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!
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?