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.
Lucky for us, there are tons of different ways to stretch hip flexors. We’ve put together a broad selection of some of the most popular tight hip flexor stretches below. Some of these stretches may work better for you than others, and there’s also many more hip flexor stretches you can try beyond these. So, experiment with all different kinds of stretches and decide which ones are best for your body.
An active warm-up is essential to achieve good form and maximum efficiency, especially if you train in the evening, advises Jason Fitzgerald, founder of StrengthRunning.com. A series of dynamic, prerun movements will lubricate the joints, improve your active range of motion, and wake up muscles that have been dormant all day, helping you to stay upright and extend out the back. For this, try Gary Gray’s celebrated lunge matrix.
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/
Work on strengthening all of your core muscles and glutes. These muscles work together to give you balance and stability and to help you move through the activities involved in daily living, as well as exercise and sports. When one set of these muscles is weak or tight, it can cause injury or pain in another, so make sure you pay equal attention to all of them.
Stretching is not only for athletes and yogis. Anyone who wants to improve their flexibility and range of motion should consider performing a few stretches every day. People with sedentary lifestyles, in particular, should stretch daily to help improve their mobility. Sedentary individuals are generally more prone to injuries because their tight muscles aren’t acclimated to sudden or jerky movements.
For example, your quadriceps muscles are a group of four that are located at the front of the thigh; one of the group members, the rectus femoris flexes the hip, which brings your lower extremity (thigh, lower leg, and foot) forward, in front of you. On the other hand, your hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh. When they contract, they extend the lower extremity, bringing it behind you.
Now the catch with hip flexion is that most of us sit in chairs and end up in a position of passive hip flexion and knee flexion (bent knees) and retain that position for many hours a day. We know now that our bodies process the movement or lack thereof and adapt to the shape that we most frequently inhabit, for better or worse. If you primarily flex the hips and knees and never fully extend them, you may have chronically short or weak hamstrings, limited range of active hip flexion and limited range of active hip extension, for starters!
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.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place left ankle right below right knee, creating a “four” shape with left leg. Thread left arm through the opening you created with left leg and clasp hands behind right knee. Lift right foot off floor and pull right knee toward chest, flexing left foot. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.
Located deep in the front of the hip and connecting the leg, pelvis, and abdomen, the hip flexors— surprise, surprise— flex the hip. But despite being some of the most powerful muscles in our bodies (with a clearly important role), it’s easy to neglect our poor hip flexors— often without even knowing it. It turns out just working at a desk all day (guilty!) can really weaken hip flexors since they tend to shorten up while in a seated position. This tightness disrupts good posture and is a common cause of lower back pain. Weakened hip flexors can also increase the risk of foot, ankle, and knee injuries (especially among runners) Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners. Niemuth, P.E., Johnson, R.J., Myers, M.J., et al. Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, VT. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2005 Jan; 15 (1): 14-21.. So be sure to get up, stand up every hour or so! And giving the hip flexors some extra attention is not just about injury prevention. Adding power to workouts, working toward greater flexibility, and getting speedier while running is also, as they say, all in the hips The effect of walking speed on muscle function and mechanical energetics. Neptune, R.R., Sasaki, K., and Kautz, S.A. Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas, Austin, TX. Gait & Posture, 2008 Jul; 28 (1): 135-43..
The psoas, our primary hip flexor, is usually the weakest of the five flexors, and the other four hip flexors have to work more as a result. To test if this is the case for you, lift one knee well above 90 degrees and hold it there, ensuring that you do not compensate by moving your pelvis or leaning forward. If holding this for more than a few seconds is painful or impossible for you, your psoas suck. You are going to have serious trouble squatting to parallel or lower if these muscles can't do their job properly.
Like most of us in the profession, I did not previously make any distinction among members of the hip flexor group. All of the hip flexor muscles seemed to work together to flex the hip and that, at the time, was enough for me. However, my recent reading into the work of physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann has changed my thinking about hip flexors, as it has about many other muscle groups.
Exercise Program Design Fundamentals, Part One Functional Movement Screen [Infographic] What are Goblet Squats? How to Do a Goblet Squat Touch Your Toes With This Toe Touch Progression Exercise Program Design Fundamentals, Part Two Stuart McGill: Taking Charge of Back Pain — Empowering Self-Advocacy Coaching Movements and Skills with Nick Winkelman Understanding Impact Forces Evan Osar: Corrective Exercise Essentials [Video] Shoulder Health: An Overview of Anatomy and Injury
3) The athlete or client will use the rectus femoris to create hip flexion. This is the mysterious “quad pull” seen in sprinters or on forty-yard dash day in football. In this case the etiology is the same as above, only the culprit is now the rectus femoris, not the TFL. It should be noted, that most “quad pulls” or “quad strains” are limited to the multi-joint rectus femoris. Soreness will generally be near the insertion point of the rectus femoris into the quadriceps at about the mid-point of the thigh. The psoas and iliacus are to the anterior hip as the glute is to the posterior hip. A weak glute max will cause synergistic dominance of the hamstrings and extension of the lumbar spine to compensate for hip extension. This will lead to back pain, anterior hip pain (another Sahrmann point: use of the hamstring as the primary hip extensor changes the lever arm of the femur and can cause anterior capsule pain), and hamstring strains. On the literal opposite side a weak or under-active psoas will cause back pain from flexion rather than extension, TFL strain and rectus femoris strain.
Apply the above concept to your hips. When you sit, your hips are in a "flexed" position. Therefore, the muscles that flex your hips are in a shortened state. You probably spend at least a third of your day sitting down. Think about how much time those hip flexor muscles stay shortened. A lot. Over time, they become tighter and tighter until you look like the old man in the picture. So unless you want to look like that, perform the stretches shown below.
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.
The more than 20 muscles that make up your hips are responsible for stabilizing your pelvis, moving your legs from side to side, and shortening to draw your knees toward your chest every time you sit down, run, jump or pedal, explains Kelly Moore, a certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness, which brings health and wellness initiatives to companies throughout Chicago.