Tight hips and cycling unfortunately go hand in hand. Why? Well, think about your position on the bike, with your upper body tucked forward and your legs hammering down. Your hips are contracting, but the hip flexors are never full extended. Over time, this flexed position can shorten the hip muscles, and cause all sorts of issues down the road. Hip stretches for cyclists can help prevent this shortening of the muscle, as well as counteract how much of our days we spend sitting.
What are the hip flexors?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles made up of the iliacus, psoas major, and the rectus femoris. These muscles work together to produce the hip flexation, moving the knee up towards the abdomen and down again.
The iliacus starts at the top of the pelvis and runs down to the top of the thigh bone (femur). The psoas major originates on the lumbar vertebrae and attaches to the femur. The rectus femoris is actually one of four muscles that make up the quadriceps, playing a part in both knee extension and hip flexion.
What causes tight hip flexors?
As mentioned previously, the action of cycling involves repeated hip flexion with the hip never full extending, which can cause tightness or even a shortening of the muscle over time. Prolonged periods of time sitting also contribute to tight hip flexors, such as time spent at a desk or driving.
Not only can tight hip flexors cause discomfort in your everyday life, they can also reduce your cycling performance. It can lead to lower back pain and a weakening of the glutes.
Best Hip Stretches for Cyclists
The best plan of attack to both treat and prevent tight hip flexors is regular stretching. Here are some of the best hip stretches for cyclists that you should include as part of your stretching routine. Try holding them for at least 20 seconds to start, and working up in time from there.
Beginner: Eye of the Needle
Start on your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart. Cross you left ankle over your right thigh, ensuring the ankle clears the thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back. Slowly pull your right knee in toward your chest, threading your left arm through the triangle between your legs. Try avoid creating tension in the neck and shoulders as you open the hops, so try keep a hold of the front of your shin without rounding your upper back or lifting your shoulders off the ground. If you can’t, then keep your hands clasped around your hamstring instead, or use a strap.
Once you are comfortable with the Eye of the Needle post, then you can give pigeon a try. Start on your hands and knees, bringing your right knee forward. Place your ankle somewhere in front of your left hip. The more your lower leg is parallel with the front of the mat, the more intense the hip opener. Slide your left leg back, straighten the knee and point the toes. Make sure your leg is behind your body and not drawing outwards and your heel is pointing up to the ceiling. Slowly lower yourself down and use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on a mat, putting a cushion or blanket under your right knee. Bring your left knee up so the bottom of your foot is on the floor. Extend your right leg out behind you so the top of your foot is on the floor. Shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in your hip.