When I started running again after my fourth baby was born, my hips would feel strained during the run and very sore after the run. I felt like they were so weak and needed some strengthening. I found that the right stretches along with targeted hip workouts, specifically for strengthening hip flexors, were all I needed.
What are hip flexors?
Many people have never thought of their hip flexors as being muscles they need to work out and strengthen. Hip Flexors are the group of muscles near the hip joint. They are responsible for creating motion in the hip or the flexed movement when you bring your leg and knee up towards your torso. They help you perform many different movements that you make every day, like bending over to pick something up or standing up from a sitting position.
Your hip flexors are constantly working. They work along with other muscles in the body (like neck, shoulder, core, and lower leg) to help maintain stability and good standing posture. There are four main category’s of hip flexor muscles depending on where they are located around the hip joint — adductor, gluteal, lateral rotator, and iliopsoas.
These muscles can be weakened by a variety of things including living a sedentary lifestyle, injury, trauma (even pregnancy and childbirth), or sitting for long periods of time (thanks COVID). It’s important to keep them flexible and strong.
How do I strengthen my hip flexors?
Because of the many movements our body makes in a normal day, it’s so important for our hip flexors to stay strong, loose, and flexible. These hip muscles can become weak or tight from being in a seated position for a prolonged period of time. They may become stiff after working out and not warming up properly. Sometimes a fall, injury, or even pregnancy and childbirth can cause problems with the hip flexors feeling strained or unstable.
There are multiple ways to stretch or strengthen your hip flexors. It is possible to restore the flexibility and strength in your hip flexors. Just like any other muscle, it needs to be stretched regularly and worked out regularly to be strengthened. Incorporating these stretches or workouts into your regular routine will help your hip flexors stay strong to support you in an active lifestyle and throughout the rest of your life.
The Top 5 BEST stretches for the hip flexors
These 5 hip flexor stretches are the BEST if you:
- Are a beginner
- Haven’t been regularly stretching
- Need to warm up your hip flexors before a workout
- Are looking to increase your flexibility
- Have a hip (or close area) injury or strain and need to start slow
- Have just had a baby or another big physical event
HIP FLEXOR STRETCHES
Incorporate as many of these hip flexor stretches as you feel you can do. These will help improve your flexibility, strength, and warm up those muscles as well as reduce injuries.
1. Simple Butterfly Stretch
This simple butterfly stretch will stretch the hip flexors, thighs, and lower back from a seated position.
How to do the butterfly stretch:
- Sit up straight with the bottoms of your feet pressed together and knees sticking out to the sides.
- Pull heels towards close to the body and while keeping your back straight, lean forward at the hips.
- Hold your feet and pull gently into the stretch
- While breathing in and out, hold stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds
2. Forward Lunge Stretch
Doing a lunge stretch then holding for a count can help strengthen your hip flexors and leg muscles so you can get more hip extension. Lunges are a highly suggested if someone is having lower back pain, because the iliopsoas complex (deep hip flexor) connects the thighs to the lower back, and if they’re tight they pull on the lower back. Doing it in a low lunge is a very good start toward stretching them.
How to do forward lunge:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place hands on the hips if needed.
- Take a big step forward with right leg and shift your leg so that your heel touches the floor first.
- Bend the right knee and lower your body into the stretch until the right thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee is over the ankle while bending the other knee towards the ground.
- Hold stretch for ten seconds.
- Step back into the stand position, pushing off the floor with the leading foot.
- Repeat, alternating sides and work your way up to more reps as the muscle strengthens.
If you would like a more challenging forward lunge exercise, you can find that HERE.
3. Bridge Pose
The bridge pose is a simple yoga pose where the hips and legs are doing most of the work. While lying down on your back, this bend can open up the chest and stretches many parts of the back, hips, and legs.
How to do the bridge pose:
- Lay down with your back flat on the ground, knees bent, and arms down on either side.
- Turn your palms so they are faced on the floor.
- Raise your hips up high making a “bridge” with your body. Keep your back straight and your feet and palms kept flat on the ground.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, release down, and repeat.
- Don’t forget to breath.
4. Supine Twist
Lay down on your back and loosen up with this soothing supine hamstring stretch that also stretches the lower back and hips.
How to do the supine twist:
- Lay down with your back on the floor and arms stretched out to make a T-position.
- Raise both feet and bring your knees toward your chest keeping your shins parallel to the ground.
- Lower both knees to the right side of your body while your shoulders and palms remain flat on the ground.
- Exhale and hold this position for 10-20 seconds.
- Return knees to your chest and lower both knees to the left side of your body to repeat on the other side.
- Repeat several times on each side.
5. Pigeon Pose
The pigeon pose stretch is a yoga pose that lengthens the hip flexor and opens the hip into a deep stretch. The pigeon pose is my FAVORITE stretch to do before and after a run!
How to do the pigeon pose stretch:
- Begin in downward facing dog (almost like you are going to do a pushup, except with your butt in the air).
- Lift your right foot and step forward by bringing your knee forward toward your right hand, and push the foot towards the right hand.
- Shift the outstretched right leg back as far as possible.
- Placing the hips straight, drop the body to the ground slowly as far as possible to feel the stretch (don’t push it too hard!)
- Switch sides after holding stretch for ten seconds.
A Few Last Tips:
Remember to start slow if there is an injury or strain. Don’t push too hard, but build up your flexibility and reps as you get stronger. Overtime, you WILL feel a difference. I know I felt much stronger in my running, especially when I started doing longer distances. My hips and legs felt more stable, I was able to recover faster, and reduce injuries.
It’s very important for our hip flexors to stay strong, loose, and flexible. Let me know how these stretches worked for you!
Have you mastered the top 5 hip flexor stretches? Then move on to the best WORKOUTS to strengthen the hip flexors. You will find THE BEST in depth hip flexor workouts including mountain climbers, donkey kicks, lunges, and more!