Hip flexor strains are common injuries in fitness and athletics. Often caused by overuse, they can quickly sideline you and be quite painful if left untreated! In the early stages of the injury, we don’t want to aggravate the issue. With both a strain and a tendinopathy, there is a tearing of either the muscle or the tendon and that tear needs to heal. Unfortunately, after we sustain a tear, the new fibers want to lie back down in a disorganized pattern as opposed to the nice, parallel orientation of normal tissue. So the goal in the early phase of healing is to lengthen the soft tissues without irritating them, so when the new healthy tissue is created, it’s longer and stronger. In this subacute phase, we aren’t ready to start jumping, running, or kicking, but we’re no longer in severe pain.
We can use something called reciprocal inhibition to rehabilitate these tissues without irritating them. With reciprocal inhibition, we will fire the antagonist gluteus maximus muscle to relax and lengthen the hip flexor muscle and tendon. The hip flexors will have to work eccentrically to control the movement. With the following exercises, you do not want to push into pain! So listen to your body and go from there. Begin with the first exercise and work your way down as you’re able:
- Kneeling Hip Flexor “Stretch” – Kneel on a yoga block with the knee of the affected side and step the foot of the unaffected side forward, coming into a 90/90 Lunge. Contract the gluteus maximus and slightly posteriorly tilt the pelvis, drawing the tailbone down. Contract and relax to lengthen out the hip flexor. Repeat 15-20x.
- Kneeling Hip Extension “Stretch” – In the same position as above, begin to shift forward a bit with the contraction of the glute, allowing the hip to extend. Do not push into a painful range. Contract, shift forward, relax and return. Repeat 15-20x.
- Bridge – Lie supine with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift the hips, allowing the hips to come into a fuller range of motion. Do not push into any pain. Repeat 3×10. Option to use a block between the thighs or knees.
- Forearm Quadruped Donkey Kick – Come onto hands and knees and then lower to the forearms. Bring the knee into the chest and then press the foot back, extending the hip. Make sure you don’t dump into the lower back. Repeat 3×10.
- Supported Bridge Marching – Place a block under the sacrum in a supported bridge. Begin to march one leg and then the other, beginning to do some concentric hip flexion against gravity. Control the movement in both directions. If you have pain, you aren’t ready for this one! If it feels too easy, try it without the block. Repeat 3×10.
Click on the link to our YouTube channel below, where you can see me perform these exercises! From there, you can link to my class on LYT Daily, specifically designed for people recovering from a hip flexor strain. Let’s get that hip back in shape and get you back on the mat!