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! 


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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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
That's a wonderful set of exercises - great research. Article bookmarked! Report
I like the kneeling hip flexor stretch! Report
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
No hip stretches here for disabled people Report
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
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
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
ouch! ok i can do this everyday.It felt great to warm these muscles up for my workout.ThankYou Report
Great suggestions, the links to other pages were cumbersome although good resources! Report
Thanks! Report
I'm excited to try out these stretches! As a hooper, these will definitely come in handy! HulieeHoops at weightedhulahoopworkout.com Report
good reminder to stretch my hip flexors Report
Love this blog! Report
I will give this a try. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
I am dealing now with horrible Sciatica and it's all due to my hips. Thanks for the exercises! Report
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. Report
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 Report
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! Report
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! Report
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 Report
Love stretching the Flexor! :) Report
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. Report
yeah! Report
I started having piriformis pain when I was training to walk a half marathon. I was fine until I got up to doing 10 miles straight. I ended up having to do PT where I learned the Figure 4 stretch for the piriformis. I'm going to try some of these to get some of the muscles in the same area. Report
Thanks for this post. I have a real problem with my left hip when I sit too long in one position. Shall have to try some of these suggested stretches! Report
I've tried the butterfly stretch. I'll try some of the others. Report
Thanks for this. I was just the other day looking for some exercises for the hips. Lately as I have started walking more miles at a time, I have been experiencing some pain in my hips. I was looking for some stretches to loosen up that area. Thanks again. Report
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