Athletes with relative shortening of the hip flexors and accompanying weakness of hip extensors will exhibit decreased hip extension at terminal stance phase or “toe off.” Athletes who lack hip extension may also exhibit related limitation in great toe extension. Often these athletes will show decreased wear under the great toe aspect of their shoe sole and relative increased wear under the more lateral toes. These athletes may also demonstrate increased hip flexion at initial contact or “heel strike” in an effort to make up for the shorter stride length caused by limited hip extension. In patients with knee instability this will contribute to hyperextension or “giving way” of the knee.13
I’m a runner and started experiencing some familiar tightness in my hip and started getting worse everyday I ran. It’s always gotten sore after running for a long extent for the last 4 years or so. I’m glad I found this page because all of these stretches helped me realize what needed to be stretched and how tight I really was! I hope this will fix my overwhelming soreness. Thank you!

The hip flexors in particular can be troublesome little cusses. These muscles are crucially tied to the functionality of everyone from elite athletes to senior citizens, but working them can make anyone feel silly. After all, you never see videos of Ronnie Coleman walking with his arms extended in front of him like a zombie, attempting to raise his toes up to his hands.
The iliopsoas is another powerful hip flexor that begins in two distinct regions proximally. The iliacus has a broad origin, arising from the inner table of the iliac wing, the sacral alae, and the iliolumbar and sacroiliac ligaments. The psoas originates at the lumbar transverse processes, the intervertebral discs, and the adjacent bodies from T12 to L5, in addition to the tendinous arches between these points. Distally, the two large muscular bodies converge to become one distinct structure—the iliopsoas—and subsequently jointly insert at the lesser trochanter of the proximal femur. The nerve to the iliopsoas (i.e., the anterior division of L1 to L3) supplies the iliopsoas muscle.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to having weak and tight hip flexors as they are always in the shortened position. Tight hip flexors can lead to a limited range of motion, poor posture, lower back, and hip pain, and even injuries. These muscles need to get a workout when you are standing and doing movements such as raising your leg to climb stairs, run, or ride a bicycle.​

The hip flexors are the muscles at the front of your hip. They’re responsible for several essential functions. Since they’re so often overlooked, we often forget to stretch them before exercising or engaging in rigorous activities. Tight hip flexors can also be a product of being sedentary. So, if you don’t lead an active lifestyle, or if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, you’ll be susceptible to hip flexor tightness.


Unilateral exercises like step-ups and single-leg toe touches are particularly effective at strengthening the glutes, while walking lunges, lateral lunges, air squats, and jump squats will zero in on all the muscles surrounding the hips. Whether you’re at the gym or heading out for (or back from!) a run, these five moves will strengthen and open your hips, keep them loose long-term, and not only make you a better runner, but make running feel better to you.
Muscle Imbalances – The front of your hips, your hip flexors, are the muscles that will tighten and shorten while you are sitting for hours each day. While you are sitting, the back of your hips, your glutes and your hip extensors, are being overstretched. But just because they are being tightened and stretched respectively, doesn’t benefit either of them. They are also being weakened because of the lack of use of each muscle group.
It's easy to compensate in this position by hyperextending your lower back, but it's crucial that you don't. Instead, I want you to focus on squeezing your glutes and hamstrings, which will push your hips forward into a full-on "schwing." If your right foot is back, you should feel an intense stretch on the right front side of your hip. Hold it for a long time, like a minute or two, and then switch sides.
To work these tissues, start by locating your iliac crest. Sounds like a rare bird species, but it's the top bony part of your hip that sticks out by your beltline. If you're using a lacrosse ball, simply move into a plank position on the ground and lay on the ball so that it presses into your hip just below the crest. Move side-to-side slowly, so the ball moves back and forth laterally several inches at a time.
To test the flexibility of the hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas, the Thomas' test10 is used. The patient lies supine and flexes one hip, pulling one knee to the chest. If a hip flexion contracture is present, the contralateral straight leg will rise off of the table. The modified Thomas' test (Figure 12.11) may be preferred. With this variation, the patient sits at the end of the examination table with the knees flexed to 90 degrees. Next, one knee is pulled tight to the chest. The patient is instructed to lie down while maintaining the knee against the chest. If a hip flexion contracture is present, the contralateral leg will rise off of the table. If a rectus femoris contracture is present, the contralateral knee will extend.
When a muscle contracts, it shortens. Take the biceps for example. Without getting too technical, the biceps are attached at the forearm and shoulder. When your biceps contract, they shorten and bring those two points closer together. When you rest, the muscle returns to its normal length, and the two points move farther away. Constantly contracting your biceps over a long period of time would cause them to get shorter, even at rest.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to having weak and tight hip flexors as they are always in the shortened position. Tight hip flexors can lead to a limited range of motion, poor posture, lower back, and hip pain, and even injuries. These muscles need to get a workout when you are standing and doing movements such as raising your leg to climb stairs, run, or ride a bicycle.​
My increased knowledge of the biomechanics of hip flexion is one of the most valuable things that I have learned in the past five years. The problem with understanding hip flexion, in general, and the psoas muscle, in particular, is that we use the term hip flexor as a generic term to apply to five muscles, four of which have distinctly different leverage positions from the other one.
Widen your knees ever so slowly until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Make sure your ankles are in line with your knees, your hips stacked over your knees, and your feet and calves should be grounded and toes pointed out. Relax your shoulders, and if you’re able to, lower down to your forearms. If you have a yoga block, resting your chest on it will help you release your hips.

