Wednesday, March 9, 2011

60 Seconds to Better Movement: Wall Hip Flexor Mobilization

I thought I'd share a quick "bang-for-your-buck" exercise that you'll thank me later for.  It's the Wall Hip Flexor Mobilization, and it focuses on lengthening the rectus femoris, which is both a hip flexor and a knee extensor, due to the fact that it crosses both the hip joint and the knee joint.  I'm definitely not the first to write about this drill, but I thought I'd share it for those in the crowd that aren't doing it regularly. 

The Rectus Femoris
Why should you care if your rectus femoris needs to be stretched?  (Note there is a difference between a muscle being "stiff" and a muscle being "short," but that's a topic for another post).
  • First and foremost, tight hip flexors = weak glutes.  This is a very simplified way of putting it, but that's the take home message.  The physiological term for this is "reciprocal inhibition."  By loosening up the rectus femoris, you're essentially allowing your glutes to do their job better.  As mentioned in the It's All About the Glutes article:
    • If you're an athlete, this means jumping farther and running faster.
    • For general health purposes, strong glutes promote a reduced risk of knee, hip, back, and hamstring injury.
    • For those seeking benefits in the physique realm...well, this one is obvious. 
  • To the desk jockeys in the crowd: sitting for the majority of the day leads to loss of mobility at the hip joint - where the rectus femoris crosses - thus promoting a host of aberrant motor patterns that will only increase over time. 

  • To the runners in the crowd: not one single joint moves through a substantial range of motion during steady state running (what I'm saying is the more you run and the less you perform mobility drills, the more you begin to move like crap).  You need something to actually encourage sound biomechanics to help you run more efficiently and smoothly.  
  • To the meatheads in the crowd: loosening the rectus femoris will encourage good lifting mechanics in lifts such as the squat and deadlift, thus increasing your Awesome status. 
  • In cases of anterior and lateral knee pain, the rectus femoris is often a common culprit. 
Anyway, here is the drill:

Key coaching cues:
  • Place a towel or other soft surface under your knee (not shown), and brace your hand against a wall (Yes, I'm using a box in the video, but it should be done on a wall).
  • Be sure not to slip into excessive lumbar extension (arching of the low back) as you rock forward.
  • Keep the heel of the back leg as close to your butt as possible throughout the movement
  • Squeeze the glute of the back leg throughout.  This will help intensify the stretch of the hip flexor.
  • Think about pushing FORWARD rather than DOWN (think hips toward the wall, not the floor)
  • Rock for about thirty seconds per side, holding for around two seconds in the stretch position. 
  • In case this wasn't clear, you're aiming for a stretching sensation in the front hip area of the back leg. 
  • Do it every day.  Unless you live in a Hunter-Gatherer society and never sit down at a computer. 
This is of course just one piece in the very large puzzle of improving movement quality, but it's at least a step in the right direction.  Give it a shot!


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