If you read my stuff, you know that I play softball. I can get a bit defensive about it because the younggins don’t understand that us washed up meatheads need something that vents our competitive desires. During the summer months I always have some kind of scrape – or as the baseballers call it, a strawberry – on my knee that’s prone to ripping open. It gets uncomfortable when I’m trying to do anything that involves touching my knee to the ground – like a hip flexor stretch. And boy do I love my hip flexor stretches.
To accommodate, I got used to doing a leg curl when settling into the lunge position to avoid smashing my scab into the ground. After doing this for so long, I realized that I could turn it into a killer diagnostic test for glute function and hip mobility/flexiblity.
Before getting into it, take a look at it’s two uses:
AS A WARM UP – I like doing it as a warm up, and I can usually tell how good of a lower body session I’ll have from it. If I can get my hips to open up then I’ll be OK, but when they don’t I know I’m in trouble.
AS A DIAGNOSTIC – For starters, compare the difference between legs. If one leg underperforms compared, you need to smash the rectus femoris with flexibility work. It’s tempting to resort to unilateral strength work to get the under performing leg stronger. But it’s not a strength issue. If one of your leg sucks, it’s because your hip flexors are tight.
*WARNING* In the video, I’m doing this on a puzzle mat because I know what I’m doing. For your safety, do it on a bed mattress. If you don’t shift your weight correctly, it can put a ton of pressure on the rear leg’s knee cap. This can be devastating. Get most of your weight on your lead leg, and what’s left should be above the knee cap of the rear leg, NOT DIRECTLY ON IT. The mattress will help you get the hang of this and is much more forgiving than hard surfaces. */WARNING*
Now that we got that out of the way, here’s what you need to remember:
1) Settle into the initial lunge/pushup position, putting your knee outside of your hands. It looks like a mountain climber.
2) Shift your weight forwards so that you get the weight off of your knee cap, this will also stretch the hip.
3) Squeeze the glute of the rear leg as hard as you can.
4) Do a leg curl with the rear leg while keeping the glute squeezed.
Take a look at the videos below.
Advanced Variation – Make sure you read my warning statement
While were talking about hip flexor stretches, I want to touch on a few things that grind my gears, and they relate to a post I made a while — and I mean a while — ago on snapping hip syndrome. The basic idea was to avoid hip extension and external rotation, and this holds true when stretching the hip. My original post as aimed at the martial artists and gymnasts (see Tricking), but avoiding hip extension and external rotation is difficult because so many moves depend on it.
It can’t be avoided as apart of sport, but it can be avoided in training for sport, specifically when stretching the hip. If you’re doing a rear leg lift, make sure your toes are pointining to the ground. You’re not going to get as much range of motion, but it will save your hip some mileage. This is something that has to be done consciously, so grab a camera and get to work.
Keep the same relationship during hip flexor stretches too. This is where most people mess up. You don’t want any external rotation on your hip flexor stretches. I’d even recommend EXAGGERATING against external rotation.
If you notice, in the second picture my foot is internally rotated. This is an exaggeration, and a great way to stretch the outer hip. And most tricksters need it.
Lastly, when you’re stretching the hip you need to tilt the pelvis upwards — something that happens when you contract the abs and glutes at the same time. The following quote comes from the Coyote Point Kettlebell Club How-To Manual written by Dan John. It’s great advice, and you should use it during all of your hip stretches.
Your pelvis is a “bowl” and I teach it like you have water in it. So, tilt the water out forward, backward, away from the up leg and, finally, tip it toward the up leg. It gives a sense of where the hips should be in the stretch.”