Tight hip flexor muscles can be behind a myriad of health issues. Beyond the tightness, you feel… it could be affecting your back, mobility, digestion, immune system, and more. For runners, health flexors are critical to keeping strong and on the trails. In fact, hip flexor stretching and exercises should really be part of your injury prevention routine.
Using the exercises in this guide can help stabilize your hip flexors, but if you want to be serious about reaping the full benefits a strong psoas muscle can offer, you should consider a program such as “Unlock Your Hip Flexors.”
- 1 Why Are Your Hip Flexors So Important To Your Health?
- 2 11 Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches
- 3 Getting Serious About Your Hip Flexors
Why Are Your Hip Flexors So Important To Your Health?
The hip flexors compose a large group of individual muscles that control a large portion of your lower body. These muscles connect the pelvis and back to the knees. When they engage, they are responsible for powering much of your body’s motion.
People who love to jump, run, swim, and climb rely heavily on the hip flexors. In order to function properly, hip flexor stretches must be performed frequently. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to the shortening and weakening of these muscles. If they become weak, limitations in mobility can occur. Stretching can help with this problem.
When you step and run, the muscles in the hips help propel your legs forward. When you stand, these muscles provide the support that ensures correct angles in your skeletal alignment. If any hip muscles are weak, they will cause a corrective reaction that can compromise how you stand, step, and move through athletic activities.
Hip pain is often the result of weak flexor muscles. This type of pain will limit your physical ability to perform at your best. It will also create mental stress that has a cascading effect on your general health. Flexor pain can be mildly uncomfortable at times, but it can also be extraordinarily painful. This is because hip muscle problems affect more than just the legs.
Inner Leg Muscle Problems
The sartorius is the longest muscle in the body. It runs from your lower back to your knee. When this muscle is weak, it will affect many body posture positions. When you sit, a lack of sartorial support will make your pelvis curl under your body weight. It will also pinch the nerve channels near your knees. This will likely put pressure on your back which is very fatiguing.
The multi-angular muscles on the front of your legs need to be stretched constantly to remain in an elongated state. These are the muscles that help you run efficiently. If they are not fully elongated, running and walking regimens will become extremely taxing and painful.
The Psoas muscle complex lies deep within your pelvic region. It is one of the main control mechanisms that control all hip movements. Psoas muscles that are not used often will shrink in size. When they are in this state, they will pull on the lower back with every lower body movement. Psoas problems will limit mobility, and they will act negatively on body systems like digestion and breathing. Avoiding a totally sedentary lifestyle is the best way to reverse this type of hip flexor problem.
Outer Leg Pain
The Illiacus muscles run along the outer parts of your leg. They provide support for the larger muscles of the legs while you bend to the side, kick, or climb uneven surfaces. If these muscles become weak, you will notice that activities like swimming and turning will become difficult. Illiacus muscles often weaken on only one side of the body. This makes it difficult to take advantage of full-body exercises. It will create the sensation that one side of the body is stronger than the other.
When any hip flexor muscle becomes problematic, it will limit your ability to perform your favorite exercises. These muscles operate through major nerve points, so their function will affect how the entire body performs.
When your hip flexors are limited, your whole body will be affected. Continuous hip flexor problems will affect your workouts, and they will eventually affect your mental state. Chronic hip muscle injury and pain can radically affect how you approach a fitness-centered lifestyle.
So, what is the way to prevent problems with your hip flexors?
The answer requires the same approach that you would take for many other muscle problems in the body. Hip flexors are tricky, however, and keeping them in great condition requires some effort.
Here are some incredibly effective and quick hip flexor exercises to do every day if you love activities that require a lot of lower body motion. They will help with hip flexor muscle recovery, and they will keep healthy muscles working well.
11 Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches
All of the following motions focus on relaxing, elongating, and strengthening the hip flexors. This includes the lower back, upper leg, groin, and lower internal abdominal regions. Always take your comfort and level of fitness into consideration when attempting them.
Simple Full Squats
This is one of the most basic complete hips stretches that anyone can do. It is a motion that is rarely intentionally performed by most people.
1. Stand fully upright with a relaxed upper body and feet at shoulder width.
2. Slowly sink into a full squat where your rear nearly touches the floor.
When doing this exercise, breathe normally. Let your knees, ankles, lower back, and shoulders relax in the down position. If you find that balance is difficult in the squat, try a wider foot position. Fully relaxing in this stance releases tension in the hip flexor muscles that control your overall posture.
This is one of the simplest motions to release tight flexor muscles in the front of the legs. It is also great for strengthening the lower back and the abdominals.
1. Lie on the floor in a prone position (face down).
2. Perform a strong push-up, and use your arms to raise your upper body. Position your arms closer to your waist in order to create the maximum stretch.
3. Look directly upward, and press until your elbows are fully extended. Allow your pelvis to sink into the floor.
Experiment with your foot position during this stretch. Some people will feel more hip release when their toes point outward. Some will prefer that the toes gravitate inward. Toes pointed straight back will typically create an optimal stretch in the hips and quadriceps.
