Tight hip flexors and cycling, or is it a myth? How can Pilates help.

Cyclists are renowned for tight hip flexors, or are they is a question I was asked by one of my clients recently. In short the answer is Yes but let me explain why…

First of all I need to explain what the hip flexors are, they are the muscles that pull the thigh towards the abdomen.

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Postures that maintain sustained hip flexion for example sitting can result in a shortening of the hip flexors over time.  Cycling accentuates this by placing the hips in a greater hip flexion position. Added to this, the hip flexors are used during cycling to assist the powerhouse in power production which can lead to further tightening and shortening of the hip flexors.

In cyclists, tight hip flexors can have a negative affect on performance due to reciprocal inhibition. We look at the body in opposites, if the hip flexors are tight the hip extensors (gluts) can be weak, as it creates the opposite movement. The Gluts especially Gluteus Maximus exert a lot of power in cycling, this can be dramatically affected by tight hip flexors and therefore can lead to a drop in performance.

Fortunately the hip flexors and extensors respond well to manual treatment and strengthening exercises. Within the Pilates method we spend a lot of time focussing on this muscle group as it forms a huge part of the bodies powerhouse. During my classes we will work to strengthen the gluts, which can assist in counteracting tight hip flexors.  In our preparation and closing phases, we will spend time stretching them out , however for home practice, below are some stretches that you can perform on a daily basis.

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Have you got tight hip flexors?

The most common indicator of tightness is lower back pain when moving from seated to a standing position, particularly if you’ve been seated for a while?

When cycling do you want to get out of your seat into a standing position especially if you get tired or as the intensity goes up?