When you are born you’re practically as flexible as a boneless children’s toy. Throughout the teenagers and mid-20s you still consider yourself indestructible and there’s nothing that you can do that really bothers you, although you might gain some weight but realistically everything else never crosses your mind. Slowly in your 30s you begin to realise that you don’t recover as fast, you get injured faster, you need longer to recover and you tend to feel stiffer than you can ever remember.
“Range of motion is the capability of a joint to go through its complete spectrum of movements.”
This is the time when you have to take action…. the longer you wait the harder it will become. The longer you wait to regain the range of motion it seemed so easy to have as a child and as a teenager the harder it will be to re-gain. One thing is for sure however, having it, being able to move properly will greatly reduce your risk of injury and make you feel younger and better. So today will specifically look at hip flexibility, because let’s face it we spent a lot of the day just sitting down.
Why the hips?
Think about what you spend most of your day doing? If you’re anything like the rest of population it’s probably sitting down. We sit down to commute, sit down to work and sit down to relax and watch tv. As we age our hips lose range of motion and we start moving progressively worse. We begin to move like an “old” person.
The lack of flexibility make you bend forward rather than descend smoothly, you know the movement I’m talking about.
An additional point to consider is that joints often stack and alternate between “3 dimensional” joints and “2 dimensional” joints. If you lose the ability to move well in your hips, what we are now calling a “3d joint” then another part of your body will take the hit and compensate and as a result you will either hurt the joints above or below e.g. lower back or knee. Sound familiar? These are the areas that often get injured. It is also not a coincidence that that the ankle and hip are 2 joints that we hugely neglect.
Back to the joints — I’m using the term the 3d joints to refer to joints to that have a ball and socket joint and can rotate; think hip, shoulders, ankles. 2d joints will be joints that can only flex and extend with limited movement in other directions such as the knees or toes for example.
How do we go about it?
We could get into the weeds a bit here but I will try and keep it as simple as possible. The body being a 3d structure that has chain reactions makes things a little more complicated. Let’s make the assumption that in this case the only thing we are trying to improve is negate the consequences of normal adult life.
To do this will require a combination of release work, I’m sure you’ve seen people roll about wildly on foam rollers, daily movement, hydration and strength training. Unexpected?
The most important thing of all is that movement becomes a key element of life. You don’t even have to move a huge amount, you just have to let your body know that you still require a certain range of motion.
The way I personally think about it is is to be like a child. Children roll about and move about all the time. They are constantly sending their bodies signals about what’s required and important and what isn’t. I’m not telling you to roll around but there are certainly some things you can do that will send your body the signal “HEY, WE STILL NEED THIS!”.
- Sit on a lower chair -> Progress to the floor over a long period of time
- Use a squatty potty or stool when you’re on on the loo
- Play with your pets or kids on the ground
- Step up 1 more step than you usually do at a time
Simple Releases and Flexibility Increases
Quad Foam Roll
Glute Foam Roll
We won’t take a giant deep dive into this, but water makes up 60% of an adults total mass. As you age this decreases more and more as you lose thirst sensation and the ability to concentrate urine. The result is poorer cell structure in the muscle. Make sure you hydrate yourself adequately to maximise the ability for your body to adapt. What’s easier to adjust and old dry piece of meat or a fresh piece of steak?
How long will it take to increase flexibility?
The speed at which you increase flexibility depends on a variety factors, age being one of the most dominant ones in my experience. The longer you’ve been “stuck” in a certain position the harder it is to undo. It is also worth bearing in mind that we are all different and the hips structure of one person will allow more flexibility than another’s. You should have sufficient movement to live a great life however and that, of course, is the aim of this article. Generally speaking, the more the things become a part of your life the faster it will be for your circumstances (e.g. age, sex). The great thing about mobility and flexibility is, it can be done while playing or, for dedicated exercises, while watching tv.