My hips sometimes lie - investigate them

Updated: Oct 23, 2018


Hip tightness has been a heavily talked about topic and can lead to some nasty problems and pain. Hip problems have become more common recently due to the rise of desk jobs and sedentary options being easily available. Being sat in one position (hips at 90 degrees) for hours on end will cause the muscles to create tightness’s. Even though you don’t feel it, your hips are in a contracted position at 90 degrees.

Now when I am saying ‘my hips SOMETIMES lie’, that’s because a lot of people will assume that if I have tight hip flexors, I need to release them and get them back to normal length. This may be true in some cases, but from what I’ve experienced is that they are tight due to other structures. Normally tight hip flexors are a result of something else not functioning properly. It’s always good to investigate other areas surrounding the pelvis to determine what is exactly going on.

Having ‘tight’ hip flexors will affect other areas of the body due to its significant role in pelvis movement. If you have tight hip flexors, they will pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt, causing an excessive arch in the lower back.


The hip is a ball and socket joint, like the shoulder but more stable. The hip joint is the articulation (connection) of the pelvis with the femur, which brings together the axial skeleton and the lower extremities. The hip joint is full of ligaments which make it very stable, but for this post you don’t need to know them. We are more interested in the muscular structures that surround the pelvis and the ligaments.

Due to the hip being a ball and socket joint, it has a variety of movements it can perform, these are:

  • Flexion – iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, pectineus

  • Extension – gluteus maximus; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris (the hamstrings)

  • Abduction gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, piriformis and tensor fascia latae

  • Adduction – adductors longus, brevis and magnus, pectineus and gracilis

  • Lateral rotation – biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, piriformis, assisted by the obturators, gemilli and quadratus femoris.

  • Medial rotation – anterior fibres of gluteus medius and minimus, tensor fascia latae

The Hip Complex

As you can see, there are a lot of muscles acting on the hip and this makes it very difficult to identify exactly what is responsible for hip tightness.


You’ve probably already come across this phrase, either from a therapist or your mate at the gym who’s been told by someone else and can now give you expert advice about it. Now, anterior pelvic tilt doesn’t mean “wrong” “bad”, it’s just describing the action of the pelvis. Many people have this tilt, some more so than others, but most will live their life without any problems. We only start to become interested about it when the client comes to us complaining about a certain pain or discomfort. The general rule about excessive anterior pelvic tilt is that we have certain tight structures and certain weak structures, these are:

· Tight hip flexors

· Tight lower back muscles

· Weak glutes/hamstrings

· Weak abdominals

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

As you can see, having this tilt can be due to many things. It’s now time for you to investigate and see whether you ‘tight’ hips are because of actual tightness, or because your surrounding muscles are not doing their job properly. It’s very important to make sure you’re not trying to release a muscle that actually doesn’t need releasing. If you can strengthen the opposite muscle, that will effectively shorten and increase the range on the opposing side (strengthening hamstrings to increase ROM on the quadriceps).

Weak is not necessarily the correct word in my opinion, lazy would fit better. The majority of people have strong muscles, but they are just inactive. Because those muscles haven’t needed to work as much as they should, they switch off and become dormant. The idea is to awaken them again, so they become active and alive, and hopefully help out with the surrounding muscles.

This post is really just to make you aware that these perceived tightness’s might be a reaction to another structure not working properly.

So how can I find out what’s going on?? Good question, and not such a straight forward answer. Ideally, you would see or already have seen a healthcare professional and got a diagnosis of why your hips are tight/painful. This assessment should identify the cause of the tightness and give you an idea of what you need to work on. There are ways and tests you can do yourself which can help you figure out what’s going on, and the majority of the time it’s a process of elimination as one way might work for you better than another. Keep an eye out for future posts where I’ll give you some tests and exercises that you can use yourself to help you understand the issues with your hips. We will also give a variety of release and strengthening examples to start with once you have identified the problematic areas.

Finally, do not listen to Shakira when she states, “my hips don’t lie”, because actually, sometimes they do.

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