The long hip muscles are a set of 8 muscles that connect the hip bone to the lower leg bones.
Running down the outside of the thigh, as well as the inside, front and back of the thigh, the long hip muscles include the following muscles:
- Tensor Fascia Latae
- Superficial Gluteus Maximus
- Biceps Femoris Long Head
- Rectus Femoris
IT Band Muscles
Two of the above muscles attach to the tibia via the Iliotibial band (IT Band).
Those are the tensor fascia latae, which works on the front edge of the IT band and the superficial fibers of the gluteus maximus, which works on the back edge of the IT band.
Pes Anserinus Muscles
Three of the above muscles attach together at the tibia to form the pes anserinus or goose foot.
Those muscles are the Sartorius, gracilis and semitendinosus.
Three of the above muscles are also part of the hamstrings group, which has some overlap with the pes anserinus muscles.
Those muscles are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and the biceps femoris long head.
The Quadriceps and the Long Hip Muscles
One of the long hip muscles is part of the quadriceps group. As a whole this group is important because the vastus muscles can be used to add tension to the overlaying long hip muscle.
The rectus femoris is part of the quadriceps group and it runs over the vastus intermedius muscle. Meanwhile, the IT band muscles can be affected by vastus lateralis tension since the IT band runs over this muscle while the sartorius can be affected by vastus medialis tension.
Hip Bone Stabilization and Control
The long hip muscles are important in hip stability because they attach to the four corner points of the hip bone. As such they can be used to control the hip bone and stabilize it whether the knee is straight or bent.
Shin Rotation and Stability
The long hip muscles are also important with respect to shin rotation. These muscles attach to the inner and outer aspect of the top of the tibia as well as to the top of the fibula and can be used to rotate the shin or to stabilize them against rotation.
Because the knee joint doesn't allow for shin rotation relative to the thigh when the knee is straight (or nearly straight) these muscles can also be used to help rotate the femur or stabilize it against rotation when the knee is straight or nearly straight.
Easier Control of Center of Gravity
Because the hip bones are relatively close to the typical and usual position of the body's center of gravity, they can be used to help easily control your body's center of gravity. They can make balaning on one foot a little easier.
Improve Hip Flexibility
Because the long hip muscles as a group include muscles that flex the hip, extend it, adduct the hip and abduct it as well as rotating it inwards and outwards, the long hip muscles can be used to stabilize the hip in a variety of positions. They can also be used to help improve hip, hamstring and adductor flexibility.
Help Deal with Knee and Low Back Pain
Because the long hip muscles include nearly all muscles that work on the knee, control of these muscles can be useful when dealing with some types of knee pain.
Because the long hip muscles can be used to help stabilize and/or control the hip bone, they can be used to help prevent back pain by giving the quadratus lumborum a stable foundation from which to activate (or relax) as required.
Since muscle activation also creates proprioception, control of the long hip muscles can be used to help determine where there are muscle control deficiencies in those muscles and related "support" muscles. And so another way these muscles can be used to alleviate low back pain is to help detect imbalances between the hips.
Active Knee Control In Hero, Lotus and other "Bad for the Knee" type Poses
In yoga poses like lotus, hero and other poses like hurdlers stretch, where the shins are rotated and translated relative to the femur, the long hip muscles can be used to help maintain knee integrity. Rather than passively stretching the ligaments, the long hip muscles can be used to protect the connective tissue structures of the knees. And so rather than fearing these types of poses, long hip muscle control can enable you to use these types of poses to more fully explore the possibilities of your body.
Since the knee is bent in these types of poses, it can be helpful to activate underlying muscles to add tension to the long hip muscles so that they can activate effectively.
The long hip muscles are important in hip control and stability because they attach to the four corner points of the hip bone.
The four corner points of the hip bone are the ASIC, the pubic bone, the Ischial Tuberosity and the PSIC. (ASIC and PSIC denote the front and rear points of the iliac crest).
- Tensor Fascia Latae, Rectus Femoris and Sartorius all connect at or near the ASIC.
- Gracilis attaches near the Pubic Bone.
- Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus and Biceps Femoris long head all attach to the Ischial Tuberosity.
- The Superficial Gluteus Maximus attaches to the PSIC.
For active Adduction, the long hip muscles can be used to create a downwards pull on the pubic bone and ischial tuberosity. Pulling down on these points can also be used to resist abduction.
For active Abduction, the long hip muscles can be used to create a downwards pull on the ASIC and PSIC. Pulling down on these points can be used to resist adduction.
For active flexion, the long hip muscles can be used to create a downwards pull on the pubic bone. For deeper flexion, they can be used to pull down on the ASIC. For really deep flexion, they can also be used to pull down on the PSIC. Pulling down on these points can be used to resist extension.
