Easy Hip Exercises for Staying Pain-free This Cross-Country Ski Season

With a mild winter in Edmonton, many people are looking for options to keep busy and stay healthy. Cross-country skiing is popular, but we tend to forget how intense this activity is. Like with other activities, preparing your body for the workout is crucial to avoid injuring yourself. Whether you want to go cross-country skiing, skating or even running, one of the main things you need to focus on is stretching and strengthening your hip flexors. We have put together some information to ensure that you prepare yourself accordingly.

woman doing yoga working on her glutes
photo of family skiing

What are my Hip Flexor Muscles?

Your hip flexors are a group of muscles that run through your pelvis to the front of your thigh bone (femur). Their primary function is to bring your thighs towards your torso; if you are standing, your hip flexor muscles lift your leg to take a step forward. Just imagine how many times you make this movement when cross-country skiing!

When Hip Flexors Get Tight

Most problems with hip flexor muscles are due to a lack of flexibility. Spending the majority of your day in a seated position will make these muscles tight. Add in activities like hockey, skating or skiing, and it’s no wonder our hips feel sore at the start of the winter season.

Besides causing muscle tension or achiness, chronic tightness in your hip flexors can lead to lower back pain. If these powerful muscles become very tight, they can pull the pelvis forward, which may cause a feeling of compression in the lower back.

For a passive or sedentary person, daily stretching of the hip flexor muscles is essential in counteracting the effects of sitting all day. For those who enjoy sports like running or cross country skiing, stretching is key to maintaining performance, improving technique, and minimizing discomfort at the start of the season.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • To stretch the right hip flexors, kneel with the right knee on the floor with the left hip and knee flexed to 90 degrees. Hold onto a chair with the left hand for support.
  • Picture tucking your tailbone underneath you – this is the vital part of the stretch! If you aren’t entirely certain about how to do this, ask your physiotherapist at your next appointment.
  • You should feel a stretch in the front of the right hip and thigh.
  • If you want to increase the stretch further, lift the right arm overhead, reach to the ceiling, and side bend slowly to the left. 

This option is just one example of a way to stretch your hip flexors – if you feel this isn’t working for you or would like to explore alternatives, follow up with your PT.

Create Muscle Balance for Happy Hips

Not only is it essential to maintain the length of your hip flexor muscles by stretching, but we also need to pay attention to the strength of the muscles that counteract their strong pull. To maintain muscle balance around the hips, we can strengthen our hip extensor muscles, which consist of the glutes and hamstrings. A simple bridge exercise is an easy way to do this.

Bridge Exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet will be hip-distance apart and relatively close to your hips.

Push through the soles of your heels to lift your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

Pause at the top, then slowly lower your body to the floor.

In Closing

Beyond these simple stretching and strengthening exercises, there are other exercises and techniques to minimize hip flexor soreness at the start of ski and skating season.

If you have any further questions, contact one of our five locations today. We’re here to help you, “Love Getting Better!”