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The Best Hip Flexor Stretches To Release Tight Hips

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The Best Hip Flexor Stretches To Release Tight Hips
Hip Flexor Stretches

Most of us spend a lot of time sitting at work, in the car, on public transport, or during our down time. While we are all about getting adequate rest and recovery, sitting for extended periods of time can cause your hip flexors to become very tight from being held in a shortened position for too long. 

Having weak core muscles can also lead to tight hip flexors. Because the hip flexor muscles are connected to the spine, they often engage and take over if your core isn’t strong, which can lead to tightness and pain.

Tight hip flexors can be uncomfortable, but they also affect other parts of your body like your glutes, core and lower back, and might impact your ability to perform movements such as squats and deadlifts

When your hip flexors are tight, it can be harder to activate your glutes (the opposing muscle), as they become lengthened and won’t engage as effectively. 

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You can counter the effects of frequent sitting by strengthening and stretching the muscles around the hip joint.

What are hip flexors?

Your hip flexors are actually a group of muscles that connect your quads to your hip bones. This muscle group plays a key role in movements that involve bending at the waist or lifting your knees.

Hip flexor muscles include: 

  • Iliacus and psoas major muscles (also called the iliopsoas) that reach from the inside of the pelvis to the spine. These muscles help to stabilise your lower back.
  • Sartorius muscle, which extends from the spine to the knee cap and is used to flex your knee and leg.
  • Tensor fasciae latae, located at the side of the hip.
  • Rectus femoris, which is part of your quadriceps and also extends from the spine to the kneecap. This is the quad muscle you use during squats and lunges.

How to tell if you have tight hip flexors 

Aside from feeling tightness around your hip area, some other common signs to look for include:

  • Tightness or aching in your lower back area, glutes or neck.
  • Poor posture or difficulty standing up straight.
  • Muscle spasms in the hips or thighs.
  • A lack of mobility or discomfort when exercising.

Why should you stretch your hip flexors?

Your hips bear the weight of your body all day — not just when you’re sitting down, but also when you’re walking, running and jumping. 

Making time to stretch daily can help improve your mobility and prevent pain or injury. We’ve included a few hip flexor stretches that you can try below. Along with stretching, it’s also important to strengthen the other muscles around the hip by doing strength exercises focused on your glutes and core.

If you have strained or torn a hip flexor and you have a sharp pain that doesn’t resolve, make sure that you see a health professional for advice. 

Best hip flexor stretches to do daily

To take care of your hip flexors, you need to stretch and mobilise all of the muscles that connect to your hips. 

The first few stretches here focus solely on tight hip flexors, and then we move on to the other muscles that connect to the hip joint. 

Use these stretches after a workout or take 10 minutes at the end of your day to loosen tight hips. 

Hip flexor stretch

This stretch targets the front of the hip. Ease into it gently and find a point of stretch but not discomfort. 

1. Begin in a kneeling position on a yoga mat.

2. Take one large step forward with your left leg, so that you are in a lunge position. Make sure your front knee is not further forward than your toe. If it is, you will need to take a bigger step forward.

3. Keeping your torso upright, push your hips forwards so that you feel a stretch along the front of your right leg.

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds. 

5. Repeat this stretch on the other side with your right leg forward.

Hip flexor and quad

Building on the previous stretch, this stretch focuses on the front of the hip. In particular, it targets the rectus femoris, the hip flexor muscle that is part of your quadriceps and helps to lift your leg. 

1. Begin in a kneeling position on a yoga mat.

2. Take one large step forwards with your left leg so that you are in a low lunge position, making sure your left knee is not further forward than your toes. If it is, you will need to take a bigger step forward.

3. Carefully raise your right shin and foot off the mat, and hold onto your right foot with your right hand.

Keeping your torso upright, push your hips forwards so that you feel a stretch along the front of your right leg.

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. 

5. Each time that you exhale, increase the stretch by using your abdominals to tuck your pubic bone towards your belly button.

6. Repeat on the other side.

Hip flexor and quad using a bench

Using a bench can increase the intensity and take this stretch to the next level. If you don’t have a bench, you could use a low table or step.

1. Place a bench horizontally behind you.

2. Begin in a kneeling position on a yoga mat with the top of your right foot resting on or against the bench. 

3. Take one large step forward with your left leg so that you are in a low-lunge position, making sure your left knee is not further forward than your toes.

4. Keeping your torso upright, push your hips forwards so that you feel a stretch along the front of your right leg.

5. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. 

6. Repeat on the other side.

Glutes

Because your glutes work with your hip flexors to move your hips and most of your lower body, it’s important to also stretch your glutes for optimal hip mobility.

