Last month, I talked about the unique complexity of the shoulder, and how a problem there can produce effects throughout the upper body. Well, the hips are just as complicated, and pelvic dysfunction can be just as far-reaching. Your erectors, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, quadriceps, hip flexors, and more all interact at this junction, and a problem with any one of them can lead to debilitating immobility and weakness in lifting and in life.
Understanding the unique functional contributions of the psoas and iliacus illustrates how a weak or under-active muscle can be a factor in both back pain and in quadriceps strains. With back pain, inability to flex the hip past ninety degrees will often cause many clients or athletes to flex the lumbar spine to give the illusion of flexing the hips. Watch how many of your clients or athletes will immediately flex the lumbar spine when asked to bring the knee to the chest. There is a clear distinction between bringing the knee to the chest and bringing the chest to the knee. Attempting to bring the knee toward the chest and above the level of the hip forces the athlete or client to use, or attempt to use, the psoas and iliacus. If they are unable to do this one, or all, of three things happen:
Last month, I talked about the unique complexity of the shoulder, and how a problem there can produce effects throughout the upper body. Well, the hips are just as complicated, and pelvic dysfunction can be just as far-reaching. Your erectors, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, quadriceps, hip flexors, and more all interact at this junction, and a problem with any one of them can lead to debilitating immobility and weakness in lifting and in life.
This article will explain why doing hip flexor stretches may not loosen your hips, and what you can do instead to relieve tightness and improve your ability. If you like this story, be sure to subscribe to the PTDC newsletter. It’s free, and you’ll get the best fitness industry advice—from training techniques to coaching skills to marketing and business—delivered straight to your inbox every week.
Pull your shoulder blades down and back and reach down with both hands to grab the back of your left thigh to pull your knee toward your chest. Keep the right leg straight and push the back of the right heel into the ground; feeling your right glute muscle contract. Keep your abs and core tight and as your hip relaxes, pull it in closer if possible. Repeat on the opposite leg.

To do this stretch, sit on the floor with your legs about three or four feet apart, depending on how tall you are. Make sure your toes and knees are pointed straight up. Next, take a deep breath, and on the exhale, slowly fold your upper body forward. Rest your hands on your feet, legs, or the floor in front of you and hold this stretch for five deep breaths.
Any/all of these will indicate that the client or athlete is attempting to compensate for the weak or under-active muscles. The TFL cramp is a classic illustration of synergistic dominance. A muscle cramps when attempting to shorten in a disadvantageous position. With the hip flexed above ninety, the TFL is already shortened and unable to produce the necessary force to hold in a position of poor leverage. The attempt results in cramping, much like a hamstring cramp in bridging when the glutes are under-active. The same effects are often seen when attempting hanging knee ups (an exercise we almost never do, as it teaches compensation), except the cramp or strain is in the rectus femoris.
Hey Martha! Thank you so much for your comment! You’re right, if you’re flexing the hip it’s hard to stretch it! The last three you mentioned are so helpful for focusing on the adductor group, although yes, they aren’t helping stretch the rectus femoris in those positions. I was trying to include a variety of stretches to include every hip flexor muscle. I’m very curious about the lying hip flexor stretch now, though. It’s been a go-to with every trainer I’ve worked with, and I’ll have to look into this more. What are your favorite hip flexor stretches for patients? Thank you!
The patient generally presents with leg stiffness, weakness in the hip flexors, and impaired foot dorsiflexion in the second through fourth decades, although symptoms may be apparent in infancy or not until late adulthood. The gait disturbance progresses insidiously and continuously. Patients may also have paresthesia and mildly decreased vibratory sense below the knees and urinary urgency and incontinence late in the disease. On neurological examination, generally there are no abnormalities of the corticobulbar tracts or upper extremities, except possibly brisk deep tendon reflexes. In the lower extremities, deep tendon reflexes are pathologically increased and there is decreased hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. Crossed adductor reflexes, ankle clonus (Video 82, Cross‐Adductor Reflex; Video 84, Sustained Clonus), and extensor plantar responses are present. Hoffman's and Tromner's signs, as well as pes cavus, may be present. Occasionally, slight dysmetria may be seen on finger‐to‐nose testing in patients with long‐standing disease.
This stretch targets the abductors, opens the hips, and stretches the outer length of the legs and hips. Begin on all fours, with your palms flat on the floor and your toes raised behind you. Extend your right leg straight out to the side, resting your right foot flat on the floor. Press your hips down toward the floor to increase the stretch. Hold this pose for 30 seconds before releasing and performing with the other leg.
The tensor fascia latae originates from the front of the hip and inserts into a long fibrous band called the iliotibial tract on the outside of the thigh. This muscle supports hip flexion, leg rotation and outward movement of the thigh. Tensor fasciae latae syndrome, also known as iliotibial band syndrome, is an inflammatory condition that most commonly develops in distance runners. Inflammation arises when the muscle and band repetitively rub against the outer head of the thighbone, frequently causing a painful snapping sensation in the hip. Treatment typically involves anti-inflammatory medication and hip-strengthening and range-of-motion exercises. Good running shoes can help prevent tensor fasciae latae syndrome by promoting proper hip, knee and ankle alignment.
Kneel on your mat with thighs perpendicular to the floor and tops of of your feet facing down. Place a yoga block between your feet. Bring your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart so they are slightly wider than your hips, and press the tops of your feet evenly into the mat. Slowly sit down on the yoga block. Use your hands to turn the top of your thighs inward. Allow the backs of your hands to rest on your thighs. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

