Last Updated: February 6th, 2021
You are trying hard to improve your pace, but not able to…you are not suffering from fatigue and you are taking proper care of your nutrition. Then what can it be? If you are still wondering…here is the answer…this slowness may be due to your tight hip flexors…and they may be making you a slow runner…
Are tight hip flexors making you a slow runner?
Yes, tight hip flexors are making you a slow runner because it will reduce your stride length and the power generated by your extensor muscles. It will limit your hip extension during the moving forward phase of your running gait. Also, it can cause muscle imbalances and may mess with your running form.
That doesn’t sound very good…does it? But how exactly tight hip flexors slow you down and what can you do to improve their flexibility…
How tight hip flexors is related to your slow running?
Hip flexors are a group of muscles, namely:
- Psoas major muscles
- Iliacus muscle
- Rectus femoris muscle
- Pectineus muscle
- Sartorius’s muscle
They work together to provide you with the required hip and leg movements for running.
They pull your thigh forward when you move forward and extend your hips to help you propel forward.
Also, when you lengthen your stride and increase your stride frequency, these are the muscles that come into play.
However, when you run you are regularly shortening these muscles, but never lengthening them.
Eventually, they become tight, and as a direct result, your stride length and your stride rate decrease.
In other words, your running becomes slow.
How can you make your hip flexors flexible?
So, naturally, if you want to pick up speed, you need to improve your hip flexors’ flexibility and strength.
Yoga is by far, one of the best ways to pick up flexibility and strengthing your hips.
It can be as gentle as you want them to be and simultaneously as powerful as you need them to be.
Do, these poses at least 3 times a week.
Here are the poses that you need to do:
- Happy Baby Pose
- Thread the needle
- Half pigeon
- Low lunges
- Crescent Moon
- Camel pose
- Bridge Pose
- Hero Pose (initially with a block, if needed)
Some of these yoga poses are very intense and you should take help from an instructor before trying them.
If you have never tried yoga and want to do it at home, Yoga Burn will help you to strengthen your hips and improve their flexibility in the gentlest way possible.
Also, in the process, it will teach you to significantly lose weight and keep it at bay which is another reason for bad hips.
But nonetheless, you will have to shell out a few bucks from the pocket at first – however, it is a very affordable course and is backed by 60 days money-back guarantee.
If you don’t want to spend on an instructor or a class, this one will work out cheaper. You can raise a refund request anytime after you have learned the hip strengthening techniques.
Why runners have tight hip flexors?
When you run, your hip flexors shorten to give you that forward motion.
However, since running involves only one kind of movement, your hip flexors don’t get a chance to expand.
This repetitive shortening and coming back to a neutral position, causes your hip flexors to tighten.
Also, among the other factors that contribute to your hip flexor tightness is your weak glutes.
Most of the runners (including me) don’t focus much on strengthening our glutes.
The third reason for tight hips is that we sit a lot.
Yep, that’s true…your hip flexors become tight due to a sedentary lifestyle.
So, all these factors come together to give a runner like you and me, tight hip flexors.
What are the symptoms of tight hip flexors?
There are a lot of symptoms that can tell you whether your hip flexors are tight or not.
Here are the symptoms to watch out for:
- Sudden sharp pain in the hips.
- A clamping or clenching sensation in the muscles of the upper legs.
- A dull persistent discomfort.
- You have a limited range of motion like you have difficulty bending down.
Do you have a fake tight hip flexor?
Well, this is not actually fake. Many of the symptoms related to tight hip flexors are common in other hip problems as well.
However, the majority of the time, hip flexors are blamed for these symptoms.
Here is an easy test to find out if you have tight hip flexors or not. This test is popularly known as the modified Thomas test:
- You would need a table for this.
- Sit with your hips close to the edge so that the lower half of your thigh is hanging off the edge of the table.
- Also, see to it that your feet are dangling and not touching the floor.
- Now lay back on the table.
- Now flatten your lower back onto the table.
- Lift your left knee closer to your chest. You are trying to achieve a 90 to 120-degree angle here.
- The right leg should be laying relaxed on the table making a 70 to 90-degree angle with its knee.
- Now start pulling your left leg towards your chest.
- If you notice that your right leg is not able to hold the position, then this means you have some tightness somewhere in the upper leg or hip flexor.
- Now straighten your right leg and try to put it down without bending your knee.
- If you can do that, you don’t have a tight hip flexor on the right-hand side.
- Now repeat the entire process starting with the right leg bent.
- Also, remember to always keep your lower back on the table surface.
- Otherwise, the entire test will lose its effectiveness.
It is easier to follow along a video to perform this test, so here is the video for that:
Does stretching hip flexors help you run faster?
Yes, stretching your hip flexors will help you to run faster.
This is how…
Stretching improves the flexibility of your hip flexors and eliminates their tightness.
This means that your hip mobility will improve and it will be able to extend itself better.
Also, when you are lifting up your leg, you will be able to go higher and when you are putting it down, you will be able to stretch it further.
So automatically, your stride length will increase and so will your stride rate (number of strides per minute).
In other words, you will start running faster.
Does running loosen hip flexors?
No, running doesn’t loosen your hip flexors.
When you are running your hip flexors are getting shortened and going back to their normal.
However, there is no counter-movement of stretching of hip flexors when you are running.
So, it forces your hip flexors to tighten and it doesn’t have any chance of losing up if you don’t do stretching.
Is walking good for tight hip flexors?
No, walking is not good for tight hip flexors.
It will have the same effect as running and will further tighten your hip flexors.
Only stretching can release your hip flexors.
As mentioned in the above answer, yoga stretches can work wonders on your tight hips.
Reference the above answer for the list of yoga poses that are most beneficial for your hip flexors.
If you perform them religiously, you should be able to see a noticeable difference within a couple of weeks.
Also, you will get a significant reduction in the hip or lower back pain, if any.
Niemuth, Paul E., et al. “Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 15.1 (2005): 14-21.
Fredericson, Michael, Curtis L. Cookingham, Ajit M. Chaudhari, Brian C. Dowdell, Nina Oestreicher, and Shirley A. Sahrmann. “Hip abductor weakness in distance runners with iliotibial band syndrome.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 10, no. 3 (2000): 169-175.
Wang, S. Sharon, et al. “Lower extremity muscular flexibility in long distance runners.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 17.2 (1993): 102-107.
Thijs, Y., Pattyn, E., Van Tiggelen, D., Rombaut, L. and Witvrouw, E., 2011. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363546511407617. The American journal of sports medicine, 39(9), pp.1877-1882.
McBeth JM, Earl-Boehm JE, Cobb SC, Huddleston WE. Hip muscle activity during 3 side-lying hip-strengthening exercises in distance runners. Journal of athletic training. 2012 Jan;47(1):15-23.
Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.