Having excellent hip flexion means being able to abduct, adduct, extend, and rotate the hips freely with ease and great range of motion, especially with a weight under your back. If you have tight hip flexors, anterior pelvic tilt, and/or can’t squat below parallel, you will need to work on your hip flexor mobility. Here’s some effective way to do just that.
Hip flexion is the technical term for a decrease in joint angle between the femur and pelvis. This occurs from either side of the joint, by raising the leg towards the abdomen – like when you run – or by lowering the upper body toward the leg – like when you squat down.
If you want to have any chance of squatting below parallel with a weight on your back, then you’re going to need at least 110-125 degrees of hip flexion. Achieving full squat depth with anything less than full range of motion at the hip requires your body to make a number of biomechanical compromises.
Following the joint-by-joint approach, when the hip lacks flexion, the joints above it (the lumbar spine), and below it (the knee) will overcompensate to make up the difference.1
If you sit down at your job all day, and for the most part live a sedentary or inactive lifestyle, you may have anterior pelvic tilt (APT), which means your hips are rotated forward. In physical appearance, a person with APT will normally have their glutes pointed back and a belly pooch even with low body fat. One of the best ways to fix APT is with hip flexor stretches in order to over time rotate the hips back into the correct position. Strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, abdomenals and obliques – four major inactive muscles that allow APT to develop – will correct APT. Stretching the tight muscles like the quads will allow the hips to sink lower into a squat before being tightened from knee to hip.2
One of the best solutions to the problem of APT or inflexible hips in general is “more squats,” but this doesn’t address the hip tightness that prevents one from properly squatting below parallel. If you’re not squatting to at least parallel, you’re wasting your time and hurting yourself over the long-term.
Hip flexor, quadricep, and hamstring stretches will open up the hips and activate the hamstrings and glutes so that you can squat below parallel. Try the stretches listed below and hold each position about a minute, or at least 30 seconds and oscilate your hips in multiple directions while holding each stretch. Your hips will open up and you’ll have the mobility to perform a full ass to grass squat.
Anterior pelvic tilt will take weeks if not months of mobility stretching and strength training of the posterior chain to correct, but with these stretches, you’ll notice immediate short-term results in your hip flexion mobility.