Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend both knees to bring your feet together, heel to heel and toes to toes. Using your hands, “open” your feet like you are opening a book. This will cause the knees to lower toward the floor. You can also use your arms to put gentle pressure on your knees to push them toward the floor and intensify the stretch. Keep your back straight and don’t huch forward. Breath deeply.
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!
It’s a common issue, says Prevention advisor Rob Danoff, director of family and emergency medicine residency programs at Aria Health in Philadelphia. "For people who sit a long time at work, the hip flexors and rotators become tight, and the gluteal muscles become weak," he says. "This combination negatively affects our ability to walk, maintain proper posture, and the stability of our spine."
The iliopsoas muscle group consists of two muscles: the psoas muscle and the iliac muscle. These muscles work together to help the hip flex. The psoas muscle connects to the lumbar vertebrae L1 through L5. The other end of the psoas muscle connects to the tendon on femur bone. The lumbar plexus, a nerve bundle that originates at the middle of the spine, supplies the psoas with nerves. The iliac muscle connects to the ilium, the largest bone of the pelvis, on the top and runs under the psoas to the same tendons of the femur bone as the psoas muscle. The nerves of the iliac muscle are supplied by the femoral nerve, which is located in the leg.
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).
Some stretching basics: you should feel a stretch, but not pain. If it really hurts, contact a physical therapist and figure out what’s really wrong. If your hip flexors are truly tight, a few weeks of doing these stretches should help you feel better! You should notice relief, so if you’re not, you may have something else wrong besides “tightness,” or you might need to address what you’re doing the other 23 hrs and 50 minutes of each day.
Like rolling, this is a movement that deserves to be done as often as you can tolerate. Physical therapist and coach Kelly Starrett has written that you should do it for two minutes on each side every half hour. That may be tough to manage, but the point is this: Frequent, long-duration stretches are the only stretches that will have any significant effect on your tissue length and mobility. If you want to improve, you have to commit.
Your skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles work together to keep your body running like a machine. Within this muscular system there are various parts, from muscle fibers to ligaments. You may know about hamstrings, quadriceps and abdominal muscles, but there hundreds of muscles that move within your body. Some are involuntary, like parts of your digestive system, while you control others whenever you go for a walk or lift weights.
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?
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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.
So, who cares right? Wrong. Everyone has seen that little old man walking with a cane, hunched over almost to the point of staring at the ground. Do you think he always walked like that? I'd bet you he didn't. Maybe he had an injury that never healed properly, or maybe after spending years and years in a similar position, his body became tighter and tighter until eventually he ended up bent over.
Start in a runner’s lunge with right leg forward, right knee over right ankle and back leg straight. Walk right foot over toward left hand, then drop right shin and thigh to the floor, making sure to keep right knee in line with right hip. Allow left leg to rest on the floor with top of left foot facing down. Take a moment to square your hips to the front of the room. Hold here, or hinge at hips and lower torso toward floor, allowing head to rest on forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side. You want to feel a moderate stretch in the outside of the right thigh, but if this pose hurts your knees or feels too uncomfortable, stick with Thread the Needle.
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.
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.
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.
We all do it—we stretch in the morning to get our blood flowing, we stretch our legs after a long drive, and we stretch our shoulders after sitting at our desks for hours. Stretching is an intuitive movement, not only for humans but for animals as well. (Try doing some yoga on your living room floor without your dog or cat coming by to stretch alongside you!) We stretch because it is a simple and effective way to loosen our muscles and invigorate our bodies.