For active extension, the long hip muscles can be used to create a downwards pull on ischial tuberosity and/or PSIC. A downward pull on these points can also be used to resist hip flexion.
The hip hip muscle hip flexors include tensor fascia latae, rectus femoris and sartorius. All of these muscles pass over a vastus muscle. In addition, sartorius also passes over the adductors. As such, activation of the vastus muscles and the adductors can be used to take out the slack from these muscles.
In a forward bend, the more you bend forwards, the shorter the distance the hip flexors span. By expanding (or if you like "inflating") the vastus and adductor muscles, you add length to these muscles making it easier for them to continue to flex the hip.
As such, these muscles (the vastus and adductors) can be used to add tension to the long hip muscles, enabling more effective activation across a wider range of joint positions.
Of the hip flexors in the long hip muscle group, the sartorius rotates the leg externally while the tensor fascia latae tends to rotate the leg internally. When both muscles are active in hip flexion, they can work against each other to stabilize the shin against rotation.
Note that to sustain activation, these hip flexors need a force to oppose them. If an external force is lacking, then long hip muscles that work to extend the hips can be activated to provide a counter force. This can include the superficial gluteus maximus and/or the hamstrings.
In a standing forward bend, the feet can be used to stabilize the shins. You then may have the choice of favoring use of the sartorius or the tensor fascia latae for hip flexion.
Since they attach at the ASICs, another way to anchor the hip flexors of the long hip muscle group is to create an upward pull on the ASICs via the external obliques. So that the obliques have room to contract effectively, you may find it helpful to pull in your belly using your transverse abdominis and additionally draw your chest away from the front of your pelvis.
In bent knee extension such as bridge or table top pose, or in bent knee external rotation such as for the front leg in pigeon pose, you may find it helpful to create a downwards pull on the PSIC. Since the superficial fibers of the gluteus maximus are positioned over the deep fibers of the gluteus maximus, the deep gluteus may serve in a similiar vein as the vastus, as a tensioning device for the more superficial muscles.
Nearly all the hamstring muscles are included in the long hip muscle group. At the knee, the hamstring tendons (in particular semimembranosus on the inside and biceps femoris on the outside) cross the tendons of the gastrocnemius muscle. As such, tension in one affects tension in the other.
As such, one way to anchor the hamstrings is to add tension to the gastrocnemius muscle for more effective hamstring activation.
Preventing Cramping of the Gastrocnemius or the Hamstrings
Note that because there are inner and outer hamstrings as well as inner and outer portions of the gastrocnemius.
If you find you get cramping in the outer or inner portion of the gastrocnemius, it may be due to the fact that the same side hamstring muscle isn't functioning. So for example, if your inner gastrocnemius easily cramps, it may be that your inner hamstrings aren't functioning when they need to. So work on activating your inner hamstrings.
Similarly, if you get partial hamstring cramping, it may be because the corresponding head of the gastrocnemius isn't activating. So work on activating that portion of the gastrocnemius.
In an adductor stretching position like side splits, the inner aspect of your knees can be subject to gapping. To protect the inside of the knees, the inner long hip muscles may activate. For myself, I find that activation of the gracilis seems to make my knee happier in side splits. It makes it easier to go deeper in this adductor stretching position.
While the long hip muscles rotate the shin from the hip, there are a set of foot muscles that rotate the shin relative to the foot. These same muscles can also act to stabilize the foot and ankle and to help make the shin resistant to rotation.
Standing on one foot, if you stabilize your standing foot and ankle and shin, you can then use your long hip muscles to rotate your hips left and right.
For extra control you may find it helpful to activate the vastus and/or adductor muscles. You may also find that your foot does move as you rotate your hips. However, you can use this to your advantage. Rotate the shin externally relative to the foot for a deeper hip turn to the outside of the leg. Rotate the shin internally relative to the foot to a deeper hip turn to the inside of the leg.
I've spent the last ten years learning to teach muscle control effectively. For a taste of the exercises that I use in my classes, 5 Beginners Yoga Routines is a good place to start, particularly if your flexibility is limited. For a more workshop style of teaching, the Muscle Control and Proprioception series focuses on teaching muscle control in a series of 5 workshops, each focusing on a particular muscle control technique. You can check these programs out and more in the sensational yoga poses Shop
Driving Lessons for Your Body
For more on learning to feel your body and control it, Driving Lessons for your Body is a series of online video courses with exercises for improving body awareness (proprioception and kinaesthetic awareness) and muscle control.
Feel and control quads, inner/outer thighs, knees and hips, fine tuning adjustments.
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Long thigh muscle control, Shin and knee rotation, hip bone stabilization and control
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Integrated leg, hip joint, hip bone, SI joint, spine, spinal erector and ribcage control.
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Simple gluteus maximus activation, deep hip muscle control, front and side splits.
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