Our hip flexors, the group of muscles responsible for lifting our knees and bending at the waist, are often overused and under stretched. We don’t even realize what a beating our hip flexors take until we start to feel pain and tightness in the hip, groin, and lower back area. Constant flexion in physical activities like running and cycling can create hip flexor tightness. Problems can also arise when the hip flexors are shortened for a long period, such as sitting at a desk or wearing high heels all day. I, myself developed tendonitis in my hip flexor muscles from dancing in heels every day when I was a competitive Latin ballroom dancer. It’s because of my own personal battle with hip flexor pain that I made a point to find the best stretches for opening the tightened muscles. Make sure to do these 4 stretches daily to eliminate hip flexor pain and maintain hip mobility.
1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch– Kneel on one knee in a proposal position. Transfer your weight onto the back knee as you straighten the front leg to get the foot out in front of you as much as you can. Place the front foot down on the ground and bend the front knee as you transfer your weight from the back to the front. Place both hands on the top of your right thigh for support. Keep your body upright. Squeeze your glutes to press your hips down to ground in this half lunge position. You should feel a stretch in the hip of the leg that is extended behind you. To get a deeper stretch, take the arm that is on the same side as the stretched hip and reach it up and over to the opposite side. You may place the other hand on the ground for more support if you are flexible enough. Go slowly, keeping your abs pulled in for balance. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds, release and then repeat 5 times on each leg.
2. Fallen Figure Four Stretch– This is one of my favorite stretches because it targets the hard to reach TFL (tensor fasciae latae) muscle on the side of the hip. Lie down on your back and get your legs into a figure four by crossing one ankle over the other thigh with the knee bent. Rotate your legs as one unit to the side so that the foot that is closest to you is now flat on the floor with that knee upright. Hold onto the ankle with the hand closet to it to help maintain the figure four shape. Keep that bottom knee pulled in to get the stretch in your top hip. Lengthen the front of your body, pulling the top knee away from your torso. The next step is to take the free hand and press the top thigh away from your body for a deeper stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times on each side.
3. Knee to Chest with Raised Hips– You will need a prop for this stretch. A bolster, yoga block or firm pillow will do. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips up and place your prop underneath your tailbone. Straighten your legs over your prop to lengthen the front of your hips. Pull one knee into your chest while keeping the other leg long and foot flexed. Imagine someone is pulling your straight leg away from your body as you’re pulling your knee in opposition. You can experiment with pulling the knee in at different angles to get different parts of the hip flexor stretched on the straight leg. I find that turning the knee out slightly allows for more sensation in the stretch. Hold for 1-3 minutes on each side.
4. Spiderman Lunge Stretch– Step forward into a lunge position bringing your hands down to the ground and torso forward. Keep the leg behind your straight with the foot flexed on the ground. Press your hips forward to feel the stretch in the hip flexor. From this position, you can rotate away from the straight leg. Your torso will twist, leaving one hand on the ground for support and the other hand reaching up to the sky. I recommend taking the free arm, wrapping it behind you and gently pressing the opposite hip down to the ground for an even deeper stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5 times on each leg.
Which is your favorite hip stretch?
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Light” by ODESZA