How to Strengthen and Stretch Your Hip Flexors

Jordan Robinson
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How Do I Know if My Hip Flexors Are Tight?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles in the front of the hip that work to raise the leg to hip level. They’re a big player in activities like running, walking, and squatting. If you often feel a cramp in your hip or feel tightness in your hip on the top of your thigh, your hip flexors are probably tight.

A tight hip flexor affects your daily life. You will probably find yourself straining to pick up something heavy, limping, or feeling stiff after a busy day at work. You can find yourself in these situations simply because the hip flexors are not strong enough to do their job well.

Because activities like walking and running are a part of everyone’s daily routine, it’s vital to keep the hip flexors in good condition. In addition to that, they’re extremely important for any sporting activity, so you want to make sure they’re in top notch shape.

The good news is that there are some simple moves that you can do at home with little equipment or effort to keep your hip flexors in good shape.

How Do I Know if My Hip Flexors Are Weak?

The most common symptoms of a tight hip flexor are low back pain and IT band pain. If you have tight hip flexors, you also could be experiencing butt, groin, hamstring, hamstring, groin, or hip pain. Since the hip flexors are an important link in the kinetic chain and start at the top of your hips to the bottom of your ankles, any problems originating from your hip flexors could also indicate an issue with one of your ankles, knees, or feet. It’s important to see a doctor immediately if you’re experiencing severe hip pain.

You can decrease or eliminate hip flexor pain by stretching your hip flexors followed by strengthening them.

You can perform hip flexor stretches and strengthening exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down. Based on your exercise program, the easiest position for you to perform stretching or strengthening exercises can vary. You also may want to enlist the help of a friend (or even better, a professional) if you’re having difficulty performing certain stretches.

10 Ways to Strengthen and Stretch Your Hip Flexors

Hip flexors are four muscles located on the front of your hip that help move your thigh forward (flexion) and upward (external rotation). They also help rotate your knee inward. They allow you to sit down and get up from a seated position. This can easily be associated with lifting and lowering your leg up and down while sitting in a chair.

Although the hip flexors are primarily used during leg movements, they also flex the trunk when the spine and arms are fixed. For example, if you lift the leg upwards from the hip, the hip flexion will also move the trunk forward and to the side if the trunk and arms are fixed.

The core muscles are a group of spine muscles, pelvic muscles, and back muscles. They can help extend the spine, lower the ribs, and tilt the pelvis forward.

When your core muscles have good strength, flexibility and endurance, it helps protect you from injury.

The core muscles are an important part of your overall posture and stability.

The core muscles are also used to support the weight of the abdominal organs, and when they become weak, a person has back pain and other symptoms.

Another source of back pain is due to muscle imbalances. The stronger your core muscles are, the more stable and aligned your body feels, which decreases back pain.

Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is an excellent pose that strengthens and stretches your hip flexors.

If you sit most of the day with your legs crossed or if you work on your feet, your hip flexors may be a bit tight and tight hip flexors are the main cause of lower back pain. In this exercise, you’ll be lying on your stomach and moving your hips in a pigeon-like pose, hence the name.

The first thing to do is to get yourself down to the floor on your hands and knees. A yoga mat will make your life a lot easier. Place your hands beneath your shoulders and position your knees beneath your hips. Make sure your hands are wider than your shoulders and that your palms are in contact with the floor.

Next, bring your right knee towards your chest. Do the same with the left arm. Position both of them so that they are directly below your shoulders. Keep your hips low, and your back flat and parallel with the floor. In this position, your hips are about six inches away from the floor.

Hold this pose for about 30 seconds then switch to the other side.

Don’t forget to breathe! Holding your breath while in this pose may cause lightheadedness and dizziness.

Note:

Do not lift your hips; keep them low.

Quad Stretch

This stretch is excellent for increasing flexibility in quads. The quadriceps are important for all of the activities that you perform on a daily basis, such as walking, running, basic side-to-side movements, and of course climbing.

The huge muscle known as the quadricep, or your quads, attaches to the front of the femur (upper leg bone), and it connects to the knee joint on its way to the lower leg. When you run, the quads are one of your primary shock absorbers. They also control knee movement and stabilize the knee joint. The quads are surprisingly flexible. However, they’re also one of the more commonly strained muscles in the body.

For this stretch, you’ll need a bar or music stand that is about knee height. Stand tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart, then lunge forward, bending at your front knee to place your foot on the bar and allowing the back leg to stretch back for the stretch. Hold the front leg in place while you hold onto something for balance, then gently pull your body toward the leg.

For greater depth, bring your head down in front of your knee, and lean back slightly as you pull. You should feel the stretch on the inner thigh.

Supine Stretch

Lie on your back with knees bent. Pull one leg towards your chest and give it a gentle stretch until you feel a gentle stretch in your hip.

If you want a deeper stretch, you can grab your ankle or a belt. You can perform the stretch with or without your knee bent. The important aspect is that you keep your back straight and core tight.

If you’re performing the stretch with a belt or an ankle, maintain the tension on your hip by gently pulling on your leg until you feel a gentle stretch in your hip.

Remember to repeat the stretch 10 times on each side.

For best results, do the stretch before and after you workout.

Butterfly Stretch

The butterfly stretch is a yoga pose that stretches the hip flexors. It is one of the most well known and popular hip flexor stretches, and is also known as the seated butterfly, lotus, dhanurasana and legs up the wall pose.

