8 Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises for Healthy Hips

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By: , – with Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer
3/15/2013 6:00 AM   :  79 comments   :  1,517,114 Views

The hip flexors are the group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees toward your chest and bend forward from the hips.  What is collectively referred to as the hip flexors is actually a group of muscles that includes the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles (rectus femoris, Sartorius and tensor fasciae latae), and the inner thigh muscles (adductor longus and brevis, pectineus and gracilis).
 
Tight hip flexors are a common problem among those of us who spend a lot of the day sitting at a desk.  When you spend a lot of time in a seated position, the hip flexors remain in a shortened position. Over time, the shortened muscles become “tight," which leads to its own set of problems.
 
Tight hip flexors can result in lower back pain, hip pain and injury.  A lot of strain is put on those muscles during activities that involve sprinting and kicking.  For example, runners are more prone to hip flexor injuries because of the small, repetitive movement during running.   But even if you’re not an athlete, hip flexor injuries can occur during everyday activities (for instance, slipping and falling or running to catch a bus).  When those tight muscles are suddenly stretched beyond what they are accustomed to, you might also experience pain in the upper groin region, typically where the hip meets the pelvis.   
 
Simple hip-strengthening and stretching exercises can help keep these muscles from becoming tight, therefore decreasing your risk of injury and discomfort.  Try these stretches daily and incorporate a few of the strength exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week.

Hip Flexor Stretches
Seated Butterfly Stretch:  A simple stretch for your inner thighs, hips and lower back. 

Pigeon Pose: This yoga posture lengthens the hip flexors on the back leg.

Weighted Hip Extension: This exercise lengthens the hip flexors while simultaneously strengthening the glutes, which are often weak in people with tight hip flexors.

Bridges: A great way to give the hip flexors a chance to lengthen while also strengthening the posterior chain of the body.

Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises
Note: Exercises that strengthen the hip flexors also involve contracting (shortening) these muscles. So if tight hip flexors are a problem for you, it might be wise to limit how many direct hip-strengthening exercises you perform. These exercises are more geared toward people who have been told they have weak hip flexors that need strengthening or are looking for targeted exercises to build more power and stamina in the hip flexors.

Balancing Hip Flexion:  Use your core to help with balance during this exercise that strengthens the hips and glutes.

Runner’s Lunges:  A great addition to any workout routine, this lower body strength move targets multiple muscles at once. 

Skater Squats:  A strength exercise for the hip flexors that can be done anytime, anywhere.  Use a chair for balance and eliminate the squat for simplicity, if needed. 

Pendulum:  A more advanced exercise to strengthen the core and hips.  Start with smaller movement and increase your range of motion as you become stronger. 
 

In addition to these exercises, there are simple things you can do every day to help reduce your risk of hip flexor pain.  If you sit at a desk for long periods of time, try to get up and move around every hour or so.  Warm up properly before any physical activity, and stretch regularly at the end of each workout.  Your hips will thank you for it! 

Sources:
http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/1478/why-do-muscles-tighten-up/


Have you suffered from tight hip flexors? If so, what is your favorite exercise or stretch? Would you consider adding any of these moves into your fitness routine?


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Comments

  • 79
    Great information! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :) - 8/19/2014   1:41:11 AM
  • MABLEMONSTER
    78
    very good info - 8/16/2014   11:11:49 PM
  • MABLEMONSTER
    77
    very good info - 8/16/2014   11:11:46 PM
  • 76
    Pigeon pose is awesome! It's helping me get rid of the chronic click in my left hip from my IT band. - 8/15/2014   10:37:50 AM
  • 75
    thanks for this article and suggestions/links - 8/15/2014   1:03:57 AM
  • 74
    Many of them seem to be helpful, the trouble with this is that you have to bounce around from one spot to another, constantly interrupting the flow of the routine, although some times that can be a good thing. Other times moving around like a bobbing robin is another... IF you have hip problems no doubt these will definitely help out.. the first 3 or 4 wouldn't even open to the exercises the others were pretty darn good.. I hope to do them soon ... - 1/28/2014   5:46:29 PM
  • 73
    Not sure what the problem is here, but all I get when I click on the links to the exercises are adverts for mags. Shape, Fitness and Prevention etc. - 11/5/2013   4:10:04 AM
  • 72
    pigeon pose hits the hip flexors AND piriformis - a two-fer - 10/30/2013   10:48:03 PM
  • DIBANANA
    71
    Great! - 5/2/2013   8:42:35 AM
  • 70
    That's a wonderful set of exercises - great research. Article bookmarked! - 4/27/2013   3:44:43 AM
  • TSHIRT24H
    69
    I like the kneeling hip flexor stretch! - 4/26/2013   4:07:56 PM
  • DETOX55
    68
    I love all these stretches, but particularly the butterfly stretch...I do it lying down with my arms above my head which is a yoga pose I can't recall the name for...it makes you feel amazing...

