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JAN 9, 2024

Hip Flexor Stretches For Pain Relief and Improved Mobility


Discover effective hip flexor stretches for pain relief and enhanced mobility. Ideal for athletes and those with sedentary lifestyles

Read time: 6 minutes

The more you use something, the more worn out it can become. This is true of kitchen utensils, cars, and even our own bodies. But these things are designed to be used, so how are we supposed to prevent wear and tear? Well, there’s no easy answer but for those tired of that nagging hip pain or perhaps struggling with limited mobility that's stopping you from living an active lifestyle, there is a solution. And that’s hip flexor stretches designed to relieve pain and improve mobility. These simple routines, which can be performed at home, alleviate discomfort, strengthen the muscles and supercharge your hip flexibility, enhancing your performance in sports, workouts, and even day-to-day activities.

Understanding Hip Flexor Tightness

To know which hip flexor exercises to perform, it's important to understand hip flexor tightness. The hip flexors can gradually shorten and tighten with the repetitive motion associated with certain activities, such as sitting for long periods or cycling. Basically this tightness shortens the muscles, leading to reduced flexibility and mobility. Moreover, shortened hip flexors can cause pain in other areas of the body besides the hip. These muscle groups comprise four primary muscles: iliacus, psoas major, rectus femoris, and sartorius.

Causes of Tight Hip Flexors

The causes of tight hip flexors are numerous and varied. But some of them are as follows:

  • Athletes who typically engage in repetitive motions like running or cycling experience this more often than individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle. Without proper stretching routines, these athletes' hip flexors are constantly contracted due to repetitive muscle contraction, causing tightness in those muscles.

  • Muscle imbalances cause some muscle groups to overwork while underutilizing others.

  • Sitting for long periods is another leading cause of tight hips, since it shortens and tightens the hip flexors over time. When you have been sitting or standing for too long without breaking up your movement patterns or stretching out appropriately, it can negatively affect your posture, causing discomfort and sometimes sharp pains.

  • Weak pelvic floor muscles can reduce overall stability in your pelvis, leading to inappropriate amounts of strain on your hip flexors when performing everyday movements like walking or even bending down to pick something up from the ground.

Strengthening exercises that focus on glute bridges, planks, crunches, and clamshells can provide better core strength and improve both stability and mobility around these areas.

Unique and Important Hip Flexor Stretches

As tight hip flexors can be a source of discomfort and pain that impair mobility and disrupt daily activities, it’s important to incorporate a few hip flexor stretches into your routine. Which can ease pain and improve flexibility. Here are some effective stretches recommended by fitness experts:

Seated Hip Flexor Stretch

The seated hip flexor stretch is an excellent way to effectively relieve tightness in the hip flexors.

How to perform?

  1. First, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground and hands on your thighs.

  2. Next, lift one foot, bend your knee, and place your ankle onto the opposite thigh above the knee.

  3. While keeping your back straight, lean forward slightly to feel a stretch in your hips.

  4. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, carefully release your leg back down to the ground and repeat with the other side.

  5. You should feel a deep stretch in your hip flexors when placing your ankle on the opposite knee.

For added support or to increase the intensity of the stretch, you could place pillows under your knees or ankles.

This stretch targets specific muscles that connect to the lower back, providing relief and improved mobility with consistent practice.

Seated Hip Flexor Stretch

The supine hip flexor stretch is one of the most effective stretches for hip flexors. This stretch targets the psoas - one of the primary hip flexors attached to the spine.

To perform this stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.

  2. Lift one leg off the ground and pull it towards your chest, holding onto your shin or thigh.

  3. Keep your other foot firmly planted on the ground throughout the stretch.

  4. Hold for 30 seconds before releasing and switching sides.

This stretch can also be modified by tilting the pelvis forward or backwards slightly to target different areas of the hips. It's important to breathe deeply through each repetition to help release tension in the muscles.

Enhancing Flexibility and Mobility

Aside from stretching exercises like supine hip flexor stretches, there are several other ways to improve flexibility and mobility.

  • Strengthening exercises such as planks, crunches, clamshells, and glute bridges can help develop stronger core muscles and reduce stress on the hip flexors. Workouts that strengthen other muscle groups, such as quads, hamstrings, and glutes, can indirectly benefit hip flexibility.

  • Changing positions every 30-45 minutes can prevent prolonged periods of sitting, which is known to contribute to tightness in the hip flexors. This approach can entail taking regular breaks at work or using a standing desk instead of a chair.

  • Finally, performing stretches throughout the day is a surefire way to keep tight hip flexors at bay. It's particularly helpful for those who spend most of their time sitting or have an active lifestyle that involves repetitive movements like running or biking.

For instance, someone who spends their workday sitting might perform quick stretches during breaks or lunchtime. A good option would be the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, another highly effective stretch for this muscle group. This comprises stepping one foot forward while kneeling with the other leg behind, pushing the hips forward while keeping the back straight.

While stretching and strengthening are excellent ways to improve the flexibility and mobility of hip flexors, the effectiveness of these exercises depends on frequency and consistency. Therefore, developing a routine you can maintain over time is crucial to effect meaningful improvements.

Here's a summary of the top four stretches for hip flexors:

Exercise How To Perform Benefits

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneeling position

Improves range of motion and reduces tightness in hip flexors

Supine Hip Flexor Stretch

Lying Down

Relaxes psoas and hip flexors

Side-Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

Lying on your side

Increases flexibility in hip muscles

90/90 Hip Flexor Stretch

Seated exercise

Offers a more comfortable position

Additional Exercises for Hip Flexor

While stretches are essential for maintaining hip flexor health, additional exercises can bolster your hip muscles and improve overall mobility.

One solid exercise is the glute bridge.

  1. Lie flat on a mat, knees bent, and feet pressed flat on the ground.

  2. Then, lift your hips off the floor until your thighs and torso form a line parallel to the ground.

  3. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds before returning to the starting position.

  4. Repeat this 10-15 times daily.

Another excellent hip flexor exercise is planking: 

  1. Assume a push-up position with your forearms flat on a mat and elbows aligned with your shoulders.

  2. Then, engage your core muscles, keeping your back straight and stable.

  3. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds daily.

These exercises are simple to execute at home without specialized equipment or assistance. Incorporating them into your routine can help improve your hip strength and minimize risks of injury.

Conclusion

Maintaining hip flexor health is crucial for improved mobility and pain relief. And performing regular stretches and exercises as part of an overall fitness routine can help prevent complications. But beyond that, it's essential to incorporate lifestyle changes such as avoiding prolonged sitting periods, switching positions every 30-45 minutes, and performing hip flexor stretches throughout the day. For desk-bound individuals, setting a timer on their phone or computer that reminds them to stretch or change positions every 30 minutes effectively prevents tight hip flexors.

Finally, regular check-ups with a physical therapist or physician can also contribute to maintaining good hip health by identifying potential problems early on.

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.

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