There is one telltale sign that the hip flexors have hijacked movement.
Lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and a whole host of other problems can be reactions from the hip flexor dominating movement.
All of the muscles attached to our bones need movement and stimulation to work well.
The more a muscle is used, the stronger it gets and the better it functions. As great of a feature as this is, it can work against us.
Adaptation becomes maladaptive when a few muscles learn to take over other muscles jobs and roles.
Adaptation doesn’t just affect the highly active muscles, it also affects the inactive muscles as well. When a muscle is barely used, it adapts to the lack of stimulus and weakens. The body brilliantly saves resources by diverting blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles that are used the most, leaving the muscles barely used to further weaken.
The hip flexors are no exception to adaptation. These powerful muscles aide in the movement of our legs like many other muscles such as the quads. However, unlike the other muscles of the legs which are used when you walk around, the hip flexors are also used when sitting while the other leg muscles are inactive.
Hour after hour as we sit, the hip flexors are put to work while the leg muscles take a vacation.
At the end of the day when it’s time to move, your body has greater access to the hip flexors than it does the idle quads; the hip flexors are primed to hijack whatever movement comes next.
The telltale sign of hip flexors hijacking movement can be seen in your hip, knee, and foot position while walking (fig 2).
As the hip flexors take over and the quads weaken, the hip, knee, and foot start to externally rotate which further diverts all responsibility to the hip flexor as the rest of the leg muscles bum a free ride.
This externally rotated force being created at the hip creates a twisting torsion effect on the knee which over time begins to wear down the cartilage unevenly and creates ‘hot spots’ of friction. Instead of the entire cartilage surface supporting knee movement, only small acute areas absorb all of the force from the knee joint being misaligned. Think of a tire wearing unevenly and balding in some spots more than others.
With the knee and hip rotated externally, this points the foot outwards. Walking forwards with your foot pointed outwards forces the arches to collapse. Now most of the walking motion is happening in the collapsing arches and not the ankle joint. This leads to further stiffness in the ankle joint due to the limited motion the ankle goes through with each step.
As the arches collapse, the knee twists, and the hip rotates, the pelvis has to figure out how to manage this problem. In most cases, the pelvis responds to this problem by tipping forward (anterior tilt). If one hip flexor works more than the other or one hip rotates externally more than the other, the one side of the pelvis will elevate which can create a functional leg length discrepancy. This leads to other movement problems, but to keep this article simple and on the surface, let’s stay on subject here.
Seeing how everything is connected, the spine can’t sit this problem out. In a response to the rotated hip, tilted forward pelvis, and overactive hip flexor, the lower back is going to get pulled into extension further as the arch is increased; otherwise known as excessive lordosis. Again if the hips are imbalance, the spine will not only arch, but it will start curving to the side.
The mid-back (thoracic) vertebra will respond by flexing (rounding) forward to help counter-balance the excessive arch in the back. The middle of the back will slump and round forward and the shoulders will respond by doing the same thing; rounding forward. If one hip flexor is working harder than the other, one side of the pelvis is higher than the other, then typically one shoulder will tend to elevate higher to help counter-balance all of the imbalances happening below.
The head and neck can’t sit this problem out either; both of these structures have to sit on top of all of this. I usually hate using building or car analogies, but it’s appropriate here. Imagine a building sitting on top of a crooked foundation – what chance does that top floor have at being level and stable? The same question goes for the head and neck in this scenario. What chance does the neck (cervical spine) and head have functioning the way they should?
The neck curve will do one of two things; it will either straighten out (rare) or it will curve more just like the lower back is doing. The neck typically mirrors and responds to what the lower spine does. Think of the neck and the lower back as two ends of a bookshelf. When one end leans one way, so does the other. So if the lower back is excessively arched, so will the neck.
The head typically collapses forward in front of the shoulders at this point because it has little to no support coming from the rest of the body. This places excessive strain on the neck muscles now having to prop the head up while it’s held forward instead of just keeping the head balanced over the shoulders.
Long story short, when the hip flexors hijack motion, it creates chaos with the rest of the body.
This is where our special movement routines come into the picture. Everything you just read above can be restored with enough practice and patience.
Luckily all of those dormant muscles that have become weak and inactive from years if not decades of misuse didn’t go anywhere; they are all still there. Waiting to reminded of how to work.
Our Movement Program is 52 weeks long and is designed to systemically wake up those dormant muscles and revitalize their function while simultaneously relaxing the muscles that have been taking over for years.
Everyone goes through the same program, but no two people go through it the same way.
Our program dynamically changes to what help you specifically feel and move better. Plan on spending 15-25 minutes a day at the start and building a routine from there.
It’s never a question of if this program can help you move better, it’s a matter of how strong is the problem you have and how long it takes to unwind that problem.
The more severe the problem, the stronger the imbalance, the worse the dysfunction, the more time it will take to restore your movement.
If you are interested in making a change in your life, I don’t mean learn a couple of helpful exercises here or there – I mean truly change your life; then this program is for you.
My main intention is to teach you a skillset of how to understand your movement and teach you how to change it so you can take care of yourself long term for the rest of your life.
I would be honored to have you join me and the thousands of others who are learning how to show up daily and give their body the movement it needs.