• Lionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Hip Strengthening For Soccer Players | Part III - Hip Flexion | Weston | Florida


Introduction


We continue with our series on Hip Strengthening Exercises for Soccer Players and today we will focus on the anterior part of the hip, more specifically your hip flexors



What is Hip Flexion ?


Hip flexion is when the thigh moves up towards the chest using the hip joint as the center of movement.

In soccer, The hip flexors are very important engines for sprinting , kicking and change of directions


Anatomy of hip Flexion



The two most important Hip flexors: IlioPsoas and Rectus Femoris



The hip Flexor muscles include

  • Psoas major muscle: The psoas muscle is a deep muscle that connects your spine to your leg. In fact, it's the only muscle that does so. It runs from your lower back through your pelvis, passing to the front of your hip where it attaches to the top of your femur, which is your thigh bone.

  • Iliacus muscle: The iliacus is a flat, triangular muscle that lies deep within your pelvis. It attaches from your pelvis to your thigh bone (femur). Its primary action is to flex and rotate your thigh.

  • Rectus femoris muscle: This muscle is one of the four quadriceps muscles, attaching your pelvis to the patellar tendon of your knee. Squats and lunges exercise the rectus femoris.

  • Pectineus muscle: The pectineus muscle is a flat, quadrangular muscle that lies at the top of your inner thigh, often referred to as your groin muscle. It's primarily responsible for hip flexion, but it also rotates your thigh and adducts, which means it pulls your legs together when the muscles contract.

  • Sartorius muscle: The sartorius muscle is a long thin muscle that runs down the length of your thigh from your pelvis to your knee. It's the longest muscle in the human body and helps flex the knee and leg.




Why having tight hip flexors can lead to injuries


There are many reason why Hip flexors can be stiff , weak and tight:

  • Sitting all day at work or a sedentary lifestyle can lead to having weak and tight hip flexors as they are always in the shortened position.

  • Sports that require repetitive sprinting, kicking or constant change of direction ( football, soccer , rugby , hockey ) can also increase your risk of having a Hip flexor injury.

  • Muscle tightness has been associated with muscle injuries or postural imbalances that overload joints or tissues creating an injury



Hip Flexor Tightness and Hip Flexor Injuries


It easy to associate increased tightness in the hip flexors with Hip flexor injuries. When a muscle is tight it can easily get pulled with extreme movements like long kicks , sprinting or change of directions. Actually these are the most common reason for Hip flexor Strains where the muscle tears due to excessive pulling from it.



Hip Flexor Tightness and Low Back Pain



When IllioPsoas muscle is short in length, it "pulls" from the lumbar spine and pelvis creating a high arch in your lower back and an anterior tilt of the pelvis.

Hyperlordosis and tight Hip flexors puts a lot of strain in the lumbar vertebras that overtime leads to disc problems or degenerative changes.



Hip flexor tightness and Hip pain

Tight hip flexors can limit the amount of hip extension putting the hip joint in a disadvantageous position that will overload other hip muscle to compensate for the deficit. For example, lack of hip extension due to increased tightness in the hip flexors, will force the body to obtain hip extension from another muscle group. The most common compensation for this problem will be using more your Adductor Group increasing the risk for an Adductor Strain or Groin pain

Same concept, tight hip flexors leads to anterior pelvic tilt which increase the load on the opposite hamstrings to try to avoid the pelvis from excessive tilting leading to Hamstrings strains.



We have the solution for weak or tight Hip flexors


Research has shown (Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Nov; 9(6): 785–797. ) that tightness is always associated with weakness: A tight muscle is a weak muscle that gets tight because it can not control or support the demands on it. The best example of this tightness / weakness relationship is the IllioPsoas muscle, always tight and always weak


So the best treatment for your tight hip flexors is no other than Hip flexor Mobility and Strengthening drills, with one caveat, strong and active core. Remember these muscles attach to the pelvis and lumbar spine so we need a strong core and a neutral lumbar spine to serve as fix end where the Psoas can pull the hip in flexion, increasing its efficiency.




Hip Flexors Exercises


Hip flexor Mobility in Half-Kneeling


For a detail explanation of this exercise See our previous Blog on Hip mobility workouts






Hip flexor Mobility in Standing


For a detail explanation of this exercise See our previous Blog on Hip mobility workouts



Hip flexor Strengthening at 90/90 with core Activation



Rationale: Create a contraction of the Abdominals and Hip Flexors synchronically which will make you more tolerable to Hip Flexor activation to promote healing with less pain.


Setup

  • Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor or on the Swiss Ball.

  • Tighten your abdominals and lift one leg up to a 90 degree angle, then lift your other leg to the same position and hold, keeping your abdominals tight. Then lower each foot in the same order to the Ball or the floor if you don’t have a Ball.


Hip flexor Isometric with Hand Resistance



Rationale: Increase the Strength of the hip Flexor


Setup

  • Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor.

  • Bend one leg up to a 90 degree angle and place your hand on your knee. Try to bend your leg toward your chest, but resist the movement with your hand.

  • Make sure to keep your trunk stiff and do not arch your low back during the exercise.



Conclusion


  • Hip Flexion exercises can offer many benefits from Hip and Pelvic stabilization necessary for sports to resolve or prevent Low back pain, Groin Pain

  • Exercises you can do to improve hip flexion strength include: mobility drills to increase length of muscle and Isometrics to restore strength

  • Soccer players need strong but at the same time very mobile Hips.

  • Today I showed you the importance of hip Flexion for this sport.

  • You have now a couple of very good exercises to increase or maintain the strength of your anterior hip muscles.

  • You will feel stronger and quicker once you do these Drills



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