Aerialist: Sophie Godwin, Photo by Raymond Rudolph
Why are hip flexors SO stubborn??
If you’re a circus artist concerned with improving flexibility, you probably whine and complain about your stubborn hip flexors on a semi-regular basis. Why are they so tight?? Why does hip stretching suck so much? WHY AREN’T THEY LOOSENING UP?! Let’s take a step back.
Why do we want to stretch our hip flexors? Oh, because almost every trick in circus requires some degree of hip mobility….right. Here’s a list of common tricks that require “open” hips:
OK, so basically the foundation of everything in performing arts. Cool. However, if all we ever do is stretch our hip flexors, we probably wont make a ton of progress. So, you ask…what is the KEY to life, the universe, and open hips??
Glutes. The answer to everything is always glutes.
Here is my recipe for ideal hip extension mobility (hip extension = leg behind you, as in the back leg in a split):
This means that in our split, not only do we need open hip flexors, but ALSO glutes that are stabilizing our hip in that extreme position. Our bodies are REALLY smart, and like to try to keep us injury free. If we stretch our hip flexors endlessly, but don’t spend time strengthening our glutes and other posterior hip muscles, our bodies KNOW that our hip isn’t safe in end-range extension (back leg of the splits) AND WILL TIGHTEN RIGHT BACK UP. Therefore, you may see some gains within one session, but they will likely disappear soon after if you’re not concurrently strengthening your glutes IN that end range movement. Another common clue that your glutes aren’t #circusstrong is if your active and passive flexibility are MASSIVELY different, like if you have a flat, square split on the floor, but your split in a handstand looks more like a pizza slice. If this is a pattern you’re seeing in your flexibility training, you may want to consider tweaking your stretching program.
I know, I know…the suspense is killing you! How do you strengthen your #circusbooty?! Hold tight, that info will ALL be coming your way in my next blog post.