Are you sitting right now? Hanging in a chair for most of the day, or maybe you have to drive more than 30 minutes to work. Then you… sit… don’t lie… I know you do. If that’s the case, you’re slowly hurting your low back and limiting your athletic potential. Your hip flexors are becoming short and weak when in this sitting position. Yes, flexors, you have three of them: psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris. Now why is this going to limit your athletic performance?
Your psoas (most common problem) is a unique muscle that connects your spine to your leg. It originates from the lumbar spine and travels down to attach to the top of your femur. This muscle is unique in a sense that it is the only muscle to attach onto discs in your back. Every time you bring your knee towards your chest you activate the muscle and every time you extend your hip backwards it stretches. This may not mean a lot to your athletic performance right now but it will.
When you’re sitting too much during the day and that psoas muscle gets short and weak it does a couple things. Because it’s weak it limits the ability of your hip to extend. That means every time you step, run, or throw someone with an uchi mata you’re not able to perform to your maximum. Well if your hip isn’t able to extend your body will find that movement somewhere else. Most of the time your body will find the movement in your low back. Well too much movement there creates instability which leads to pain. When the psoas is chronically shortened it’s also much weaker through the range of motion. This means your body is weak when bringing your knee to your chest. This will limit sprinting, jumping, and aggressive guard pulling. So what can we do about it?
We need to address the two issues: length and strength. If you’re sitting a lot then we can address length fairly easily. By sliding to one side of your chair you can hang your leg down next to your chair and walk your toes back as if you were in a lunge. This allows you to still work on your computer as you get a nice stretch in (I’m currently doing this as I type). The key to getting a good stretch here is activating your glutes on the side that you’re stretching. You can also recreate this without a chair by simply lunging with a knee on the ground.
The second problem is strength through FULL RANGE OF MOTION. This is a little harder to achieve than just a simple stretch. One way we can address this is by lying on our back and anchoring a band from our foot to a stable object. Pull your knee towards your chest and slowly lower it all the way back down as the band offers resistance.
These two simple changes in your daily routine are a great way we can address poor function through the hips and increase your athletic capabilities.