Recipricol Inhibition – How Hip Flexors Can Deactivate your Glutes!
Reciprocal Inhibition is the process where one muscle inhibits the action of another muscle. There are many examples but one of the most important examples is the Hip Flexors and the Gluteus Maximus (aka “Glutes”). These two muscle groups work in tandem in human movement: one flexes the high and the other extends the hip. So they function as a team and they are always “talking” to one another through the nervous system.
When one gets turned on it turns the other one off! This is REALLY important or we would not be able to move and this is happening all over your body as you move all the time. Another great example is the bicep and tricep – the bicep flexes the arm and the tricep extends it and to get movement ONE must turn on and the OTHER must turn off!
Now that we understand Reciprocal Inhibition lets learn how to use it to our advantage to create more mobility and stronger muscle activation!
Most of us spend a lot of time sitting with our hips flexed while at work, while driving and flying, and while relaxing watching TV or eating. When our hips are flexed our hip flexors are shortened, and they get used to being in this position. This can create a challenge in several ways including causing low back pain (since they connect to the low back and the upper thigh), and this can prevent the glutes from being activated properly because if they hip flexors are shortened the glutes get deactivated!
So it is very important to stretch the hip flexors every day in order to return them to a proper length which prevents low back pain AND allows the glutes to activate maximally. Here is a great article showing 4 hip flexor stretches with video that are easy to incorporate into your routine: http://www.stack.com/a/4-hip-flexor-stretches-to-relieve-tight-hips
Ideally you should do them at least once and preferably 2 – 3 times per day but DEFINETELY before workouts since maximizing glute activation is key for getting the glutes stronger, preventing injury, and toning the glutes!
Reciprical inhibition also works the other way meaning that the harder you contract one muscle in a pair (say the glutes) the more the other muscle relaxes! So some of the best dynamic stretches involve deliberately contracting one muscle (like the glutes) during a stretch of its opposite – like the hip flexors.
Try it – it really works!