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.
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 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.
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2) The athlete or client will use the TFL and the other ischial hip flexors to flex the hip. In this case the athlete or client will begin to complain of a low-level strain in the TFL. This is a result of overuse of a synergist and will feed into a synergistic dominance of the TFL and further psoas and iliacus dysfunction. This is what we have classically seen in our hockey athletes who utilize a flexed posture.

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.
Because you won’t stop stretching them. Many people who have consistent hip flexor tightness would be a lot better off if they just stopped stretching them. This often provides only a temporary relief, giving just a small window of comfort. And guess what? The more you stretch them, the shorter that window of relief becomes, until you’re at the point where you’re stretching them multiple times a day for a long duration just to feel good! That’s no way to live!
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:
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.
Those are some great stretches! I own a personal training studio in Severna Park, Maryland. Majority of my clients have physical limitations – so it’s important for them to stay flexible. I send these to my clients and even do these exercises for myself. I highly recommend these stretches to anyone, even people without physical limitations. I love the fact these are actually videos and not just stretches because it’s so much easier for people to figure out how to perform the stretches. You guys are the real MVP!
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.

My exercise of choice here is floor-slide mountain climbers. You will need some furniture moving pads, Valslides, or something similar that will slide smoothly on your floor. Paper plates even work well in a pinch. Put your feet on the sliders and move into a push-up position. To perform the movement, simply pull one knee at a time up toward your chest, going as high as you can while keeping your foot on the slider. You can alternate legs with each rep or do sets of one leg at a time. Don't expect it to be easy.
The hip flexors often get deemed as tight. You can stretch the hip flexors as a group by doing hip extension. This may not get to the root of the issue though. As we just learned, each hip flexor participates in the motion differently depending on the position of the femur. Carefully add internal or external rotation and abduction or adduction when extending the hip to stretch hip flexion. It’s a good place to start when wanting to create a more effective stretch.
The tensor fascia lata (TFL), quadriceps, and sartorius muscles comprise what I call the big three hip flexors. These muscles are often overlooked in rehabilitation with more focus placed on a fourth hip flexor, the iliopsoas. In my opinion, though, these three hip flexors cause much more damage due to their size, the fact that they alter pelvic and knee mechanics, and their involvement in just about everything we do with our legs.
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.
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.

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.


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.

There’s much more happening behind the scenes when the hip flexes! Learning the attachments of the 11 hip flexor muscles is the best way to begin getting a handle on what’s happening when personal training clients complain of tight hip flexors or seem to have referred back pain from an imbalance in the muscles. You’re then able to design and suggest stretches and exercises that are specific to the issue at hand when you understand the form and function of these muscles. Here’s a few thoughts for you when doing that…


This stretch opens the abductors and deeply opens the hips and lengthens the adductors while improving balance. Stand straight, holding the back of a chair at your left side. Lift your right knee into your chest, and grab hold of your foot with your right hand. Slowly straighten your leg up along your side, into a standing split. Keep your hand on your foot and lean your torso to the left. Hold this pose for 30 seconds before alternating sides.
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