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The hip flexors are a group of muscles that help you move your lower body. You have hip flexors on either side of your body. They include the rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius muscles, which allow you to bend at the hips, lift your knees, and swivel your hips from side to side.
Hip flexor stretches may be helpful to people who experience tight hips. Whether you have a sedentary or active lifestyle, the hips can feel tight for various reasons. Opening up and relaxing the muscles in the hips and upper thighs help encourage proper movement and use of this area, which can prevent injury.
These hip flexor stretches may be especially beneficial to do before a strength training workout. While many people are aware of the need to stretch before exercise, it is a step that is often skipped. To get the most out of your workout, especially one that heavily involves the lower body and requires ample flexibility, always remember to stretch the hip flexors and related muscle groups.
Standing Lunge Stretch
Lunges are not just great exercises for the legs and glutes, they can also serve as a hip flexor stretch. You should feel the standing lunge stretch in your hip flexors, groin, and inner thighs.
- Stand up straight with your arms at your side.
- Place your hands on your hips or on your forward knee.
- Take a step forward with your right foot so you are standing in a split stance.
- Lower your right knee so it is at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg is extended straight back behind you.
- Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
For a deeper stretch, try the kneeling hip flexor stretch. You’ll need an exercise mat or soft surface to do this stretch. Here’s how:
- On a yoga mat or exercise mat, kneel on both knees. Your bottom should be on the heels of your feet with the balls of your feet pressed firmly against the mat.
- Lean forward and press your palms to the mat. Hands should be shoulder-width apart and elbows should be bent slightly to prevent them from locking.
- Bring your left knee forward through the gap between your arms and place your left foot flat on the mat in front of you, creating a 90-degree angle.
- Straighten your upper body and place both of your hands on your left knee in front of you for support and balance.
- Extend your right leg behind you. Your right knee should be pressed into the mat and the top of your right foot is rested on the mat.
- Lean forward slightly to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Exit the stretch and repeat on the other side.
Seated Butterfly Stretch
The seated butterfly stretch is a basic stretch that opens up the hips, thighs, and groin. This stretch is great for runners or people who want to improve the flexibility in their lower body. Here’s how to do the butterfly stretch:
- Begin in a seated position with your legs in front of you.
- Grab your ankles and bring your feet closer to your groin. If needed, do this one leg at a time.
- Bring both feet together so the bottoms of your feet are touching.
- Continue to hold your ankles with your hands while using your elbows to press down on your knees.
- Apply gentle pressure to the knees so they get closer to the floor.
- Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before releasing and repeating if needed.
Basic bridges are often used as glute exercises, but they can also be used to help open up the hips. This is how to do them to really target the hip flexors:
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat or soft surface. Keep your hands at your sides and your knees bent.
- Raise your hips. Your shoulders and feet should be flat on the floor, creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- When you reach the top of this stretch, lift one foot off the floor at a time. This causes the hips to flex.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds. Then switch to the other side.
Lying Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip flexion exercises can be performed seated or standing. It’s a beginner-friendly stretch that causes the hips to flex by moving the legs. Here’s how to do lying hip flexion stretches:
- Lie flat on the ground. Your legs should be stretched out with your toes pointed up. Keep your hands at your sides.
- Bend your left knee and slowly bring it to your chest. As your knee draws nearer, wrap both of your hands around your knee.
- Gently pull your knee as close to your chest as possible. To make the stretch more challenging, straighten your leg and pull it closer to you with a resistance band. Rotate your hips to deepen the stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Release the stretch and repeat on the right side.
Reclined Hip Stretch
The reclined hip stretch is also known as the Figure Four Piriformis Stretch. It is considered a pilates stretch, but you can incorporate it into your hip flexor stretching routine. Follow these instructions to perform this move:
- Lie on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Bring your right knee closer to your chest, lifting your right foot off the mat.
- Bring your left knee up and rotate your left leg outward at the hip. Rest your left ankle on your right thigh above the knee.
- Deepen the stretch by grasping your hands behind your right thigh and pulling gently. You should feel this stretch in your left hip.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Low Lunge Twist Stretch
The low lunge twist stretch is a beginner-friendly stretch that opens up the hips and low back. If you’ve been sitting for a long period of time or need to stretch before exercising, this is a good stretch to relax tight muscles in the hips and back. To do this stretch, follow these steps:
- Start in a forward lunge position. Your right leg should be forward.
- Drop your left knee to the ground so your shin and the top of your left foot are pressed against the floor.
- Gently press your right elbow into the inside of your right knee. Twist your torso to the left. As you twist to the left, extend your left arm behind you.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Release the stretch and repeat on the other side.
Tight hips should not be ignored. To keep the hips fully functional and free of pain, stay active by doing exercises that involve the hips as well as performing hip flexor stretches regularly.
It is especially important to stretch throughout the day if you have a sedentary lifestyle or job that requires you to sit for long periods of time. Hip-opening stretches are also recommended before running, strength training, and playing sports. If tight hips persist, check with your doctor or physical therapist.
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