What and where are your hip flexors and what can you do to soften them up? These hip flexor stretches will help you do exactly that.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that are found at the tops of your thighs and they connect the leg to the hip. Any sort of movement that your lower body undertakes, which includes sitting and exercise, these muscles are involved. Read on to learn how to perform hip flexor stretches safely and effectively.
The main hip flexors are:
- Rectus femoris
- Tensor fasciae latae
- Adductor longus
- Adductor Brevis
Doesn’t really mean much does it? What you do need to know is they get their name, hip flexors, from the bending movement they create about the joint.
Unless you are a dedicated athlete, it’s likely you will have tight hips especially at the top of your thighs which can flare up and become worse when you perform exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Many schools of thought claim that sitting down shorten and weakens the muscles which cause them to be tight, so there is a division on what actually causes a tight hip.
The main culprit of causing a tight hip does seem to the sitting because the theory is that when we sit for long periods of time, the muscles are forced to stay contracted and shortened. However, a muscle can’t be shortened, it can only get bigger or smaller, so it’s a conundrum indeed as to what causes this tightness.
I happen to be of the belief that is rather irrelevant what causes the tightness but it’s more important to focus on what we can do to loosen things up and make you more comfortable.
It is very important before you undertake any hip flexor stretches that you warm up the muscles first.
Below are a couple of ways of warming up:
- High Knees
- Leg Swings
- Lunge with pulse
Once you feel warmed up, you can begin to try some of the below hip flexor stretches which any yoga lovers reading will notice a number of these exercises are, in fact, yoga postures.
1. Butterfly stretch
- Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you and make sure you are sat up straight.
- Next bring the soles of the feet together and the knees are bent and pointing outwards remain sat upright.
- Next slowly bring the heels of the feet as close to the pelvis as you can comfortably do. It’s important not to force the feet as you will injure yourself.
- Gently lean forward, ensuring your back stays straight. A good way to ensure your back remains straight is to hold onto the feet with your hands and have your elbows pointing backwards, this will ensure you are safely folding forward without curving the spine.
2. Happy baby
- Begin by lying flat on your back
- Bend the knees, lift the feet up and hold onto the outer edge of each foot
- Hold this position and enjoy the gentle stretch of the spine
3. Pigeon Pose
- Begin this pose in downward dog, which is hands on the floor, shoulders above the hands, and feet flat on the ground sitting right under your hips.
- Lift your right leg so its away from you and then draw back towards you. The right shin is tucked in, your right foot goes to the front of your left hand and your right knee to your right hand.
- Your right shin should be resting on the floor, keep the right foot flexed to protect the knee.
- Your left leg at this point is now flat on the floor with the thigh sitting on the floor, it should be completely straight behind you, not out to the side. At the same time, your back foot and the toes should all be touching the floor.
- Now lower the outside of your right bum to the floor so it’s resting whilst maintaining the weight in both hips.
- Hands are either side of your right bent leg, on an inhale lift your head and neck up to lengthen the spine, and on exhale fold forward, take the arms out in front of you as far as is comfortable and rest your head on your hands.
- This is not a comfortable posture, even for advanced yoga practitioners but when it’s time to come out of the pose you will instantly feel the benefits.
- Repeat on the other side
4. Kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Begin by kneeling on a mat, and bring your right knee up so the heel of foot is on the floor
- Next extend the left leg out behind you, ensuring the top of the foot is touching the floor
- Slowly shift forward, moving the weight forward, until you can feel a stretch in the hip. Hold this for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
5. Seated straddle stretch
- Begin in a seated position on the floor with your legs wide, keeping your back straight.
- Your toes should always be pointing to the ceiling, take the arms out in front of your on the floor and palms down on the mat
- Inhale, and then exhale and slowly bend forward from the hips, use your hands to reach forward. Keep the back straight, helpful tip to do this to raise your chin whilst you are folded.
- Keep folding until you reach your point of tension in the stretch, do not push your body into discomfort or this will be counterproductive to the stretch.
- Hold this for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-4 times.
Give these hip flexor stretches a go and let us know how you get on!
By Holly W.