    Cycling, walking, lots of leg weights, bellydance and high heels are jointly responsible for my tight hip flexors...:-) - 4/22/2013   11:51:16 PM
  • 67
    I am sure that tight hip flexors are the cause of a hip injury from an over-ambitious running program almost seven years ago. The X-rays and MRI showed no fractures or tears, but my left hip was a tight, agonizing mess, and it led to lower back spasms, too. I limped for more than two years, and experienced chronic pain.

    I discovered a few of these exercises about 18 months ago, and will try the others. Today, my bad hip is strong, much more flexible, and pain-free, and I'm running again.

    My favorite stretch is actually Downward Dog with Extended Leg. It feels so good! - 4/12/2013   10:10:01 PM
  • 66
    Thanks, Nancy. The more weight training I do, the tighter my hip flexors get. These exercises will be easy to do throughout the day. - 3/29/2013   9:07:43 AM
  • KAND516
    65
    Thank you for these... I have chronic hip and knee pain, as well as plantar faciatis and it really keeps me from being more active. I am surprised to find that so many others suffer with it too, and have found these exercises helpful. I'm going to give these a try. - 3/28/2013   10:28:55 PM
  • JSDAWN
    64
    No hip stretches here for disabled people - 3/20/2013   12:50:08 PM
  • ROBBIEY
    63
    I plan to try some of these exercises to ease my hip pain. - 3/20/2013   8:00:58 AM
  • 62
    The great thing about hip flexor exercises is that in short order you'll see results. - 3/20/2013   7:35:28 AM
  • 61
    I went to physical therapy for knee pain... that actually was due to weak hips. Turns out low back pain & knees all feel it if hips aren't strong. Physical therapist had me doing the low-mount resistance band exercises and lots of stretches and it REALLY HELPS! She also had me do Side Planks, One-Legged Squats, and a lot of balancing exercises - like standing on one leg on a BOSU ball and playing catch. - 3/19/2013   5:03:48 PM
  • 60
    thanks for sharing! Didn't know a couple of them. I will try them. - 3/17/2013   12:56:49 PM
  • 59
    Great exercises, but I probably won't remember them all for my next workout. I wish they were housed on SP for me to save and/or print. The links may or may not work next time I want to check. - 3/17/2013   12:18:10 PM
  • 58
    Added pigeon pose back into my regular post-workout stretching routing recently...need to try some of these others. Thanks. - 3/17/2013   10:38:34 AM
  • 57
    I think these stretches will help me. I appreciated being able to see the wide varied of resources available to get information. So, I liked being linked to various places. Some seemed to be able to understand some directions more than others, but here again I have the names of the exercise and the basic concept, so I could search for a toot that worked better for me. Thanks!!! - 3/16/2013   10:09:38 AM
  • 56
    While I was interested in these exercises/stretches is was clear the article was written to redirect the reader to other website for advertising purposes.
    I appreciate that Sparkpeople is free, and this is the format for keeping it that way - but it was annoying to feel 'forced' to view these links in order educate myself. - 3/16/2013   9:12:04 AM
  • 55
    I've been struggling with multiple injuries due to tight hip flexors, thanks for these!! - 3/16/2013   7:55:39 AM
  • 54
    The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of keeping hip flexors supple and stretched! - 3/16/2013   6:44:49 AM
  • 53
    Another good reason to take up yoga - 3/16/2013   12:37:40 AM
  • 52
    Pigeon also helps with piriformis tightness. - 3/15/2013   10:55:45 PM
  • 51
    I really like doing hip flexors. I don't stretch before a workout but if my muscles are warm from activity it should not hurt. Thanks for sharing! - 3/15/2013   3:51:03 PM
  • 50
    Such perfect timing. Since starting a more regular exercise program, I've noticed my hips hurting. And thanks Laurie_Deasy for the suggestion to copy and print these for easy use. I will definitely be adding these stretches to my routine. - 3/15/2013   10:00:06 AM
  • 49
    I do all these stretches but only AFTER my workout (cardio and strength training) ... NEVER before - 3/15/2013   9:49:30 AM
  • NUCCI1960
    48
    ouch! ok i can do this everyday.It felt great to warm these muscles up for my workout.ThankYou - 3/15/2013   9:40:28 AM
