STUDIO NEWS - The Back Side - Hip Extensors

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Hip Extensors
The 4 major muscles of hip extension are: Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosis & Semimembranosis (the latter 3 make up the Hamstring group), & they are assisted by the Adductor Magnus fibers that insert distally & posteriorly. Hip extension is when the femur, or thigh bone, moves away from the torso. In addition to creating hip extension, all the above mentioned muscles are also “global stabilizers” of the hip. “Global stabilizers” are 1-joint stabilizers whose main role is to control direction-specific stress & strain – picture the movement of the leg in the hip joint in walking.
Because a large portion of the population sits for an extended period during the day, the hip flexors are short & tight & the core muscles may be weakened (
see the January newsletter). As a direct result of that, the hip extensors, the muscles on the back side of the body, are often lengthened, weak & tight.
So what can you do? Regaining their flexibility is one element to the solution.  Simple hamstring stretches pictured here involve either standing with the leg slightly forward or the foot supported on a raised surface. Then keeping the spine neutral & while supporting the weight of the torso, bring the torso toward the leg & feel the lengthening of the hamstrings. This can also be done in a supine position. To stretch the gluteus maximus, sit into a figure-4, legs crossed “like a boy”. As you sit back, the glutes will stretch. This stretch is technically a Piriformus stretch, but the glutes will get lengthened as well. This can also be done in sitting or supine position.
But that just deals with returning flexibility to the muscles. You must also strengthen them to return them to health. The video highlight this month depicts a great exercise to do so on the Reformer: Elephant. The hip extensors work to push the carriage out as they shorten, and then get the added benefit of a stretch as the carriage returns. Other Pilates exercise examples are Lift & Lower on the Reformer or done supine on the Tower/Cadillac, Up Stretch on the Reformer & Hamstring Press – hips down or up – on the Stability Chair. Any of the "prone position" exercises on the Arc Barrel or Spine Corrector will work, as well as "hands on ladder" exercises on the Ladder Barrel, such as Lower & Lift, Scissors or Leg Circles, for example. Also, you can perform squats or lunges from a standing position. To emphasize hamstrings, place more weight into the heel as you lower your torso to feel the hamstrings contract. The gluteals will fire along with the quads as you return to a standing position. One of my favorite ways to work hamstrings & glutes is to do walking lunges. A trained Pilates instructor or personal trainer will help compile a lengthy list of appropriate exercises.
A final part of the rehab puzzle is to move more, sit less. There are several apps on phones & watches to remind you to get up & move more often during your day. You can also employ the age-old practice of parking further away, or skipping the car entirely when reasonable. If you need help with this issue, contact me & I’ll be happy to help!


If you have a topic or idea you'd like to see discussed in an article in the newsletter, please send it to me, pass it along in a text, or let me know next time you're in for a Pilates session.


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Video Highlight - Elephant
This is an excellent example of an exercise that both develops strength & flexibility in the hip extensors – gluteus maximus & hamstring group.
To see more videos, visit YouTube & subscribe!
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