1. Lie on the floor outstretched in the supine (face up) position.
2. Grab one knee and pull it toward your chest. Allow your other leg to remain flat and straight.
3. Hold your knee until you feel a stretch in your backside, lower back, and the front of the opposite leg.
4. Release the hold. Grab the opposite knee and repeat the stretch.
This stretch will help balance the tension in the deep muscles of the hips. The stretch is assisted by your body’s weight naturally resting on the floor.
The Lying Butterfly
This stretch is wonderful while preparing for an intense running workout. It is also a comfortable position in which to sleep.
1. Lie on your back.
2. Bring the bottoms of your feet together, and let your legs drop to each side.
3. Let gravity and relaxation bring your legs into the same flat plain as the rest of your body.
As your legs relax, the internal hip flexors will release. Try to relax your lower back, and do not let it curve near the top of the buttocks. Intensify the effects of this exercise by bringing the feet closer to the pelvis in timed increments.
This stretch is especially effective if you are experiencing hip flexor problems on one side of the body. It should be done when you are sleeping. This stretch will target the very deep psoas muscles located underneath your pelvic crest.
1. Position your body near the edge of your bed.
2. Allow your leg to hang over the side. The leg that is hanging should coincide with the side of the hip that is experiencing tightness and pain.
3. Try to hold this position until you fall asleep. Total relaxation through sleep will make this hip stretch very effective.
The Side Bend Stretch
1. Stand upright, and rest one leg to the side on a low platform or bench.
2. Without putting too much pressure on the knee of the outstretched leg, bend your upper body toward the bench.
3. Try to remain face-forward as you bend.
4. Perform the same motion for the other leg.
This stretch targets the tiniest hip flexor muscles within the pelvic region. It also helps to release the IT band on the outside of your upper leg.
This is one of the most effective hip flexor stretches because it involves nearly all of the muscles in your hips. It should be performed with an upright torso.
1. Stand upright, and take one giant step forward with one leg.
2. Without moving either foot, sink your hips to the floor. This should result in your forward knee taking a 90-degree angle and your back leg pointing straight behind.
3. Allow your hips to sink to the floor as far as possible, but do not force the motion. Let your body’s weight do the work.
4. After stretching for 30 seconds, stand up again. Switch legs, and repeat the stretching steps.
The lunge will elongate hip flexor muscles that are vital in running and stepping motions. These muscles are often overworked, and they need to be stretched daily.
Lying Hip Rotation
This stretch targets the lower back. While the flexors near the legs can be loose, their connections in the back can be tight. This rotation will help relax the entire length of these muscles.
1. Lie on your back in a natural position.
2. Bring one knee across the opposite leg. As you do this, your hip should raise from the floor and rotate.
3. Try to keep your back flat, but bring the bent and raised knee to the opposite side of the body. Let it hang naturally.
4. Use the opposing arm to gently pull the knee toward the floor. Hold this position for several seconds.
Many people will experience “popping” in their lower back when performing this stretch. This is okay if there is no pain. Hip flexor muscles incorporate much of the lower back, so this type of stretching is beneficial.
Seated Scissor Stretch
1. Sit on the floor with your feet pointed forward.
2. Bring one foot up and across the opposite leg. Place it on the floor on the outside of the knee.
3. Twist the upper body toward the side of the bent leg. Use the opposing arm to anchor the twist.
4. Hold this position until the active side’s buttock, hip, and abdominal muscles relax. Switch sides.
The key to this stretch is always keeping the inactive leg straight and pointed forward. There needs to be constant cross-body tension in the bent leg from the waist to the knee.
Rear Ankle Grabs
1. Kneel on the floor with your upper legs slightly apart.
2. Look upward, and slowly reach behind your body to grab your ankles.
3. Once your hands are in place, force your hips forward.
4. Try to keep your body in a “bowed” shape, but focus on balance.
This is one of the more advanced hip flexor stretches. It is very powerful for releasing tight muscles on the front of the hips that connect with the quadriceps (front of the legs). Do not perform this stretch if your back is extremely tense or if you have a problem with total body balance.
1. Sit “India-style” on the floor. Think of a classic cross-legged position.
2. Leg your hips relax until your knees are nearly touching the floor.
3. Slowly reach forward, and allow your torso to fall to the floor. Let your lower back round and fully relax.
For some people with hip flexor tightness, this can be a difficult stretch at first. It is most beneficial for people who are experiencing hip problems that affect the backs of the legs or those with sciatica issues. It is very important to take deep, slow breaths. This allows the abdominal and pelvic muscles to remain soft and pliable.
Getting Serious About Your Hip Flexors
While the hip flexor stretches and exercises above may help prevent injury and provide some basic training, there is a lot more to uncover. The “Unlock Your Hip Flexors” program deep dives into a comprehensive plan to maximize the potential of the oft-forgotten psoas muscle. This is critical for anyone serious about taking the next step in their health and looking to gain a competitive running edge.