In an interview with Michael Johnson, New Zealand, find out more about World Shooting Para Sport and disabled-body athletes.
Lower Back Pain? Discover Hip Flexors!
February 2, 2022
As shooters, we are more prone to feeling pain in the lower back area. Keeping a strong core is one way to help with the strain of our forced shooting positions and we covered the basics of planking here and here. However, there is another muscle group that we tend to overlook: the hip flexors. They help your core to “drag” the feet up, you walk with them, pick things up from the ground and bend over; they also make it easier for you to hold your rifles and pistols. This Practical Pointer will go over a few basic exercises with the aim of preventing lower back injuries and improve your stability. Let’start with a simple exercise that will help you stretch and strengthen your hip flexors. Sit down, making sure you sit on your bones and keep a straight back. Open your legs in a V shape with one knee straight and the other one bent. Gently twist your body towards the bent knee, placing your hands on both sides of it, touching the ground with fingertips only. With each exhale, bring your knee up and, with an inhale, slowly release it to the ground.
Let’start with a simple exercise that will help you stretch and strengthen your hip flexors. Sit down, making sure you sit on your bones and keep a straight back. Open your legs in a V shape with one knee straight and the other one bent. Gently twist your body towards the bent knee, placing your hands on both sides of it, touching the ground with fingertips only. With each exhale, bring your knee up and, with an inhale, slowly release it to the ground.
To spice it up, extend both legs and lift one off the ground for at least 20 seconds. Then, try to raise both legs at the same time. From the beginning, keep your hands on the floor behind you. However, you aim to be able to lift both of your legs high without any support from your hands. Here, too, make sure to sit on your bones, keeping your back straight. If a higher lift risks curving your back, it’s better to lift your leg for a few millimetres only.
Probably the most popular exercise for strengthening your hip flexors (as well as your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, and inner thighs) is lunges. They help you develop lower-body strength and endurance while improving balance, coordination, and stability. Everything a shooter needs, right? As you lunge, make sure to get all the way down, but be careful that your knees don’t go over your toes and that you don’t extend your leg too far in any direction. Stand firmly on the ground, constantly pushing yourself up with the whole foot (not with your toes, but with your instep and your heel). You can keep your hands on your hips or lift them in the air as an extra challenge. Again, engage your core while lunging by pulling your belly button in with every exhale. Since we are strengthening our hip flexors, keep your body straight up. Leaning forward makes the exercise more quad-focused.
As important as strengthening your hip flexors is, it is as important to stretch them. Make sure you take time to stretch after each shooting session to release the tension that has built in your muscles during the long practice. The most straightforward hip flexor stretch is the static lunge (or low lunge in the photo). This pose stretches your thigh and psoas muscle. Here, it is important that the front knee stays above or even behind your heel and that you place your fingers right beneath your shoulders so that the hands support your upper body, keeping your blades firm to prevent you from collapsing in the shoulders. The aim is to sink to the point where you can still hold your spine long and your pelvis in a neutral position. Another version of this stretch can be done by placing your arms on a chair.
Do you have a shooting friend who complains of back pain even before they finish the practice? Share this Practical Pointer with them and leave the moaning gang together!
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