Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee so that the sole of your foot is against your left inner thigh. Keeping your back straight (and not rounded), reach your hands toward your left foot so that your torso is completely over your left leg. If you can’t reach your foot, rest your hands on your leg. Relax your shoulders and let them “drop” toward the floor. Repeat with the other leg.
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.
If most inner-thigh openers feel too easy (and your ankles and knees are injury-free), try Frog Pose. Get down on all fours, with palms on the floor and your knees on blankets or a mat (roll your mat lengthwise, like a tortilla, and place it under your knees for more comfort). Slowly widen your knees until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thighs, keeping the inside of each calf and foot in contact with the floor. Make sure to keep your ankles in line with your knees. Lower down to your forearms. Stay here for at least 30 seconds.
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.
The iliotibial band is a thickening of the fascia lata, the deep fascia of the thigh. Think of it as a thick long ligament like structure that connects the hip to the lower leg along the outside of the thigh. Tightness in the iliotibial band can cause patellofemoral pain, trochanteric bursitis, and friction syndromes at the knee. This is a hip stretch I commonly prescribe to runners and people suffering from knee pain.
Other muscles that can be recruited to assist with hip flexion include the tensor fascia latae (TFL), the pectineus, the adductors, the gracilis, and the anterior aspects of the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. The contribution of these secondary hip flexors largely depends on the position of the hip at the time at which movement is initiated.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward, and lower your left knee to the ground, releasing so the top of your left foot is flat on the floor. Place your hands on the ground under your shoulders, keeping them both to the inside of your right leg. Keep your arms straight and press your chest forward to increase the stretch. Sink into your hips, but try to keep the weight balanced between them. Be aware that your front knee doesn’t go over your toes. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Tight hips can stem from multiple things, so I recommend you see a physical therapist, physiotherapist, or personal trainer to help identify the actual issue. Like I mentioned before, your hip flexors may be tight because they are shortened and weakened from desk jockeying all day, or maybe your workout is leading to a muscular imbalance. Perhaps your back is weak and some muscles are pulling double duty, creating extra tension. There’s also a good chance your core is weak and your glutes are underdeveloped.
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..
To complete this stretch, get into the same kneeling position from the half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Whichever leg you have raised, place that hand on your hip. (So, if you’re doing this exercise with your right leg, place your right hand on your right hip, and vice versa.) Next, tighten your glute muscles, and reach around your body with your free hand to grab that foot. Pull that foot upwards towards your upper body
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 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.