The hip flexor is actually made up of 2 different muscles: Psoas Major/Minor and Iliacus.
As you can see, the Psoas muscle comes from spinal attachments. And Iliacus comes from internal hip boney attachments. So why are they “iliopsoas”, one muscle?
Because they essentially fuse once they cross the hip joint.
BUUUUUUUUUT, this makes it that much more complicated of a muscle group where core work is concerned.
A weak or tight psoas muscle can cause one side of your pelvis to tip forward. This is called an anterior innominate and it ain’t right.
It can also cause a twisting motion to happen because the muscle attachments are at an angle from the spine to the hip. Double ouch.
The Iliacus is a whole different beast. It attaches on the inside of your hip wing (Ilium) and then shares a common attachment with the psoas on your femur (thigh bone) at the lesser trochanter.
Can you see how if these muscles are tight or weak that they might affect your core? And your gait, right? Huge. These two muscles are not just straight up and down and they have big jobs in multiple movements of the trunk and legs.
Here’s how to keep these hip flexors happy and healthy:
1. Pelvic tilts (Beginner)
Lying on your bed or another soft, level surface, place a pillow under your knees. WITHOUT PUSHING INTO YOUR FEET (tip, put something under your feet that you don’t want to crush, ie. your phone), draw your belly button toward your spine. Slowly return to neutral.
Repeat 10 times WITHOUT SQUEEZING YOUR BUTT. And remember, don’t put any weight in your feet.
2. Heel slides (Intermediate)
Lying on the floor with your socks on and knees bent, slowly allow one leg to straighten and pull it back to being bent WITHOUT LETTING YOUR HIP HIKE. You can place your hands on your headlights so you can feel them move.
How not to let them move? Suck your belly button in and go slowly.
3. Straight leg raises (Advanced)
Lying on a flat surface with one leg straight and one knee bent, lift your straight leg as high as you can WITHOUT PUSHING INTO YOUR FOOT OR HIKING YOUR HIP.
Doing these exercises correctly is the key. You can do this stuff and throw your leg around easily. BUT can you do it without hiking your hip or squeezing your butt?
If you feel wimpy for doing just the pelvic tilts, don’t. They are like the ballet of hip flexor exercises. You have to perfect and maintain your form with the pelvic tilts in order to do ANY other hip flexor exercise. This is why I suggest doing them no matter how strong you get.
(PS. All my new moms NEED to be doing pelvic tilts and heel slides, especially C-section mamas!)
Let’s make strong, happy hips, shall we?
Now go out and run!