If you experience tightness around your hips or pain in your lower back, it can mean that you have tension in your hip flexors. Your hip flexor muscles are used every day, from simply taking an easy stroll to working out intensely at the gym.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles, the iliacus, psoas major muscles (also called the iliopsoas), and the rectus femoris, which is a part of your quadriceps. These are the muscles that allow you to raise your leg, squat, walk and simply, move.
Tight hips can result from spending too much time sitting down. However, it can also occur in professional athletes and serious gym-goers. Without stretching and strengthening our hip flexors, you are at risk of injury due to the additional pressure placed on the tissues.
Read on to learn more about what you can do to relax these muscles and strengthen them.
Hip Flexor Stretches
These 7 stretches will help you feel better and unlock any hip flexor strain you may have.
1. Seated Butterfly Stretch
The seated butterfly stretch is a great stretch for all levels and is a familiar one. This stretch helps loosen up the groin, inner thighs, and hip flexors.
Begin by sitting on the floor with your feet together. Make sure your back is straight and your chest is upright. Lay your hands on top of your feet. Then slowly lean forward from your hips. If you are more flexible, gently push your elbows against your thighs. Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds at a time for a total of 2-5 sets.
2. Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch is slightly more advanced as it will require a bit of balance. It is an excellent hip flexor stretch that will lengthen the psoas and iliacus (known as the iliopsoas) muscles.
Begin the stretch by kneeling on the floor. Then move the right leg in front of you, so that the right thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. The left knee should remain on the floor, aligned underneath the left hip. Next, place your hands on your hips and slowly shift your hips forward until you feel a good stretch. Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat this 2-4 times.
3. Standing Quad Stretch
While this is one of the most effective and common stretches, it is also one of the most poorly performed stretches. Many people tend to overarch their back or fail to properly stretch all areas of the quadriceps muscle.
The best way to perform this is to begin by standing on your leg. You can stand beside a wall to help you with balance. Then, grab your right foot with your right hand and pull it towards your butt. Try to point and flex your toe to stretch your hip flexors and target other muscles. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat this 2-3 times.
4. Hip Flexor Bed Stretch
This stretch is highly underrated and is one of the most effective in not only stretching your hips but also indicating right away whether your hips are tight.
To begin, lie flat on your back on a bed. Position yourself so that you are on the side of the bed. Place one leg off of the bed and let it relax. Then bring it back up once it has touched the floor or has stretched completely, if your bed is a bit higher. Repeat this 6-8 times per side for 3 sets.
5. Glute Bridge
Tightness in the hip flexors can make it difficult to strengthen and activate your glutes and hamstrings. This stretch will not only help with loosening up your hip strain but also strengthen your hips when done correctly.
To perform this stretch, lie with your back down on the floor and your knees bent. Feet should be planted on the ground and arms at your side. Slowly lift your hips off the ground until your hips form a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Do not overextend as this can create further pressure on your lower back. Hold only for a few seconds and slowly come back down. Complete 10-15 repetitions, 3-5 sets.
6. Figure Four Stretch
This stretch can help keep your hips healthy, mobile, and loose. Perform this after your workout or throughout the day and you will thank yourself!
To do this, begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and grab your left knee pulling it towards your chest. Grab your left knee pulling it towards your chest to deepen the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds and then release. Make sure you breathe while doing this. Repeat on your left side. Repeat this at least 3 times.
7. Pigeon Stretch
The pigeon stretch or pigeon pose is a yoga pose that is very helpful for stretching your hips. It can increase your flexibility of the hip flexors, release any tension in the lower back and keep you mobile.
To begin, sit down and bring your right knee in front of your right hip. Slide your left leg back in a straightened position. Take a deep breath and if able, shift your weight towards the front. If you are flexible enough, instead of having your ankle tucked in, try taking your right ankle and place it in front of your left hip. Hold this for 10-15 seconds and switch sides.
Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Hip Flexors
While these stretches are great to do consistently post-workout, you should also focus on strengthening your hip flexors. Here are some exercises to get you started:
• Skater Squats
• Single-Leg Bridges
• High Knees
• Standing Knee Drive
Your hip flexors are one of the most important muscles in your body. They help you stabilize the pelvis and the spine, preventing injury. Make sure you stretch them routinely and strengthen them as well.
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This blog was written by Mike Kenler