There are four primary hip movements: flexion, extension, adduction (moving inward) and abduction (moving outward). The hip joint is capable of rotating but that’s not something we’ll address. Hip flexion occurs when we sit. To allow the hip to flex the quadricep muscles connecting hip to knee in front are shortened and thehamstrings in back are partially lengthened. These muscle groups are big and because they’re mostly static when we paddle it’s important to address them in a fitness program. With healthy hips in mind, here are some protocols.
Knee flexion/extension: Because they’re shortened in sitting the quads need to lengthen. Try this stretch: grab an ankle with the corresponding hand and take the heel toward the hip (knee flexion). When you’ve gone as far as you can go, gently press the ankle into the hand as though you were trying to straighten the knee (knee extension). Hold that stretch for 20 – 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Remember to breathe. This practice also challenges your balance if you do it without holding on to something. You can develop more core strength and stability by closing the eyes.
Forward flexion (forward bends):Although the hamstrings are partially lengthened in sitting, immobility is still a problem. The tension required to hold the hamstrings static creates rigidity both in the muscles themselves and in the lower back since the hamstrings pull on the muscles in the buttocks and up into the back.
You can address this problem by using three positions in forward flexion: feet together, right ankle over left, and left over right. This targets the full range of muscles that make up the hamstring group and when you cross ankles challenges your balance again. Also studies show that crossing an arm or leg over the midline of the body changes the dominant side of the brain used, helping us become more ambidextrous both physically and mentally.