This pose is done from a seated position with the legs in the table top shape with the feet resting on the floor.

The butterfly stretch is a great stretch for people who sit for long periods of time, as it helps to increase blood flow to the lower body. This stretch can be especially helpful to those who spend most of the day sitting, as it can help to alleviate or prevent aches and pains in the hips, thighs, back, and knees.

This stretch can also be helpful in those suffering from sciatica, as it provides a gentle stretch to the hips and the lower back.

If you are suffering from any injuries or medical conditions, it is always best to consult with a doctor before doing a yoga or other exercise routine.

To do the butterfly stretch, sit with the legs outstretched in front of you. Lean back slightly and place the hands on the stomach or rest them on the thighs.

Take a deep breath and stretch the legs up towards the ceiling. Ideally, the heels should point towards the ceiling. If the heels are not reaching the ceiling, a yoga block could possibly be placed under the heels to reach the correct angle.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexors are the group of muscles (iliopsoas) that connect the top of the femur to the lower back. They mainly consist of the psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris. Previous to exercise, these muscles tend to be short, tight, and inflexible, which can translate into low back pain.

An excellent exercise for stretching the hip flexors is the kneeling hip flexor stretch:

Sit upright on the floor, with your knees bent, and your feet together.

As you roll your shoulders down toward your hips, walk your fingers forward.

You can either walk your hands to the front of your hips, or roll the ball forward.

Let your head and neck drop, keeping your spine long, and let the weight of your body rest on your forearms, and your toes.

With your knees together, lift your right leg off the floor, bending the knee out to the right.

Inhale and lengthen your spine as you pull your toes toward your face.

Exhale and reach your left arm behind you with your thumb pointing the opposite way, and your fingertips pointing toward your buttocks.

Lunge to Balance

Most of your body weight rests on your hip flexors, so it’s important that they are functioning correctly. Try this simple hip flexor stretch to balance out your hip muscles and avoid the awkward side-to-side sway some people can experience from tight hip flexors.

Stand with your left foot in front of your right leg. Bend your front left knee until it forms a 90-degree angle or aligns with your back right knee. Bend your back leg to 90 degrees as well. Reach forward with your left hand and grab your toes. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides and hands.

Dead Bug

One of the best and most underrated exercises for your hip flexors is the dead bug. Consisting of four distinct movements – one vice move and three resists – in only ten repetitions. “Dead bugs” can be a bit challenging, so start with only one set.

Lie on the floor with your feet on the floor and bent at a 90° angle. Place your hands underneath your butt and, with your arms straight, lift your legs straight up towards the ceiling. The goal is to lift your legs above the horizon when looking at your body from a bird’s eye view.

Movement 1: Slowly flex your right knee so your left foot slowly lowers toward the ground. Resist the temptation to bend your arms as you lower your legs because you’ll want to feel your right hip flexor work to lower your right foot to the ground.

Movement 2: Lift your right foot back up to its starting position. Move slowly because you don’t want to rev up and activate the hamstrings and quads. These movements should be slow and controlled.

Movement 3: Slowly point your right foot down toward the ground. Again, resist moving your arms. You’ll want to feel the right hip flexor work to straighten your leg out.

Mountain Climbers

When I started working out again, my biggest hurdle in developing a stronger body was the lack of flexibility in my lower body. The first thing I did was to put a band around my ankles and perform leg lifts in my socks until I felt my legs getting better. Another good way to improve leg flexibility is to perform weighted frog stretches.

But, my biggest weakness was the tightness in my hip flexors. This is understandable considering my line of work. Sitting in front of a computer in an office eight hours a day will make your hip flexors and lower back tight. But this routine cures that for me.

So, now you have no excuse for being tight as well. Do this simple routine, once or twice a day and you’ll be surprised how much better your body feels after only a few weeks.

Squat with Leg Raise

A sturdy, flexible hip flexor is crucial for any serious runner. But hip flexor does their job in a more convoluted manner than what we imagine.

The string like muscle tissue which starts from the front of your pelvis and which attaches to your thigh bone on the front of your leg is technically called a muscle complex.

Two out of the four muscles have their origin on the hip bone and the other two muscles originate from the lower back. When these muscles contract, they pull the hip forward (flexion), the thigh bone downwards and outwards (external rotation and extension) and the lower back in the opposite direction.

The hip flexors play a vital role in running and in sprinting. It is the hip flexors that determine how far you push back your hips at end of the running stride and bring you the forward motion.

When these muscles are too tight or weak, they might cause you lower back pain and hamstring injuries.

Another important function of hip flexors is rotating the thigh bone outwards during the running stride. According to a recent study done by Sports Med and published in 2010, athletes without hip flexor strength and function suffer from patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) significantly more than those with strength and function.

Because of the hip flexors’ vital role in one of the most important running mechanics, they need to be strengthened and stretched.

Swiss Ball Knee Tuck

Knee tucks on a Swiss ball are perfect for athletes who are just getting back into running or for people who have been dealing with a lingering hip flexor injury.

This downward dog alternative strengthens your lower body while improving balance and muscle control.

Begin by pressing your feet onto the floor and extending them straight behind you, parallel to your Swiss ball. Raise your hips off the ball slightly without arching your lower back, and drop your hips toward the floor. Make sure you don’t kick your feet forward so much that you lose your balance.

When you’re fully lowered, lift your hips once more from the ball and roll back up to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions.