SOS My Hips are Tight!
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
True or False: Back flexibility is all about bending in your lower back.
True: Hip flexibility, shoulder flexibility and thoracic mobility are ACTUALLY the key to back flexibility. When you push into your upper back, you will notice the lower back actually LENGTHENS and takes the pressure off of the lumbar spine. I once had a teacher say “it’s all in the hips”...and I have never felt that more than as an adult dancer getting back in the game.
HOW DO I IMPROVE MY HIPS, ALEX?
Well, I can tell you this right now. You have heard this all before. There is no magic method and there is no quick fix...BUT it is the combination of several approaches over a long period of time that truly gets your hips goin’.
Improving Hip Flexibility 101
Always do cardio first to elevate your heart rate before stretching. Sounds simple, but very important. DO NOT SKIP OR SKIMP ON CARDIO. Or you are practically wasting your time. I do a 2 hour warm up before these puppies are really at their full stretch.
Stretching = muscles being used to certain positions. The more often you do it, the more normal it is for your muscles and therefore, the better you get. If you consistently tense up, hold yourself up, freak out, don’t breathe....it will never be comfy for you. So fix it!
Massage those bad boys. Add in self-massage, massage therapy, and myofascial release with a therapy ball such as T-Spheres or a good ole fashioned lacrosse ball into your routine. It feels great and works wonders.
Vary your stretching types. PNF and dynamic stretching are your friend. Static and ballistic are a little less helpful, but useful when used correctly. Know that stretching before a class/workout is for injury prevention, while stretching AFTER is for increasing flexibility. If you skip the post-sweat stretch, then I call it an opportunity missed. Just take 5 minutes and let people stare at you in the gym. They are just jealous! Then, and only then, go order your sugary protein smoothie and take a warm shower.
Use yoga blocks and yoga straps. Seriously, yoga is the bomb.com. There is a reason so many people love it. The use of yoga blocks brings the ground up to you, so you don’t have to struggle just to properly hold the stretch with CORRECT ALIGNMENT. The same goes for straps (or a jump rope). If you are so busy hunching over, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the stretch.
Go to a yoga class. Nuff said.
Go to a pilates reformer or a megaformer class. Your slow twitch muscles will thank you. They will scream first, then thank you. Stretch immediately after class.
Resistance bands are your friend, too.
Foam rollers are a great way to get in there to release tight muscles. I am supposed to foam roll every night according to my PT (I mean...that’s asking a lot, but if I did it, I am sure I would be better off).
Ask a partner to help intensify stretches. Make sure you move slowly and only go to the point of tension. I once had a friend drop my leg and my hamstring audibly snapped. Breathe through it (audibly). Massage the muscles.
Study each body part that surrounds your hip...then isolate them for optimal targeted stretching. Piriformis...IT band...Illiopsoas....hip flexors...quads...glutes... hamstrings....groin...etc. Apparently your body is all connected, so you actually have to pay attention to everything around your hips. Who knew?
Stretch on an incline. Elevated surfaces can really help you get deeper in to the stretch, while sometimes the floor cannot. Gravity will work better for you. (Ex. oversplits and pike sitting on a yoga block)