By Jeff Alexander, NASM-CPT, CF-L1
All movement begins in the core, and your hip flexors are at the center of that important nexus. These muscles tend to grow short and tight on most of us due to the sheer amount of time spent sitting in the car, at work or on the couch. You won’t feel it in your hips, but the back muscles that must fight the tightness will start to revolt. Once you restore normal length to your hip flexors, your posture will be better, back tightness will be minimized, and you will notice an easier time standing up with a heavy deadlift or squat load because your back, glutes and hamstrings are not fighting your tight hip flexors as well as the weight on the bar. One of the best ways to regain hip mobility is the supported corpse.
Lie flat on your back with a roller or block under your buttocks to support your hip bones, remaining motionless for up to five minutes. If you can’t relax, use a smaller support like a yoga block.
If your lower back gradually begins to grow tighter while you lie on the roller, bend both your knees. When your back relaxes, straighten your legs again.
After five minutes of lying on the support, keep your shoulders on the floor (this is extremely important) and gently lift your hips off the roller or block. If you experience any pain when practicing the supported corpse, you are using a support that’s too high. Start with a shorter lift and gradually work your way to a 6-inch lift. You’ll know you’re ready for a taller lift when you don’t feel any “funkiness” as you get off the support.
Gently drop your knees to either side and lightly stretch your legs before you sit up and load your spine. It should take only 15 to 30 seconds to be ready to stand.
Get up and walk around. Your back should feel less stiff, and you should be able to stand up a little straighter, with your hips a little more open on the front and moving a little easier through all normal ranges of motion. If you feel stiffer or tighter when you get up, that means the support you were using was too tall.
Practice the supported corpse every day that you feel tension in your lower back or tightness across the front of your hips while lying on the support. When you no longer feel any tension in any muscles along your hips or back after five minutes on the support, add one inch. When the 6-inch support no longer feels like a stretch, then go to an assessment schedule of practicing the supported corpse once every two weeks. Return to the supported corpse whenever your back aches or you feel tightness in your hips.
Practice the “marching corpse.” Slowly pull one knee toward your chest while you keep the other leg straight for 30 seconds to get an even deeper stretch in the hip flexors of your extended leg.
Jeff Alexander is a renowned expert on self-myofascial release who teaches his style of functional therapy all over the world. He and his wife own Network Fitness in Irvine, Calif.