Hip Flexor Tightness: What Is It and What Can We Do About It?

What is “tightness”?

When clients tell us that they feel “tightness” in a certain part of their body, it tells us that they are experiencing restricted movement.  But what is the cause?  Restricted movement can be caused by several factors that are usually inter-related:

  • Decreased muscle flexibility.
  • Joint mobility issues.
  • Problems with other connective tissues, e.g., scar tissue, myofascial trigger points.
  • Incorrect muscle activation and relaxation patterns.

We live in an age where the average person spends the majority of their day sitting – in cars, at the office, when eating, when watching TV.  As a result, one of the most common issues we see in the Inspire gym is “hip tightness”, usually of the hip flexors.  The hip flexor muscles are often tight and overactive due to our sedentary behaviour and prolonged sitting.

How do we assess hip flexor tightness?

We use passive and active stretching techniques to assess hip flexor flexibility on both sides of the body.  Watch the video below to see these techniques in action:

What can be done to improve hip flexor function?

  • Reduce your sitting time: hold “standing meetings”, use active transport opportunities by commuting to work by bike, or getting off the train one or two stops earlier than normal, and walking the rest of the way to your destination.
  • Take regular movement breaks throughout the day.
  • Strengthen your hip extensors – your gluteal muscles – to restore muscle balance.  When your hip flexors are tight and overactive, your hip extensors are typically weak and underactive!
  • Stretch the hip flexors after your gym workouts and after a long day of sitting.  Make sure you stretch only AFTER completing an effective warm up to increase muscle temperature (e.g., light jog or cycle for 5 min).