Question: I am not very flexible at all â€“ my hip flexors and quads tighten extremelyÂ easily. Do you have any stretching or exercise tips to help with this?
When you think of flexibility, you are looking at the range ofÂ motion (ROM) around a joint.
The first thing to do is determine whether you suffer from:
1) A lack of length. Length of a muscleÂ has to do with genetics, training/sports history, age, injury history, posture,Â etc.; however, length can be easily changed with consistent flexibilityÂ training.
2) A high amount of tension. Muscular tension (tonus) is the continuous contraction of muscle at rest orÂ the resistance of a muscle to a stretch. The list of possible causes areÂ generally the same as those above. The treatment, however, is usuallyÂ very different.
3) or a combination of the two.
Now that we have defined the two, how can you assess which one (orÂ both) that you are suffering from?
To determine whether the problem is length, you should test your range ofÂ motion. One simple test is to lie on the ground, facing downwards. ReachÂ back and gently pull your foot toward your gluteal muscles (glutes). If yourÂ heel without shoes can kick your glutes, your length is fine. Another greatÂ test is to have someone perform a hip flexor length test on you. You canÂ do this for free by signing up for the Tufts PersonalizedÂ Performance Program, where every student receives five free personalÂ training sessions (http://ase.tufts.edu/physed/ppp/main.asp). This test canÂ assess the length in the quad and the hip flexors. It can also give you informationÂ about issues with the illiotibial band as well.
To determine if tension is the culprit, you will need a friend or a trainer. HeÂ or she would perform the above laying-down test, but while bringing theÂ heel toward the glutes, the helper would determine where the leg fights theÂ stretch or becomes heavier in its resistance to the movement. AnotherÂ way to check tension is to have a massage therapist or chiropractorÂ palpate the area to determine whether there is a higher than necessaryÂ amount of tension.
Okay, so we have the culprit(s) length, tension or both. Whatâ€™s theÂ treatment?
Massage tends to have a greater effect on lowering tension whileÂ stretching is better able to increase length. Stretching is never supposed to hurt, so please remember not to push yourself on a stretch; you can hurt yourself. Below are the two best quad stretches for tension. The first is a more isolated quadÂ stretch while the second involves the hip flexors as well.
- Integrated quad and hip flexor stretch: by bringing the knee behind the hipÂ the stretch on the hip flexors as well as the quad muscle the rectus femorisÂ is intensified.
Massage work is easy to do on the quads.Â However, theÂ hip flexors (specifically the psoas major and iliacus) are best treated by a competent therapist, as they are difficult to self manipulate.
- Rolling both quads at the same time â€“ this is a moderate version ofÂ massage.
- By bringing the right leg off the roller you increase the intensity on the leftÂ leg in the below photo. To make it even more intense bend the left legÂ (like a hamstring curl).
- Lastly, you could use the massage stick on your quads. YouÂ can use any cylindrical item to roll the muscles. Rolling pins work but areÂ very intense.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be used in replace of one-on-one consultation with a certified personal trainer. If you have questions or concerns, please contact a professional to speak with about your individual situation.
By: Dan Kopsco
Editor: Kate Sweeney