Frequently, I find that these individuals have increased TONE (resting muscle tension) due to poor core stabilization. In response to this dysfunction, the body increases tone in the hip flexors to help create some stabilization. In treating these individuals, I want to decrease tone of these muscles and then follow that up with specific exercises that help them develop better core control.


The sartorius supports the more powerful iliopsoas and rectus femoris in accomplishing hip flexion. This long, narrow muscle arises from the front of your hipbone, crosses your front thigh and inner knee and inserts at the top of your shinbone. The unique position of the sartorius enables it to support other leg motions, including knee extension, leg rotation and outward thigh movement. Sartorius strains, which commonly occur in runners and hurdlers, usually occur where the muscle arises at the hipbone. Pain and leg weakness are common symptoms. As with the other hip flexors, stretching and strengthening exercises serve as good preventive measures.
When a muscle contracts, it shortens. Take the biceps for example. Without getting too technical, the biceps are attached at the forearm and shoulder. When your biceps contract, they shorten and bring those two points closer together. When you rest, the muscle returns to its normal length, and the two points move farther away. Constantly contracting your biceps over a long period of time would cause them to get shorter, even at rest.
I like to think of myself as a powerful, modern Highland warrior, or maybe a Viking. Had I been born 1,100 years ago I would have leapt first off the longboat to battle hundreds of enemies with a giant axe, or so the fantasy goes. But, it didn't take strength coach Matt Wattles long to put a pin in that balloon. All he had to do was ask me to raise my toes all the way up to his hands, and in an instant, I felt like a senior citizen with a hip replacement. That movement was hard.
Well, most of us work the hip flexors (including the psoas and iliacus) most of the time- sitting, practicing while seated, cycling, driving...but only in a limited range, i.e. knees and hips bent to 90 degrees.  We need to balance out the movements of the hips a bit more- add more extension and more varieties of flexion.  For example, sitting cross legged, sitting on the floor, squatting, kneeling, etc. all require more varieties of hip movement.  To get more hip extension in your life, you can add some restorative exercises like standing apanasana, lunges (lots of lunges!) and go walk (not on a treadmill).  That way, you don't lose your capacity to move those joints to their full capacity, and you will have loaded the tissues in more diverse ways.
Tight hip flexors occur for a variety of reasons. Those who run frequently or engage in other activities that put strain on the hip flexors are likely to experience hip flexor tightness at one time or another. A blow to the hip or poor conditioning can also be causes of tight hip flexors. These causes can usually be attributed to tiny tears that occur to our hip flexors through rigorous activity.
Hi Autumn! Thanks so much for your reply. I am so sorry about your car accident and the pain that you’ve been in! Here’s a link describing my postpartum program. I think it would be helpful, but it also sounds like it would go better in conjunction with your primary care provider/physical therapist/chiropractor- someone along those lines! I’ll also shoot you an email so we can chat more about this! https://thefittutor.com/a-safe-and-effective-postpartum-workout-program/
The primary hip flexors are the rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius muscles. The rectus femoris muscle has two distinct origins proximally: the direct head and the reflected head. They originate at the AIIS and the anterior acetabular rim (in close proximity to the anterior hip capsule), respectively. The tendinous fibers of the rectus femoris coalesce distally and become confluent with the other quadriceps musculature in the thigh. The quadriceps consists of four distinct muscles: 1) the vastus intermedius; 2) the vastus lateralis; 3) the vastus medialis; and 4) the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris is the only quadriceps muscle that traverses both the hip and the knee joint. The rectus femoris is a powerful hip flexor, but it is largely dependent on the position of the knee and hip to assert its influence. It is most powerful when the knee is flexed, whereas significant power is lost when the knee is extended. The rectus femoris is innervated by the femoral nerve (i.e., the posterior division of L2 to L4).
Holland also suggests doing strength work in different planes of motion to keep all the muscles in and around your hip flexors, especially your glutes, firing correctly.“You can’t have good hip flexion if your glutes are tight or weak,” Nurse says, “so it’s super important that you’re always stretching and strengthening the front of your hip flexor and the back, which are the glute muscles.”
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