Restoring hip extension.

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If you’re sitting in a squad car all day you’re going to be short in the anterior (front) hip. Realistically you go days without bringing your hip into extension for any meaningful amount of time.  You might spend some time in neutral while standing but you spend almost no time in hip extension. When you don’t get into extension your body adapts to this flexed hip paradigm and shortens the hip flexors. When these structures get short it creates passive tension in the system and becomes a major contributor to anterior pelvic tilt, overextended lumbar spine and ultimately back pain.

My first post addresses pelvic tilt from motor control standpoint. Now it’s time to start feeding some slack into the system to relieve the passive tension that’s dumping you pelvis. Lesson one still applies, don’t forget to stabilize the trunk and pelvis as we work on extension.

Step 1 Spend more time standing- Siting too much is the problem it only makes sense that standing more mitigates the problem. When you stand you need to stand well. If you let your pelvis hang out all dumped forward and don’t level it out while you’re standing the relative position of your hip and thigh is still in flexion.

Step 2 Spend some time in the half kneeling position- Gotta do something on a table or desk? Ditch the chair when you can and go down to one knee. Get your down knee behind the hip to bring it past neutral into extension. Use some padding on the down knee if you need it.

 

Step 3 Torture yourself with the couch stretch- Simplistic and evil the couch stretch is the best way to open the front of the hips.  Kelly Starrett popularized it in the second episode of MWOD.  Think of it as a runners quad stretch on steroids and PCP.

The setup– Start on all fours and place one shin against the wall with your knee in the corner of the wall and floor. The opposite foot steps forward into a lunge position.

    

Squeezing the butt and driving the hip forward in this lunge position might be enough for starters. If this is all you can handle that’s fine. This is still extremely effective. Work from this position until you’re ready to go vertical.

The stretch- Squeeze your butt, drive off of your front foot, bring your hips forward and posture up.  The words tear open the hip come to mind here but in this case it’s a good thing.

All of the slack is pulled up by extreme knee flexion on the vertical shin. When you bring your hip to extension it’s really something special… in a painful want to throw up but still a good thing kind of way. Chances are that you will pull the knee out of the corner of the floor and wall. That’s cheating and you’re robbing yourself of maximal hip extension. Don’t be that guy.


When you’re able to keep posturing up until you can get your back upright and parallel to the wall without overextending your low back. If you get all the way up make sure your butt is still turned on and hang out for a minimum of two minutes. If you can’t squeeze your butt then back off a little bit.

If you need a little support to posture up a PVC pipe works great in this end position.

 

When to do the couch stretch

It’s a great option for cops before and after a shift. Your hip is going to be in mid range flexion for an extended period of time so prep for it then undo the damage of your shift as soon as you can.

How to super charge the couch stretch

Front foot elevation – If you want to take this stretch to a level that might be outlawed by the Geneva convention put something under the front foot to raise it up a few inches. We want quality stretching not just a circus trick here so if you can’t do this and keep your butt turned on then stick with the original recipe couch stretch for your extra crispy hip flexors.

Power band hip extension assisted torture hell– You know that spot where your butt meets the rest of your thigh? Stick a power band there and wrap the other end around something solid to assist your hip into full extension.

If you don’t have a squat rack to tie a band to then a kettlebell or a trustworthy training partner works well too.


Work on it

The couch stretch is not just something you try every now and then. I know it can suck big time but you need to take your medicine and dedicate some serious time to working on it. Several times a week if not daily is not unreasonable. Keep practicing it until you get comfortable doing it. When you got it mastered keep working on it to maintain hip function. Don’t forget you’re still sitting way too much. Full hip extension is the first half of complete hip mobility. Next week we’re going to work on some full hip flexion in the deep squat.

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