Improving Running Efficiency: Hip Extension (Part 2)
Gaining Hip Extension Mobility
In Part 1 of this blog series, I discussed the importance of hip extension for running efficiency and decreasing risk for injury. In part two of three in this series, I am going to discuss a simple way to assess hip extension mobility and easy ways to improve our hip extension range of motion at home. Let's get down to business!
First and foremost, we must simply have enough hip extension mobility available. As a reminder, hip extension is when our leg travels behind us, and this motion becomes limited when the muscles along the front of our hip (our hip flexors) become tight, the hip joint itself becomes stiff, and/or our hip muscles are weak.
Our hip flexor muscles include the psoas, iliacus, pectineus, rectus femoris (part of the quadricep muscle group), sartorius, and tensor fascia lata (all shown above). These muscles become restricted for a variety of different reasons including a sedentary lifestyle, prolonged sitting, hip flexor weakness, poor posture, or performing repetitive hip flexion like running and cycling. When these muscles get tight, we lose the ability to extend our leg back into extension due to decreased flexibility of those hip flexor muscles. This becomes somewhat of a domino effect on our body. A tight and restricted hip creates a mechanical disadvantage for our gluteal muscles, and it may decrease their ability to activate properly when extending our hip. This, in turn, can increase our risk for injury by causing an over-reliance on our low back or hamstrings to compensate and also decreases our power production and propulsion during running.