In part one we started at the feet and worked into the hip. Now in part two we’ll discuss the muscles surrounding our hip joints and how they relate to our lumbar spine!
If you look closely at this picture you’ll see classic human posture in the 21st century:
Now, if you look closely at this next picture you’ll see the usual posture seen after it has been “corrected” incorrectly:
Notice that lordosis (inward curve) of the lumbar spine? Notice the slight protrusion of the gut/abdomen ever? Both are conducive to a dysfunctional posture which will lead to a dysfunctional physique. Lucky for us, this can be corrected properly!
Releasing Tissue Tension
We are going to first focus our attention on the tight muscles that have developed over years of dysfunctional patterns and positions. We must release tension in these areas to allow our posture to open up and become more efficient. Here are the muscles we will focus on:
- Rectus Femoris – Located in the center of the quadriceps muscle group. We will require a larger device such as a hard roller or PVC pipe to affect this muscle. Simply lay on the floor with your quadriceps resting against the roller or pipe, then roll yourself up and down it, stopping on trigger points (points of tightness/pain/soreness). When you hit a trigger point, rest on it for 25 to 35 seconds and breathe deeply to help relax your nervous system which will aid in the relaxation of the muscle.
- Tensor Fasciae Latae – Located just above the quadriceps to the outside. You will most likely require a lacrosse ball or something similar to hit the right area adequately enough. Same principle above applies to the TFL, place it between the floor and your TFL muscle, then roll around slightly until you find a trigger point. Then rest on it for 25 to 35 seconds, breathing deeply and try to relax.
- Gluteus Medius and Piriformis – I have grouped these two together as they both tend to cause excessive external rotation of the femur which can cause issues in the hips, knees, and ankles over time. To locate these small muscles, turn your side to a mirror and use your thumb to find the “ridge” of your hip, where your abdomen and waist starts. Once your thumb is centered there, move it about 1 to 3 inches toward the backside and run your thumb down about 4 inches. This is the starting point (gluteus medius) and they run down this line for about 5 to 9 inches. You will use a lacrosse ball or something similar to rest on – same trigger point rule applies.
- Iliacus – If you don’t have a full awareness of your body and its parts or if you feel uncomfortable digging around the “ridge” of your hip then DO NOT perform this one! If you are ok to continue we will take our thumbs and find the front “corner” of the Iliac crest, then try to dig your thumb in and behind it slightly. This is where the Iliacus begins and it the only place to release tension unless you are a qualified manual therapist dealing in the fascial systems. If you have strong hands you may use your thumb to find and perform the release therapy however if you have small hands or can’t hit the right spot you may use a lacrosse ball against the palm of your hand OR if you have access to a Theracane (google it!) you will find this much easier.
Releasing most of the tension in these muscles will lead to a much more functional body which brings me to the next section:
Engaging the Correct Muscles
Most people do not understand the natural position of the spine. People have a tendency to take the truth and exaggerate it to a point that it is no longer true. For our example, we will use spinal positions!
The norm we all relate to regarding torso posture is a slight forward curve of the thoracic spine and an inward curve of the lumbar spine. While this is true, most people believe it looks more like an elongated ‘S’ when in truth the flexion and extension of the spine when neutral should be minimal. The curves are there but not to the extent pushed on us by the fitness industry standards.
“What standards?” you may ask! Well, those standard exposed to us when we watch Facebook and InstaFamous people doing poses on and off stage with their butts pushed out due to hyper lordosis and an extreme anterior tilt of the pelvis. Posing once like this is obviously not a big deal, nor will it be if you do it a few times. But what happens when those few times turns into a “wow! I look great like this – it accentuates my booty!” so you end up with a habit of holding on to that positioning of the hips and lumbar.
Fast forward five years and you’ve developed a fair bit of wear and tear on the discs at the extreme hinge you’ve created in your lumbar spine, now you’re feeling a little sore every time you do any kind of heavy lifting – squats, deadlifts (of all types) and even when you’re performing heavy powerlifting style bench presses.
Here is an image of me with good posture and the muscles around the hip and lumbar I am engaging.
Try now to mimic this position. Depending on what dysfunction you have, you may find the position very comfortable or you may feel tightness in the lumbar area. You may even find that tightness resonates up your back toward the neck! Once in this position make sure you can lift your toes up freely so that you know the majority of your weight is on your heels. This is due largely to the posterior tilt in your pelvis you should have. This position creates a neutral position in the spine, we don’t want to over-tilt the pelvis as that would round the spine under but you should see (in the mirror) your lumbar almost flat looking or a slight lordotic curve (inward).
From here you will make sure to engage your TVA – the most basic ways to put it: “suck your belly button into your spine” or “suck in your gut”. Holding this during all exercises ensures that your body adapts by activating the TVA during any stressful activity – from carrying grocery bags to lifting dumbbells. The trick is teaching yourself to engage this muscle in any exercise you do, whether it is a sit-down machine, a lunge or an incline dumbbell press.
Please note: You may think you’re activating your Transverse Abdominis in certain heavy exercises you do such as
squats and deadlifts but chances are you’ve lost a lot of activation half-way through the set
so focusing on this with every rep is highly recommended so that you consistently progress in core strength.
That is what’s required for the complete integrity of the hips and lower-torso in the human posture. In part III we will focus on the upper-torso, shoulder girdle, neck, and head – so check it out!
To your health and success.