Tight hip flexors can cause a number of problems for baseball players. Among these are changes in joint alignments and potential pain in the pelvis, hip, knee, ankle, foot and low back. Hip flexor muscle tightness has also been linked to reciprocal inhibition in the hip extensor muscles (glutes) which can limit the ability to run fast, jump high and throw hard – qualities that are essential for successful performance by all players.
There are a number of reasons that the hip flexors can become tight and one of the primary reasons is the amount of time spent in a seated position. In the seated position, the hip flexors are shortened. Over time, if the hip flexors are not returned to their normal resting length, the pelvis can tilt forward, the hamstrings can become tight, the curve in the low back can become exaggerated (lordosis) and the quality of movement in the hips and lower body can become impaired.
Considering the hours that the most working adults spend commuting to work and seated behind desks and computers, you can imagine how tight their hip flexors can get. But how do baseball players get tight hip flexors? The same way. MLB teams play a 162-game schedule with 81 of these on the road. On average, most teams make 26 flights not counting trips to and from spring training. A few of these flights are short, 1-2 hours, but each is preceded by a 45-60 minute bus ride to the airport and followed by a 45-60 minute ride to the hotel. On a relatively short flight, players can be seated for 3-5 hours. On longer cross-country flights players might be seated for 5 hours or more.
Before every game, home and away, players commute to the stadium in a seated position, sit to review video of the opposing pitchers and hitters and then sit in the dugout or bullpen for half of the game. During the other half, they are in a “ready” position on the field in which the hip flexors are shortened as they prepare to move upon the release of the next pitch. So in a typical MLB game, players are seated for 1.5-2.0 hours and in a “ready” position 135-150 times during the game plus another 30-40 minutes during batting practice and fielding drills.
So you can see how hip flexor tightness can occur even among active professional athletes and why it’s important that players do some form of work to help prevent and correct tightness in the hip flexors on a daily basis. Fortunately there are a number of therapeutic techniques (foam rolling, trigger point therapy, massage, etc.), dynamic warm-ups and static stretching exercises that players can use help prevent and/or alleviate this problem. The purpose of this post is to describe just one of the many effective stretching exercises that can help create more range of motion in the hip, allow increased glute activation and a reduce the risk of joint pain and soreness in the muscles of the low back and lower extremities.
Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch
- Affix a stretch or resistance band to a sturdy object that is knee high or lower.
- Walk back away from the anchor point of the band to create tension in the band and kneel down into a lunge position on the leg that has the band around it.
- Keeping a good upright posture, set the core, squeeze the glutes of the downward leg and allow the band to gently pull the hips forward. The forward pull of the band will pull the hip forward and create a stretch in the targeted area.
- Adjust the distance of where you kneel to create more or less tension in the band.
Ryan Stoneberg, RSCC is the Major League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the Kansas City Royals.