I have just been reading through an article titled "Athletes with hip flexor tightness have reduced gluteus maximus activation".
This is a fantastic example of Reciprocal Inhibition.
According to the dictionary "Reciprocal inhibition describes the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint."
In a nutshell this means that if one side contracts then the other side has to relax. Reciprocal Inhibition also works in the sense that if one muscle is overly contracting all the time then the opposing muscle will gradually become weaker because it's being inhibited all the time.
But the conclusion that the author then came to was that we need to stretch the hip flexors to allow the glutes to become activated.
But what I have come to find is that those people with 'tight' hip flexors have usually spent an unbelievable amount of time stretching their hip flexors. The results? The hip flexors tighten even more.
Personally, if my clients have followed all the mainstream advice like the one above I mix things up a little.
Instead of getting my clients to strengthen their glutes I get them to RELEASE them (They can strengthen them later when the muscles are working correctly.)
And instead of getting clients to stretch their hip flexors I get them to STRENGTHEN them.
The results? Their hip flexors are no longer 'tight'.
So why does this happen?
It's my guess that the glutes are in a low grade spasm (Think trigger points). As a result the glutes are in a constant state of contraction.
Remember reciprocal inhibition? If the glutes are constantly contracting the hip flexors must constantly relax (and become weaker from not being worked).
As the hip flexors don't work the way they should the joint becomes unstable. The body compensates by causing the hip flexors to 'tighten'.
This is theory. We can never really know for sure.
But what I do know is that for the majority of my clients who have issues here, stretching their hip flexors is one of the worst things they can do.
If the joint is already feeling vulnerable, then stretching it will make it even worse.
So if your hip flexors are 'tight' and stretching them doesn’t work, try strengthening them instead
Because if it's 'tightness' is there to make the joint more stable, do you really want to take that stability away by stretching it?
Just a thought!