Tight hip flexors are a common complaint I hear from many of my clients. If you’re suffering from this ailment, then this blog post is for you! I’ll break down what the hip flexors are, what they do, and how you know when they’re tight. I’ll also offer some guidance around which muscle groups and stretches you can focus on to find relief and reduce your risk of injury.
What are the hip flexors?
Your hip flexors are a group of four muscles that act to pull the thigh up to the trunk and the trunk down to the thigh. The hip flexor muscles include:
- rectus femoris (which is actually one of the quad muscles!)
*The psoas and iliacus are often referred to as one unit called the iliopsoas, and this is the most commonly referred to hip flexor muscle.
Why are my hip flexors tight?
- You need to focus on core strength. Hip flexor tightness can be a sign of core and glute weakness. If they don’t have a solid foundation to pull from (aka the core is weak or not activated properly), they get overworked and tense. So, show your hip flexors some love and work on your core!
- You sit a lot. The hip flexors can also get tight from sitting a lot, which puts these muscles in a shortened position. With this crazy pandemic, I think everyone has been sitting more than normal! I know I have. Try to get up and move every hour! Getting your hip flexors out of that shortened position will help prevent them from feeling so tight.
- You run often or are doing exercises that aggravate the hip flexors. Some athletes, specifically runners can be more prone to tightness. Runners use the hip flexors, especially the iliopsoas, to lift the leg up with each stride. This repeated motion of shortening the muscle can leave your hips feeling extra tight. Be sure to try out some of the stretches outlined below.
Stretches for tight hip flexors
- Foam roll. A foam roller is a great tool to leverage for loosening the hip muscles. Get into a forearm plank position on the ground with the roller under the front of one hip and keep the other leg out to the side, off the roller. Roll up and down for about 30 seconds, paying attention to areas that feel especially tight.
- Pigeon pose. I love this yoga pose for lengthening the hip flexors. Position yourself on your hands and knees and pull the right knee forward. Bend it under your chest and stretch out the left leg behind you. Lay down on top of your bent knee as much as you can. If you have tight muscles, it may take some time to build up your flexibility, so take it slow.
- Butterfly stretch. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together. Let the knees fall out to either side to stretch the hips. You can add gentle pressure to the knees to deepen the stretch.
- Low lunge. Lunge forward with the right leg and gently let the left knee rest on the ground, straightening it behind you as much as possible. Put your palms flat on each side of the right foot, then raise the left arm up above your head and lean to the right. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
Exercises for tight hip flexors
You’ll want to focus on moves that strengthen the hip muscles, the glutes, and the core when dealing with tight hip flexors.
- Proper breathing and core activation are key to keeping these muscles loose. Not sure how to activate your core correctly? Check out my Connecting the Core guide—your hip flexors (and hammies) will thank you.
- Glute bridge. Lying on your back with the knees bent, lift the hips up as high as possible and squeeze the glutes. To advance this move, try crossing one leg over the opposite knee and lift one side at a time.
- Single-leg squat. This move really focus on isolation. Lower into a squat and lift one leg up and back as you rise back up to a standing position. Stretch the opposite leg out straight to lengthen the hip flexors while also working the glutes.
What are you going to do to show your hip flexors some love and care? Need some more help? Let’s chat!