With the amount of sitting most of us have to do on a daily basis, it’s common for hip and lower back muscles to get tight as they remain in a shortened position over extended periods of time. Hip flexor muscles attach the hip joints to the top of the femur and the inside of the knee, allowing flexibility of the upper leg. When we sit for long periods of time, these muscles tighten, causing stiffness and pain. Hip flexor stretches can loosen up these muscles to take some strain off the lower back and restore a normal range of motion.
Often tight hip flexors manifest in pain elsewhere in the body such as the lower back and hamstrings. We don’t pay a lot of attention to hip flexors because they’re buried deep in the body and aren’t regularly activated through conscious effort. However, the right hip flexor stretches can loosen them right up into their natural state.
What are Hip Flexors?
Hip flexors are a group of hip muscles that connect the lumbar spine, pelvis, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and knees. They’re responsible for the mobility of the lower extremities, as well as core stability and balance. They also allow you to raise your knee upward.
The hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) attach the pelvis to the leg bones.
Why You Should Stretch Your Hip Flexors
You may not be able to see your hip flexors but you sure can feel them if they’re not working properly.
Tightness and pain in hip flexor muscles are often accompanied by tight hamstrings. Undue strain is put on the lower back causing pain there as well. In addition, tight flexors can result in an anterior pelvic tilt, in which the front of your pelvis is pulled forward from your spine and out of alignment.
5 Hip Flexor Stretches
Given how important these invisible muscles are and how a complete lifestyle change is beyond the realm of possibility for most of us, it’s important to remember to include hip strengthening exercises in our workout regimes. At work, we may have to sit more than we would like so a little extra consideration can alleviate or avoid hip flexor pain.
Following are some hip flexor stretches and exercises designed specifically to show you how to stretch your hips.
1. Assisted Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- This is a great beginner hip flexor stretch, as you can support yourself with a solid object to ensure you get the correct form.
- Lay down your yoga mat and get into a half-kneeling position with your back leg being the one you are about to stretch.
- Hold a stick in front of you and actively push it down into the ground. This will engage your core and stretch all the right muscles.
- Keep your body upright and rotate your pelvis inward, squeezing your glutes.
- Then, keeping your muscles engaged and your body upright, lean forward at the hips for 2 deep breaths.
- Repeat 8-10 reps per leg.
2. Pigeon Stretch
This is an advanced stretch for hip flexors. Be careful not to over-stretch, which can cause injury.
- Start with your hands and knees on your yoga mat, and bring your left ankle to your right hand. Your knee should be aligned between your hands if possible.
- As you do so, slide your right leg straight back, keeping your hips in line with your wrists.
- Inhale, lift your chest to lengthen your spine.
- Hold for a few deep breaths and switch legs.
3. Spider-Man Stretch
Be your own superhero with this sequence of hip flexor stretches!
- Start by sitting tall on your knees. Bring your right knee forward, bending at the hips. Your left knee and toes should be touching the floor.
- Step forward with your front foot and bring both hands to the ground beside it.
- Relax your back leg, bring your left knee to the ground.
- Hold for a few breaths as you drive your left hip towards the ground. Hold for a few breaths.
- Bring your right hand to the right of your right foot and shift your weight to sit on your left thigh. Your right leg should straighten out as you do so. Hold for a few breaths.
- Return to the main position and twist your chest towards your right knee. Hold for a few breaths.
- If you’d like, repeat the motion twisting away from your knee.Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
4. Hip Flexor Mobilization
This stretch is low impact and you can control how much weight you put into it. Foam rollers are effective in aiding muscle stretches as they release and stretch the fascia (connective tissue) that cover the muscles. Using the roller, you can actually increase the range of motion of your whole hip.
- Press a foam roller into the crease of your hip as you lie down on your belly.
- Let your weight sink into the roller and roll back and forth to massage out your muscles.
- When you find a spot that’s tender, focus on it and apply even more pressure to help release the tightness.
5. Happy Baby Yoga Pose
Yoga poses are exceptionally effective in stretching out hip flexors; many are designed particularly for opening up your hips. The beauty of yoga positions for stretching is that they are easily adapted to your level of ability. For example, this pose provides a gentle stretch.
- Lie on your mat and pull your knees to your chest.
- Place your hands on outsides of your feet, opening your knees and hips wide.
- Press your feet into hands while simultaneously pulling down on your feet to create resistance.
- Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds or so.
Given the range of ease of these stretches for your hip flexors, you can gradually start to loosen, lengthen, and strengthen all the pelvic and lower back muscles to counter the strain of long periods of sitting. You’ll feel the difference these hip flexor stretches make after just a few days, with improved mobility, less strain, and a greater range of motion.
You don’t need any special equipment or to go to a gym to do these hip flexor stretches, just get out your yoga mat and do them at home. It’s always a good idea to warm up your muscles for at least five minutes before stretching to avoid a pull or tear.
For more hip flexor stretches, head to: https://dailyhealthpost.com/hip-flexor-stretches/
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