how often are you injured?

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