Improve your Hip Flexibility with this Gentle Isometric

Tight hips are almost always linked to muscle imbalances. Addressing tightness can be as easy as a gentle isometric hold once a day.

Tight hips are often unmoved by stretching. You can do a deep couch stretch or lunge and feel temporary relief, then the tightness comes creeping back in. That’s because passive stretching does not address the underlying causes that lead to chronic tightness and it will be difficult to increase hip flexibility over time.

If you don’t address the muscle imbalances that are causing some muscles to be stressed out and overworked while other muscles are snoozing then the overworked muscles will not experience long-term relief from stretching.

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It’s like if you have a very, very stressful job with no support and you go on vacation for a week. The vacation might help you feel better while you are gone but, if you don’t address the issues at work, your stress levels will shoot right back up as soon as you get back to the grind.

Common Muscle Imbalances that Lead to Hip Tightness

Most of our hip issues come from sitting too much, wearing weird shoes, stress, and repetitive activities that bring us out of balance. The imbalance can result in a rotated pelvis, limited internal and/or external rotation, super tight hamstrings and weak hip flexors, or super tight hip flexors and weak hamstrings.

This week’s post will address the tight hip flexors/weak hamstrings issue. I’ve written about this problem a lot including my post on the work of Vladimir Janda and the double cross syndrome and my post on the correlation between anaturally flexible back and tight hips. This particular imbalance is very common in the population of hypermobility, dance, circus, pole, gymnastics, and other flexiblity fitness enthusiasts.

To summarize, when the hamstrings are sleepy they are unable to properly anchor the pelvis, resulting in an anterior pelvic tilt (butt sticks out, back bends). This puts intense compressive pressure on the hip flexors and makes the hip flexors do more of the daily work of walking, standing, and lifting the legs.

Illustration of pelvic tilt as a result of different muscle imbalances

How Overcoming Isometrics to Increase Hip Flexibility

Two weeks ago I wrote about how effective overcoming isometric exercises can be for warming up spinal flexibility for back bends. I touched on the ways that isometrics in general, and particularly overcoming isometrics, can be incredible tools for improving a muscle’s ability to shorten.

Isometric = a muscular contraction that produces no joint movement

Overcoming Isometric = a muscular contraction that produces no movement where you are pressing into an immovable object and therefore you get to decide the intensity of a contraction

Overcoming isometrics are so useful for flexibility training because they can be used to wake up muscles that are sleepy and require very gentle encouragement. When a muscle group, like the hamstrings, has been unengaged for a long time even unweighted movements can freak them out and cause them to recruit other muscles (like the hip flexors or the lower back) to help them out.

The overcoming isometric can be done at the tiniest whisper of intensity, then held for 30-60 seconds, allowing you to take the time to really feel that muscle wake up. Once it is awake it is much more likely to help you with your hip stretching goals!

If you want to try it out, check out this video tutorial that shows you how to set it up, and what to do when you are ready to go deeper.

Thanks for reading and Happy Bendings!

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