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Stair climbing is an efficient aerobic exercise that also strengthens your quads, calves, glutes and a variety of other muscles. Although simply walking or running up a staircase is not going to loosen your hip flexors, you can use the stairs to perform a variety of dynamic or static stretches to help relieve tight hip muscles.
Introducing the Hip Flexors
The hip flexors include the iliopsoas muscles in your hips and lower back, plus the sartorius, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae and pectineus in your thighs. The rectus femoris is part of your quadriceps group, which is the targeted muscle when you walk up stairs, so stair walking does help strengthen one of the hip flexors. The hip flexors primarily activate when you raise your knees toward your chest.
Raise Your Arms
To perform a dynamic hip-flexor stretch, stand in front of the bottom step and place your right foot on the third or fourth step, so the foot is a bit higher than your left knee. Turn your left foot slightly so the toes point toward your right foot. This puts you in position to stretch the left hip flexors. In the starting position, your right shin should be vertical, your left leg fairly straight but not locked and your arms should be extended in front of you, parallel with the floor. Perform the stretch by raising your arms so they're extended toward the ceiling. At the same time, push your hips forward while keeping your feet in place. Hold the stretch for one second and then return to the starting position to complete one repetition. Perform 15 to 20 reps and then repeat the stretch with the opposite leg.
Rotate Your Torso
Begin in the same starting position as the arm-raising stretch, with your arms extended forward, to do another dynamic stretch. Keep your feet in place and your arms extended as you rotate your torso as far as possible to the right. Pause for a second and then return to the starting position. Turn your head along with your torso to help maintain your balance, or keep your head fairly still to shift some emphasis to your lower-back muscles. Do 15 to 20 reps, place your left leg on the step and repeat the exercise to your left. Do dynamic hip flexor stretches before a workout, but after a five- to 10-minute aerobic warm-up.
Perform a Side Bend
For more stretching variety, place your legs in the same starting position as the rotational stretch, but put your right hand on your right knee and raise your left arm toward the ceiling. Bend from the hips as you lean your torso as far as you can to your right. Move your left arm in sync with your torso. Maintain the position for a second and then return to an upright posture. Do 15 to 20 reps to the right, switch legs and do the same number of stretches to the left.
Static Hip-Flexor Stretch
Perform a static hip-flexor stretch by putting your legs in the same starting position as the dynamic stretches. Place your hands on your hips and then lunge forward slowly by bending your front knee, while keeping your torso upright. Lunge as far as you comfortably can and then hold the stretch for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat the stretch with the opposite leg. Perform the static stretch after a workout.
About the Author
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.