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8 Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises for Healthy Hips

By: , – with Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer
3/15/2013 6:00 AM   :  74 comments   :  1,433,121 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

  • 24
    Thanks - I have pain with my hips and they will often go out of joint. I will use these exercises. - 5/25/2011   11:57:24 AM
  • 23
    Oh my gosh, it's like you were reading my mind. LOL I have been wondering what exercises to do for this. I had a doc tel me to sleep on my stomach. I have a really bad back and they want to replace both hips so not easy to sleep that way. I am going to start doing these and hopefully I can get some relief before a I make the decision to have surgery. - 5/25/2011   11:27:42 AM
  • ROSEBUD1954
    22
    We use a bolster pillow...bigger than the foam roller and place it for about 5 min in sections on our back...ahhh - 5/25/2011   10:28:27 AM
  • 21
    i totally need this!! ;) - 5/25/2011   9:46:32 AM
  • 20
    Wow, that Pidgeon Pose looks tough!! - 5/25/2011   8:26:37 AM
  • 19
    Good To Be Limber...! - 5/25/2011   8:21:02 AM
  • 18
    I've been going to yoga classes and running since January and I've found that running after yoga is amazing. My hips are so loose that I can really go for a long time and with a little additional stretch after I have very little discomfort after. - 5/25/2011   7:25:05 AM
  • ELLIENOV
    17
    Thanks for the timely reminder. - 5/25/2011   3:39:57 AM
  • MERULE
    16
    I really love hip stretches - thanks for ideas how to update my stretch routine! - 5/25/2011   3:18:09 AM
  • SKYLIKE
    15
    my hips are my weak point so I really needed to read this. Thanks for that! Will definitely be making these a necessary part of my exercise routine. - 5/25/2011   2:48:01 AM
  • 14
    I do the second and the last two on a regular basis. I lov-love-love doing pigeon as part of my regular post-run yoga routine. - 5/25/2011   2:31:49 AM
  • 13
    The foam roller is helpful in exercise for the hips. - 5/25/2011   2:25:13 AM
  • 12
    I love pigeon pose for loosening up my hip flexors! Mine get especially tight from hours of running and cycling each week, but I find that yoga helps a lot to keep me loose. If only I could seem to make yoga more of a priority in my workout routine... - 5/25/2011   1:12:43 AM
  • 11
    I'm not running now but I can use these. I just got a foam roller from my chiropractor to try to work on this area (I didn't know foam could feel like bricks!) these will help me alot - thanks. - 5/25/2011   1:11:34 AM
  • 10
    I tried running for a few months last year--had to give it up because my hips hurt so badly. I'm now doing a bunch of these stretches, and wondering if they may have solved my problem. I'd love to be able to run again, but only if it doesn't hurt! - 5/25/2011   12:11:50 AM
  • 9
    I am grateful to have this information. I was feeling pain in my right hip flexor today and didn't know what to do to help sort it out. Than you. - 5/24/2011   11:57:42 PM
  • 8
    Oh, this blog is well-timed for me! That "Hip Flexor Stretch" (third in the list) really feels like it's hitting me where my tight muscle is on the front of my hip. Thanks, Coach Nancy! - 5/24/2011   11:06:57 PM
  • 7
    Good stuff! I wuold add pilates too - Combined with hip flexor stretches, and replacing my office desk with a stand-up work surface, it's saved me from chronic low back/hip pain!
    - 5/24/2011   9:32:08 PM
  • 6
    I was happy to note that all but one of these are included in the classes that I take every week. - 5/24/2011   9:19:39 PM
  • 5
    This is very helpful. My hip flexors are often too tight to do deep squats. It's not until I've done 3-4 sets that they loosen up enough. I will try some of these stretches. - 5/24/2011   8:22:04 PM
  • 4
    Great blog Nancy! I too suffer from tight hip flexors... my favorite is the hip swing (feels great after a run) and I also do the low mount hip flexors with the band... I"m definately going to try the rest of these out!! - 5/24/2011   7:36:43 PM
  • 3
    As a runner who sits at a desk most of each work day the suggested stretches will certainly get incorporated into my repertoire. I love the pigeon pose and do it regularly in yoga classes! - 5/24/2011   6:34:16 PM

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