Hip extension in simple terms is the leg being able to swing behind you when you run. If there is restriction at the front of the hip ie the hip flexors being too tight, the hip won’t be able to extend.
This creates the following problems:
- The hip can’t extend so you compensate by anterior tilting the pelvis and extending the low back. This results in low back stiffness or pain.
- The front of the hip is restricted so the body protects itself and doesn’t recruit the gluteus maximus properly. The glutes get lazy so you don’t propel yourself very well, you get tighter over time and your running performance suffers.
- The pelvis starts rotating to get some stride length and this pelvis instability can give you a multitude of knee, hip and lower back problems.
So what to do?
Elite runners are always working on flexibility for the front of their hips and exercises to activate and strengthen their gluteus maximus muscles. All runners should be at a minimum doing these exercises regularly.
- Hip flexor stretches in a lunge position – The key here is to be able to stabilize your low back from extending and get a true stretch at the front of your hip.
- Bridges – Preferably single leg bridges where you can push the front of your hip up and really achieve good hip extension without lifting your chest high and just arching your back. You should be able to do 3 sets of 15 repetitions of these without your hamstring cramping.