Today we are going to be talking about an incredibly novel way – pretty unique – to improve your hip flexors.
In our last two videos, we’ve been answering the question why are you stretching in the first place and trying to get people to recognize that most people stretch in order to improve a range of motion. We talk a lot about this idea that internal versus external focus really can change your results.
Now, in this particular video, we’re going to talk about the hip flexors and improving the hip flexors because, as I mentioned, the two areas of the body I get asked most about are the hamstrings and the hip flexors.
Now, if you have been living in a cave for the last decade, you probably haven’t heard that we have a sitting epidemic but, if you’ve been following the news and you’ve been involved in health and fitness, you know that sitting is now considered the new smoking.
If you sit for too long at any given day, it actually has cardiovascular deficits. We see earlier signs … Basically, people die earlier when they sit a lot but, we’re going to talk about it more from a movement perspective today and how to counteract the eight to ten to twelve hours people sit each day.
If you work in an office job and then you go home and watch television, what we find is that lots of health and fitness professionals come to us and say, “My clients hip flexors are so tight. They can’t walk very well. They have problems squatting. Their rotations are messed up. They can’t extend their body,” all because there’s problems here. We get asked all the time, “Okay, how do I improve that?”
Now, to have this conversation, I want you to understand some recent research on stretching or improving range of motion somewhere in the body. There are three primary words I want you to write down and remember.
Number one is repetition. Here’s the deal. If you sit for ten hours a day, the two minutes you spend stretching your hip flexors in the gym are insufficient repetition to counteract all the time you sit in this nicely flexed position. We have to get in repetition if we want to create long-term change and range of motion. That’s incredibly important.
Number two: overload. Basically, the human body works like this. It wants to stay how it is. If you want to create a change, you have to load it so that it says to itself, “Man, if we’re going to do that again, I better be ready.” That’s what overload is all about. Now, most people think about overloading in terms of improving strength. Well, if you want to improve range of motion and flexibility, you also have to overload. You have to figure out okay, how do I take this area of the body I’m interested in improving and load it.
Number three is similarity. This one’s very, very, very critical. In the recent stretching research, what we see is that if I lay on my back and I improve my hamstring flexibility or I get into some deep kneeling stretch and try to work on my hip flexor flexibility, that has very little carryover to when I stand up. What we need is an exercise approach that takes advantage of several things, an external focus rather than trying to think internally and thereby, increasing muscle tension. I want to think outside the body so, we need to use an external focus.
We need lots of repetition. We need lots of overload and we need it to be as similar as possible to what I’m trying to improve. Those are your basic principles.
What we look at constantly in Z-Health is walking. Walking is, in general, controlled at the brain stem level and we want it to be very reflexive; however, if you undertake what we call purposeful walking, occasionally it can be an amazing drill for improving hip flexor function. Here’s how you do it.
You go okay, I’m going to go out and take a quarter mile, half-mile, full mile walk. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want you to go out and walk and this is my sneaky way of asking you please move. In general, I like to say, “Hey, the first time you do this, start with a half mile and then work up to a mile,” and here’s the technique. You go out, you start walking.
You’re then going to say, “For the next thirty steps, I’m going to use an external focus,” which means I’m going to focus on keeping the heel of my shoe, assuming you’re walking in shoes, keep the heel of your shoe in contact with the ground slightly longer than normal.
Now, what happens is, when I take a normal step, my heel starts to come up off the ground fairly quickly. If instead, I focus on keeping my heel on the ground a little bit longer in each step, it takes my hip into a little bit more hip extension; it loads the hip flexors and works on their range of motion.
Now, in a half-mile or full mile walk, you do thirty steps focusing on the heel contact and then thirty regular and then thirty and thirty, just alternate like that for the length of your walk.
You’re going to get in hundreds and thousands of repetitions if you do this every week so, it hits quality number one. It’s an external focus, which is quality number two. It’s going to overload the tissues because it’s a new movement pattern and I guarantee you, you will notice it the next day so, it’s going to overload, and it’s incredibly similar.
Whenever we talk about the hip flexors, we’re always concerned about how’s your posture, how’s your ability to get into hip extension, how’s your gait. This fits a perfect set of criteria for maximizing your gains in a way that will matter to you long term.
Again, simple concept.
Take a mile walk or a half-mile walk or a quarter mile walk, thirty steps. Focus on keeping the foot on the ground a little bit longer or the heel on the ground a little bit longer, thirty steps walk normally and just repeat that over and over.
If you do this for one to two weeks, I guarantee you, your hips are going to feel completely different than they currently do and you may find the very fast fix for all those hours that you have to spend sitting in a chair at work.
If you have questions about this, please contact us.
Otherwise, give it a shot. Let us know how it goes. Thanks.