1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, making sure they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. 

2. Lift your right foot and rest your ankle on your left leg, just above your knee.

3. Draw your left knee in towards your torso, resting both hands on the back of your left thigh. 

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.

5. If you want more of a stretch, try to draw your knee further into your chest each time you exhale, or try pressing your right elbow into your right knee. Make sure your spine remains in a neutral position and your tailbone on the floor. 

6. Repeat on the other side.

Seated twist

You can do this glute stretch in a seated position, targeting the largest glute muscle, the gluteus maximus. 

1. Begin in a seated position on a yoga mat with your legs extended out in front of you and feet flexed. Lift your left leg and place your foot on the mat on the outside of your right knee. 

2. Wrap your right arm around your left knee and place your left hand on the mat behind your hip, gently pulling your knee in towards your chest.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. 

4. Repeat on the other side.

Adductors

This is also referred to as the ‘butterfly stretch’. Completing stretches like this after your workout is so important and something many of us don’t make time for or forget to do, especially if you’ve just started working out!

1. Begin seated on a yoga mat with both legs extended out in front of you.

2. Bring the soles of your feet together directly in front of you with your knees turned out - similar to a cross-legged position. Place your hands on your feet, resting your forearms on your thighs.

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. 

5. You can also deepen the stretch by lowering your torso further towards the floor each time you exhale, or gently using your forearms to press your thighs closer to the mat.

Tensor fasciae latae (outside of leg)

You’ll need a foam roller to target this hip flexor. 

Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release that you can do on your own body. It works by massaging or releasing muscle and fascial tightness. 

The roller applies pressure, helping to break up ‘knots’ that can form in your muscles and tissue. Follow these instructions to foam roll your tensor fasciae latae (the side of your hip):

1. In a kneeling position, place the foam roller on your mat in front of your knees. 

2. Place your hands on the floor in front of the foam roller, then rotate your torso towards the right, extending your legs as shown to allow the foam roller to press into your left TFL (directly below your hip).

3. Slowly roll the foam roller along the length of your TFL. Once you reach a point of tenderness (called a trigger point), pause and hold that position for ~60 seconds or until the pressure/pain is significantly reduced. You can choose to perform a smaller rocking motion over the point of tenderness if you prefer.

4. Continue to roll down the length of your TFL, pausing on any trigger points as needed.

5. Repeat on the other side.

Standing stretches to help your hip flexors

You can’t always sit on the floor to stretch, so here are some standing stretches you can do throughout the day.

Quads

Several key hip flexors extend from the hip right down to the knee, so stretching the quadriceps along the front of the leg helps to keep them from feeling tight. 

1. Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart.

2. Bend your right knee, bring your foot back directly behind you, and hold it with your right hand. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right leg.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds. If you’re struggling to balance, focus on a spot directly ahead of you or extend your left arm out to the side.

4. Repeat this stretch with your left leg.

Standing glute stretch

If you’ve been training outdoors or don’t want to sit on the ground to stretch, use this standing glute stretch at the end of your workout. 

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Lift your left foot, turn out your left knee and rest your ankle just above your right knee, as shown.

3. Bend your right knee so that you are in a single-leg squat. If you want more of a stretch, gently push down on your left knee using your left elbow.

4. Hold this position for 30 seconds. If you are struggling to balance, try to focus on a spot directly in front of you.

5. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Adductors

Use this standing stretch for your hips after a workout, or any time throughout the day. 

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 

2. While maintaining an upright position, take a large step out to the side with your left leg. Bend your left knee, making sure your right leg remains straight. 

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout. You should feel a stretch in your inner thigh.

4. Repeat on the other side.

Calves and hamstrings

 

Strengthening your hamstrings and calves should always be part of a balanced lower-body resistance programme. After every leg workout, Stretching these muscles after each leg workout can help improve your range of motion and flexibility. 

1. Stand with your feet in a very wide stance with both feet facing forwards.  

2. Bending from the hips, turn your torso towards your left leg and reach for your foot (or as far as you can), placing your hands on your foot, shin or knee — whichever is most comfortable.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.

4. If you want more of a stretch, try to bring your torso further towards your left leg each time you exhale, making sure you are bending from the hips and not rounding through your spine.

5. Repeat on the other side.

Use these stretches to release tight hip flexors

Stretching before and after workouts can help with hip tightness. Our trainers' top workout tips always include making time for stretching as part of your warm-up, cool down and recovery. 

How do you keep your hips flexible? Share your tips in the comments below!

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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