Hip extension is an essential body feature and a natural part of its functionality. Most people do not pay any attention to the hip extensors (or even know they exist) until an injury occurs that requires them to attend physical therapy sessions. This knowledge of this muscle group is more popular with athletes, as this group of people is constantly monitoring their sports performance. However, this topic is also essential to regular people, especially ones who want to remain active and healthy.
By the end of this article, you will have a more explicit understanding of hip extension, why you need the hip extensors, how to strengthen them and stretch them.
What is Hip Extension?
Hip extension is what occurs when the hip joint is opened. Every time the angle between the thigh and the pelvis is increased, the hip joint is opened, hence the hip extension process is performed.
One of the most common postures that extends our hips is when we stand, and our legs move backward. Other hip extension processes take place during swimming, jumping, walking, running and most other movements involving a lower extremity.
When taking a walk or running, the forward movement of your leg causes hip flexion, while the backward movement causes hip extension. It is a natural occurrence that they are easily neglected even when exercising and they should be included within a stretching routine.
The Muscles of Hip Extension
Every time a hip extension occurs, the hamstrings and gluteus maximus are in use. The glute’s deeper layer is considered the primary part of the hip extension. The two hip extensor muscles are quite useful to maintaining a stable posture in any activity that requires the movement of your thighs and lower pelvis.
The more time that you spend seated, the more your hip extensors can become weaker. Just like if when trying to unlock the hip flexors, performing the wrong exercises can also strain or cause unwanted stretches on your hip extensor muscles, which, when damaged, can cause movement impairment and a lot of pain.
This is one of the more well-known muscles in the group, and its primary function is often to help you stand upright. You can feel it as a round muscle at the buttocks. It causes your thigh and hip to move, helping you walk, run, swim, or jump.
It also acts as a connector between your thigh bone and tail bone. When walking, this is the muscle (along with the gluteus medius) that will control how far the movement will reach. It, therefore, acts in the opposite direction as your hip flexors.
Hamstrings are made of three particular muscles, namely, the semimembranosus, the long head of the biceps femoris, and the semitendinosus. When we walk normally, these are the primary muscles which perform hip extensions. The extensor head of the adductor magnus is also a part of the hip extensor group.
They generally work together to make sure that your hip joint remains stable. Hamstrings are also responsible for helping you bend your knees. When working with the gluteus maximus, they are key to any movement involving moving the tibia backward.
Why Hip Extension Exercises Are Needed
Unless one is working with a professional trainer or fitness instructor, it is easy to overlook the importance of performing hip extension exercises.
Here are a few benefits that come with adequately exercising your hip extensors:
Improve Athletic Performance
For athletes, the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus are some of the most important muscles and so they take great care of them. When the two muscles are well exercised, they become can greatly improve an athlete’s performance and reduce the risk of injury. A great improvement can be seen in sprinting speed by creating more propulsion in running gait and also body stability while at it.
Crucial For Balance
Hip extensors are crucial muscles for body balance. They work together with your hip flexors to maintain the adequate balance between your flexing and extension movements.
It is common for people to exercise their hip flexors during a normal day even if they are unaware that they are doing so. To keep the balance, you also need to exercise your extensors, which includes exercises involves backward movement of your thighs.
Reduced Injury Risk
Stronger hip flexor and extensor muscles can mean a better posture, this also means a reduced risk of injuries around your leg extensors. When your gluteus maximus and hamstrings are not frequently exercised, they become weak and often tighter than they should be.
This leads to your back having to compensate for them and play some of their roles, which strains its functionality hence increasing the chance of pain and injuries. When you concentrate on the right exercises, it will help prevent back and other bodily injuries.
As mentioned above, weak hip extensors or those that do not have the required flexibility can means that other muscles need to compensate. Over longer periods, the extensors become fatigued and this increases the amount of work that the other supporting muscles must to also eventually causing fatigue around the entire body.
Hip Extension Exercises
Now that you understand why your extensors need a well-planned exercise routine, here are a couple of hip extension exercises that you can perform:
Standing Hip Extension
This is the easiest way to exercise your extensors. You perform this exercise using a chair or even a wall in your house. Hold the chair firmly or press your hands on the wall, then move your leg backward. Exchange the leg and repeat the process for about 20 repetitions.
Prone Hip Extensions
This type of exercise is focused on your lower body and primarily uses your extension muscles. Lay on a ball, bench or floor using your stomach while supporting the front of your torso with your hands and use your extension muscles to pull your legs away from the ground. You can do this exercise in sets of three up to ten repetitions in each.
Resistance Band Extensions
Get a tight loop band and wrap it around your legs such that both are in the band, and there is a small gap between them. Find a stable position and slowly lift one of your legs backward. Try to pull the leg as far as you can then bring it back gently. Repeat this with one leg 12 times and then do the same for the other.
Lay on the floor on your back, bend your knees with your feet well placed on the floor. Your hands should be placed on the floor or your workout mat if you have one. Now raise your buttocks from the ground until you are about to make a straight line from your knee to your back. Do these 12 to 15 times. You can add some weights to your hips for an extra challenge and improve your strength.
This is a common exercise for Pilates and yoga lovers. It only requires you to lie facing the floor or bench and do a couple of flutter kickbacks.
This almost looks like the Pilates swimming exercise. However, in this case, you will be on your fours facing the ground with your hands right below your shoulders. Lift your right leg and use your gluteus muscle to lift it towards the ceiling. Gently bring it down and do the same with your left leg. You can do 15 lifts for each side two or three times.
Hip flexors are the muscle group used to bring your leg forward. They include the psoas, rectus femoris, iliacus, sartorius and iliocapsularis muscles. The extensors move the leg backward. They include the hamstrings, gluteus maximus and adductor magnus muscles.
To stretch your hip extensors you can perform exercises such as the lunging hip flexor stretch, the kneeling hamstring stretch of the lying figure-4 stretch.
Hip extension exercises are good for loosening and strengthening the hamstring and glute muscles. These muscles are important for many activities including walking.
It is advisable to use some of these hip flexion and extension exercises once to thrice a week as alongside regular full-body exercises. Be sure to warm up before them to get ready. Also, work on your breathing throughout your extension exercises.
If you have had a previous leg, pelvic or back system injury, ask a physical therapist to help you draft a workout schedule with activities that will not cause more harm to your body. Keep practising, and you will soon be doing them easily.