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Practical Self-Stretch to Enhance Hip Flexor ROM and Function

Professional and collegiate baseball players spend a lot of time before, during, after and between games with their hip flexors in a shortened position which has been shown to inhibit the actions of the hip extensors (recripocal inhibition) and increase the compensatory stress on the muscles that assist with hip extension (synergistic dominance), especially the muscles of the low back and hamstrings. The primary causes for hip flexor shortening in most athletes are sitting and prolonged periods of time in a “ready” position.

Before games professional players sit at their lockers, sit in the clubhouse and/or sit in the training room while collegiate players sit in the dining hall, classroom, library, lab, clubhouse, dorm room or apartment. During games, both collegiate and professional players are in the “ready” position while on the field and in a seated position on the bench or bullpen when not in the game.

After home games, collegiate players assume a seated position in the study hall, library or dorm room while professionals drive home where many sit and watch TV for an hour or more while waiting to unwind. After road games, collegiates endure moderate to long bus rides back to campus and professionals ride back to the hotel where they play Call to Duty or some other video game to unwind. On get away (travel) days, most minor league players ride a bus to the site of the next game. Major Leaguers take a bus to the airport and board a plane for a 2-4 hour flight to the next city where they take another bus ride to the hotel or home stadium from which drive home.

Before outlining a practical hip flexor stretching program, it’s important to provide a brief explanation of why tight hip flexors have a negative effect on player performance and safety. Muscles work in opposing pairs, agonist and antagonist. In order for the agonist to contract effectively, the antagonist must relax. In the hip, the hip flexor muscles (iliacus and psoas) are antagonists to the hip extensors (glutes). When the hip flexors are tight, the strong, powerful glutes can’t contract effectively (reciprocal inhibition) which forces the weaker, less powerful synergistic muscles for hip extension (low back and hamstrings) to compensate for the stronger, more powerful glutes (synergistic dominance).

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