Your hip flexors, which include your psoas and iliacus, can get stiff from sitting all day at work or at school. Although stretching these muscles lengthens them for a short period of time, dynamic stretching will help your hip flexors move more fluidly while increasing hip mobility before you exercise.
Instead of doing traditional static stretching, which is holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, use dynamic stretching as part of your warm-up before you work out. Dynamic stretching involves moving your hip flexors in their full range of motion repetitively, which is similar to stretching and shortening a rubber band. It increases neural stimulation to your muscles, elastic properties and body temperature. A 2013 study published in the "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports" explained that traditional static stretching decreases strength by 5.4 percent and power output by 2 percent. In another study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," subjects who performed dynamic stretching before strength training showed significant strength increase, while those who performed static stretching had no increase in strength. Save static stretching for after your workout.
Hip swings are ideal for athletes who play sports and activities that involve some form of running and kicking, including soccer players, marathoners and mixed martial artists. Perform hip swings in a standing position and swing one leg and hip front to back, or side to side like a pendulum. As you swing your leg, keep your torso stable without moving your spine. Do one or two sets for 30 seconds on each side. Other exercises that resemble the hip swing include standing knee ups and running butt kicks.
Active Hip Extension
Hip extension exercises can ease the discomfort of constant sitting by lengthening and shortening your hip flexors repetitively while working on your balance and stability. The movement resembles the ginga in Brazilian capoeira in which you step back behind you with one leg to extend the hip flexors, alternating between your left and right side rhythmically like a dance. You may choose to do it slowly and controlled like in tai chi, or fast and vigorous. Perform this exercise for one or two sets of 30 to 60 seconds.
Movements in dynamic stretching often resemble the activity or sport you're about to play. Instead of following a cookie-cutter warm-up, do exercises that are specific to the activity and your flexibility level. This is based on the SAID principle -- specific adaptation to imposed demands -- which states that your body will adapt and get better specifically at what you're training to do. For example, soccer players and muay thai kickboxers both use the kicking motion in their sport. Even though both styles of kicking, such as the instep kick in soccer and roundhouse kick in muay thai, use hip extension, flexion and some rotation, their intentions and techniques are different. Just because you're good at one type of kick doesn't mean you are also good at the other kick unless you also practice that specific kick. Thus, hip flexor and leg stretches should be specific to the skill.
- Marathon Training Guides: What is Dynamic Stretching?
- Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: Does Pre-exercise Static Stretching Inhibit Maximal Muscular Performance?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of Static Stretching for 30 Seconds and Dynamic Stretching on Leg Extension Power
- New York Road Runners: Leg Swings
- ExRx.net: Mountain Climbers
- KenHub: Iliopsoas Muscle
- Better Movement: The SAID Principle
- Capoeria World: Main Capoeira Moves
- Photo Credit Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images