The hip flexors are a set of muscles that act to bring your knee to your chest. Meaning they flex your body at your waist. There are a few main ones and a couple others that assist.
Main Hip Flexors
Psoas (Major and Minor)
Rectus Femoris (also extends the knee)
Assist in Hip Flexion
Tensor Fasciae Latae
Each of these muscles has a job when the action of flexion of the hip is required. Depending on the exact movement needed you may use all of them or some of them.
What is Lower Cross Syndrome?
Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS) generally refers to what happens to your body after years of prolonged sitting if you don’t do things to counteract it.
LCS is a tight and shortened set of hip flexors and a tightened group of muscles in the lower back. The opposite side of these is a weak/inhibited abdominal muscle and weak/inhibited glutes.
When this situation happens the pelvis becomes anteriorly tilted causing lordosis (exaggerated arching of the low back). Over time this causes people many problems, the main one being low back pain.
A more lengthy description is…
Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS) is also referred to as distal or pelvic crossed syndrome. In LCS, tightness of the thoracolumbar extensors on the dorsal side crosses with tightness of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris. Weakness of the deep abdominal muscles ventrally crosses with weakness of the gluteus maximus and medius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction, particularly at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 segments, SI joint, and hip joint. Specific postural changes seen in LCS include anterior pelvic tilt, increased lumbar lordosis, lateral lumbar shift, lateral leg rotation, and knee hyperextension. If the lordosis is deep and short, then imbalance is predominantly in the pelvic muscles; if the lordosis is shallow and extends into the thoracic area, then imbalance predominates in the trunk muscles.(Janda 1987)
I hope you had fun reading that.
Many people reading this right now have this and deal with it unknowingly to some degree or another.
Now that we have an idea of what prolonged sitting is doing to our bodies and the muscles involved, how does it affect your golf swing?
Do you ever feel like you are missing something in the length of your drive? It’s probably an issue stemming from a weak gluteus maximus. First and foremost, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful muscle in the body. Meaning if you want to have a powerful swing and drive the ball you need strong glutes. So if the hip flexors are causing the gluteus maximus to be weak and inhibited you are missing a lot of the length in your drive that you could have.
How many of us have an issue with swaying or sliding? There is a muscle called the gluteus medius, it’s involved in lateral stabilization. Meaning these muscles stabilize you side to side. Another issue is if your gluteus medius is weak, when you have the power from your gluteus maximus if you cannot stabilize the power and transfer it to the core then you will leak power and lose length on your drive here as well. One simple way to tell if your gluteus medius are weak (not the only way to tell but an easy one) is to stand on one leg. If you start to fall fairly quickly then you may have a weakness.
The hip flexors also assist in adduction of the legs. Basically they help pull the legs together. This is in direct opposition of the gluteus medius which abducts the legs or moves them away from the center of the body. Meaning the hip flexors, specifically the pectineus, is restricting the movements of the gluteus medius causing it to be weak and inhibited just as the hip flexors are causing the weakness and inhibition in the gluteus maximus.
How about your low back feeling like you pulled something or just worn out at the end of a round? The abdominals are inhibited and weak when you are dealing with LCS. The anterior pelvic tilt caused by LCS forces the abdominals the sit in a stretched position. When the abdominals and the core are weak your body cannot properly transfer power between the lower and upper body.
Most of what we have talked about so far has been just on forward and backward movement and side to side. We cannot forget rotational movement as well. The hip flexors, specifically the psoas attaches to the lumbar spine. When the psoas on one of the body is engaged it helps to resist rotation. If these muscles are tight and shortened they cause a lack of the ability to resist rotation. And it becomes even more difficult for the body to create this rotation when you are in golf posture. So the body will do what is has to do to create the rotation you are asking of it. Meaning is forces you to stand up (known as early extension) or the body will find other ways to create the rotation.
The opposite of the weak and inhibited abdominals is the tight and shortened muscles of the low back. Just as the hip flexors affect the glutes, so do the muscles of the low back affect the abdominals. These muscles being sitting in a tightened state also means they are more prone to injury since they don’t like to move.
I love the human body because it will do what it takes to create the movement we ask of it. I hate the human body for that as well. As we repetitively do these movements we teach the body that this is way to create that movement. The new pattern can sometimes have a drawback. The drawbacks include incorrect firing patterns of the muscle and pain, which go hand in hand.
The hip flexors play an integral role in being able to execute a great golf swing and staying pain free. Next week I will post exercises, mobility drills, and stretches you can do to counteract these issues.