Movement at the ankle is controlled by two joints. The ankle or talocrural joint is formed from the tibia and fibula of the lower leg and talus of the foot. Functionally, it acts as a hinge, allowing dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upwards towards the lower leg) and plantarflexion (pulling the foot downwards away from the lower leg). Eversion (tilting of the sole of the foot away from the midline) and inversion (tilting of the sole of the foot inwards towards the midline) is controlled by the subtalar joint formed between the talus and calcaneus bones of the foot.
Unfortunately hip mobility issues like these are some of the most common problems I see in the weightlifting population. However, the issues manifest differently in different people. In some, it's a basic inability to descend below parallel—or anywhere near it—in squat variations. In others, it can contribute directly to debilitating lower back pain, even in people who spend hours every week strengthening their backs.
Im a skateboarder and a couple weeks ago i skated alot every day and my lefy hip was starting to get sore. But of course i couldnt resist skating so i kept skating and it got worse and worse to the point i couldnt really skate at all without my hip hurting but of course i would still mess around on the board doing tiny tricks but a couple days ago i was just skating around not really doing tricks and i slipped and kicked my leg out and REALLY hurt my hip and thought i tore a tendon or something and couldnt walk for two days, but its gotten alot better and i can walk fairly normal and i ice it everyday but whenever i stretch it its just a really sharp pain it doesnt feel like im stretching it. What do i do when all the stretch does is make a sharp pain? How do i strengthen my hip? And how long would it take to strengthen my hip to full strength again? Because i cant stand not being able to skate. Please reply so i can skate as soon as possible thank you
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.
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.
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.
You’ve heard the saying: it’s all in the hips, but for many of us, our hips – or more precisely, our hip flexors – are tight, stiff and inflexible. If you’re an office worker you can probably thank sitting down at your desk 8 or more hours a day for your tight hip flexors. Habitual sitting causes your hip flexors to tighten and shorten – adjustable standing desks, anyone?
If you’re lucky, you won’t notice your hips are tight until you’re trying to do the Half Pigeon pose in your yoga class. But if you’re not so fortunate, your tight hips are making themselves known every time you so much as walk to the bathroom or sit on the couch—expressing themselves in the form of lower back pain and muscle stiffness. Tight hips can even shorten your stride, slowing your 5K goal time!
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.
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.

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.
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).
While leg lifts, certain ab exercises, and even hula hooping can all help work the hips, the hip flexors can still be a tricky part of the body to stretch Kinetics of hula hooping: An inverse dynamics analysis. Cluff, T., Robertson, D.G., and Balasubramaniam, R. School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Human Movement Science, 2008 Aug; 27 (4): 622-35.. To get them even stronger and more flexible, try these five simple hip flexor stretches:
You can strain or tear one or more of your hip flexors when you make sudden movements such as changing directions while running or kicking. Sports and athletic activities where this is likely to occur include running, football, soccer, martial arts, dancing, and hockey. In everyday life, you can strain a hip flexor when you slip and fall, for example.

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.
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