8 Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises for Healthy Hips

By , with Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer
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

AZMOMXTWO
great Ideas Report
I had compromised range of motion in my hips. I am a runner and I couldn’t increase my speed. Using this program - www.certifiedtreatment.com/hipflexo
rs
I adjusted my back and relieved the pain the tightness in my hips and lower back which allowed me to run harder and longer. Not only do I have less pain on a daily basis, but I also have more energy and stamina when I run. I find myself with better movement and sleep, and I have maximized my performance. Report
MARTINLEE33
What a great informative blog on hip flexer. I really agree with exercise in between your office jobs and before exercise. Here is more info on how you can get rid of your hip flexor pain. tighthipflexorpain.com Report
Some of these I already know from yoga but putting it all together like this is a great reminder to counteract all that sitting at a computer. Thanks! Report
MARK_BIG
Being an athlete all my life and having endured multiple knee surgeries due to blowing out ACL's in both knees, I later started to develop a hip issue in my right hip due to the years of wear and tear.
These days I'm stronger and faster than ever and still competing in sports.
This site fb.me/7iW9sE50u/#/_EXERCISES_FOR_HI
P_FLEXORS/ gave me the ability to perform at my highest level as a coach and regain the athletic ability I had lost over the years from wear and tear Report
JMETZ4

If you have a stiff, tight or painful hip then www.HipFlexors.info will unlock your hip flexors and restore movement the way it should be. Unlocking your hip flexors instantly breathes new life, energy, and strength into your body! I experienced immediate results. I've been able to loosen up my hips, decrease back tightness, and even workout harder. With so many people suffering with hip pain out there, this program is a great tool for anybody that wants to reduce pain while improving strength, performance, and overall health. Hip flexibility, mobility and strength is one of the most important things you can do to keep your overall body healthy. The video presentation and visuals in the exercise program give me confidence that I am doing the exercises correctly which for me is key with no personal trainer. The website is very complete in listing the possible causes of tight hip flexors and other factors that can lead to the issue. It has detailed, descriptive information regarding the anatomy of the hip, causes of such injuries, and a very progressive and well explained exercise and stretching schedule that will assist to re-balance the hip and pelvic region, safely stretch and strengthen the muscle group. Best of luck to you! :) Report
The best exercise I have used to relieve hip pain caused by hip flexors is the clam shell. It's like magic to relieve pain for me. I lay on my side, back against wall, knees bent, and open my top knee, then close it 30 times, slowly, while maintaining a tight core. I lift my top leg up few inches and repeat. Then switch sides and repeat. Report
I agree that the need to see helps more than the written word. Too easy to get hurt by not seeing it done properly. Report
LINDAOLSON3
Putting the exercise in writing do not help me, I need to watch them doing them so, I can figer out how to do them, or if I should even try to do them. I use the flex extendors, lifting my legs one at a time from the flor to strengthen my thys, hip and buttox. And I try to remember to do the bridge excerise. I have had 2 total hip replacements , 7 months a part, in 2013. Trying to get stronger with cold weather will be 70 in Feb. Linda
Need to see people doing these excercises, to maybe do them. Report
I am 59, have no trouble with my hips, and am very flexible for someone my age. For the past couple of years, I have been working out several days a week to "Total Body Sculpt with Gilad". His hip, thigh, and glute routines are very effective! Report
Thank you, these were a great reminder for me! Report
CJOHNSTON2001
I do some of these now in Yoga,but want to do more,so good for the back too.THANK YOU!!! Report
These are some good flexor stretches! Report
I definitely need to stretch more. Report
Great information! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :) Report
MABLEMONSTER
very good info Report
MABLEMONSTER
very good info Report
Pigeon pose is awesome! It's helping me get rid of the chronic click in my left hip from my IT band. Report
thanks for this article and suggestions/links Report
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 ... Report
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. Report
pigeon pose hits the hip flexors AND piriformis - a two-fer Report
RADIANT888
That's a wonderful set of exercises - great research. Article bookmarked! Report
TSHIRT24H
I like the kneeling hip flexor stretch! Report
DETOX55
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...:-) Report
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! Report
Thanks, Nancy. The more weight training I do, the tighter my hip flexors get. These exercises will be easy to do throughout the day. Report
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. Report
JSDAWN
No hip stretches here for disabled people Report
ROBBIEY
I plan to try some of these exercises to ease my hip pain. Report
The great thing about hip flexor exercises is that in short order you'll see results. Report
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. Report
thanks for sharing! Didn't know a couple of them. I will try them. Report
KARATE_KID
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. Report
FITVALGAL
Added pigeon pose back into my regular post-workout stretching routing recently...need to try some of these others. Thanks. Report
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!!! Report
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. Report
I've been struggling with multiple injuries due to tight hip flexors, thanks for these!! Report
The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of keeping hip flexors supple and stretched! Report
Another good reason to take up yoga Report
Pigeon also helps with piriformis tightness. Report
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! Report
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. Report
I do all these stretches but only AFTER my workout (cardio and strength training) ... NEVER before Report
NUCCI1960
ouch! ok i can do this everyday.It felt great to warm these muscles up for my workout.ThankYou Report
GLENMORRISGIRL
Great suggestions, the links to other pages were cumbersome although good resources! Report
Thanks! Report
TRIPSEY63
I'm excited to try out these stretches! As a hooper, these will definitely come in handy! HulieeHoops at weightedhulahoopworkout.com Report
TRISHMO1
good reminder to stretch my hip flexors Report