This past weekend my hubby, girlie and I spent a gorgeous sunshiny Sunday afternoon at one of my favorite parks.
We picnicked, girlie went down the slide a few hundred times, I began the process of rebuilding my callouses as I made a few passes across the monkey bars and we enjoyed traipsing through the woods.
I also confess that I did a fair bit of people watching, starting with my husband. It’s a hazard of my profession. Be glad you’re not married to me.
As my hubby walked across the grass to the playground, I noticed he does this wonky thing with his hips, specifically this wonky twist thing where he moves his right hip forward when he steps with his right foot.
Because my antennae were now alerted to this wonky hip twist phenomena, I saw it everywhere I looked - people stepping forward with their left leg and taking the whole left side of their pelvis forward too and vice verse with the right leg. Step twist, step twist. Actually, more like steptwist, steptwist. Over and over.
That's certainly one way to travel forward and it can look fabulously sexy on the dance floor. But.
If your pelvis is doing the twist with every step you take, what's it twisting around?
It's twisting around the “spit” of your spine, especially your lumbar vertebrae.
Do you really want to create more friction in your lumbar spine with every step you take? Hint: probably not if you’d like to avoid wearing out your parts prematurely.
Glutes on vacation
Another downside to the steptwist is it allows your glutes to go on vacation. They're not used very much with the steptwist, which means you miss out on the really important pelvic floor benefits that your glutes can offer.
Movement at the hip joint should not require movement of the pelvis. The leg should be able to move freely in the hip joint without taking the pelvis along for the ride and moving your spine.
Not many of us are living with ideal, however and the steptwist phenomena is usually a sign your hip flexors are tight.
Where are your hip flexors?
Your hip flexors are those muscles on the front of your hip area that help you flex your hip joint. Stand up and put your hand on the front of your hip. Now, lift that knee up as if you are marching. Feel those muscles tighten under your hand? Those are your hip flexors.
They're the muscles that are put in a shortened position when we sit.
When we sit for hours and hours, day in and day out, they adapt to being in a shortened position
So, if tight hip flexors contribute to the steptwist, which can increase friction in your lumbar vertebrae and decrease use of your glutes (making you more vulnerable to Flat Ass Syndrome and pelvic floor problems), that begs the question:
How to restore length to your hip flexors
1. Decrease the amount of time you spend with your hips flexed - sitting, stair stepping, bicycling, elliptical and the treadmill all increase the amount of time we spend in hip flexion. Many of us spend the majority of our day (and night) in hip flexion.
2. Spend time lengthening your hip flexors. My two favorite stretches for this are the lunge and the bolster under your pelvis stretch.
You’re probably familiar with the lunge, but this time we’re going to fine tune it a bit, by adding in these parameters. When you lunge:
1. Keep your shin vertical (photo on left) and don’t allow your knee to move in front of your ankle (photo on right).
2. Don’t allow your pelvis to tip forward. You're really looking to isolate the movement of extension at the hip joint, which means you want your leg to move behind you without your pelvis tipping forward. To do this, you’ll most likely move forward much, much less than you’re used to (photo on left).
The bolster-under-your-pelvis stretch
The photo is fairly self-explanatory. If you don't have a yoga bolster handy, you can substitute a stack of couch cushions or dense pillows, or try this DIY bolster. Things that you want to watch for as you do this:
1. keep your straight leg straight, no bent knee
2. allow your pelvis to tilt back and tuck, slightly rounding your low back (this is one time tucking is helpful)
It's nice to spend a few minutes cycling through these 2 stretches a couple of times throughout your day. Check out your walk before and after and notice what changes with your steptwist.
Are you a visual learner? In the video below, I walk you through the lunge exercise, with a little pre and post test.