  • GLENMORRISGIRL
    47
    Great suggestions, the links to other pages were cumbersome although good resources! - 3/15/2013   9:37:04 AM
  • CHERYLHURT
    46
    Thanks! - 3/15/2013   7:15:22 AM
  • TRIPSEY63
    45
    I'm excited to try out these stretches! As a hooper, these will definitely come in handy! HulieeHoops at weightedhulahoopworkout.com - 3/9/2013   5:32:26 AM
  • TRISHMO1
    44
    good reminder to stretch my hip flexors - 3/8/2013   10:44:26 AM
  • STEPFANIER
    43
    Love this blog! - 2/26/2013   3:38:55 PM
  • 42
    I will give this a try. - 2/26/2013   7:33:39 AM
  • 41
    I was diagnosed with a bulging disc in Oct. Lower back is killing me. Had therapy....now only the left side of my hip is hurting. I'm going to try these exercises to see if it will give me some relief in my hip. Stretching might do the trick. - 2/18/2013   11:26:10 PM
  • 40
    Hear! Hear! LAURIE_DEASY ... Well said. Going to other sites gives me ideas of other stretches to do. Thanks Nancy and SparkPeople for a great blog! - 12/27/2012   10:32:31 AM
  • LAURIE_DEASY
    39
    This is for lean-n-lexy. You sure are all about shaming folks aren't you! You must have been shamed and guilted alot when you were a child. I am sorry about that for you. To look at the bright side....I just copied and pasted all the wonderful exercises into an email and printed it out for myself. It took a few well worthwhile minutes because someone so kindly searched them all out for me to make it easy for me. And because I care about my health, I took the time to find a way to help myself and make it easier on me to actually do the exercises. It is not shameful to link people to other sites, it shows that SPARKPEOPLE really care about the welfare of others. They are not selfishly trying to keep you to themselves, or limit your resourses! They know that when you truely want to help people, you put it out there at any cost to yourself. And as far as kickbacks for directing to other sites.....well if that is true.....how does that hurt you? It just gives you a more vast accumulation of knowledge and help! I normally don't take the time to comment and I was not a "member" of SPARKPEOPLE, but I became one just to try to shed a different perspective for lean-n-lexy! I found this article on Pinterest and am very glad I did! Thank you SPARKPEOPLE! - 12/24/2012   10:04:28 AM
  • 38
    as a belly dancer - this is awesome because belly dancers have weak psoas muscles and tight hips. so this will be awesome to add my list of exercises. - 12/17/2012   1:35:45 AM
  • CAROLA28
    37
    I am dealing now with horrible Sciatica and it's all due to my hips. Thanks for the exercises! - 11/18/2012   12:58:50 PM
  • BARICKMN
    36
    This is one of the best compilations of hip flexor stretches and strengthening exercises. Thank you for taking all of the time to find these exercises from many different sources. - 4/18/2012   8:17:28 PM
  • 35
    As soon as my mileage starts to build on a walk/run training program my hip pain returns. I too sit at a desk all day and cycle a lot. I hope with consistent stretching these exercises will get rid of my hip pain. Thanks - 6/25/2011   9:08:47 AM
  • 34
    I have tight hips too and at one point it was so bad, I couldn't lift my leg to get out of the car! Hip flexor stretches definitely helped but don't forget the backside since it all works in conjunction - gotta stretch the piriformis muscles too! - 6/4/2011   2:27:30 AM
  • 33
    This couldn't have come to my attention at a better time! I am struggling with lower back pain and a terribly sore left heel. I thought about going back to physical therapy, but these exercises may save me time and money while making me feel better! - 5/29/2011   11:40:37 AM
  • 32
    Very timely for me... am currently side-lined due to hip pain. Taking anti-inflammatory meds with a tentative diagnosis of bursitis and begin physical therapy next week. Will compare these suggested stretches with those from the MD as well as the PT. Wish I'd seen this months ago but better late than never! TU - 5/28/2011   10:11:36 AM
  • CYNNANE
    31
    Love stretching the Flexor! :) - 5/26/2011   7:04:44 PM
  • 30
    Due to severe arthritis in both hips, and looking at replacement surgery, I'm afraid to strain my hips too much. thanks for the ex. though. I'll get at them, when I can. - 5/26/2011   3:59:09 PM

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