Hip Flexor Stretching

Hip Flexor Stretching

Hip flexor pain happens to athletes and office workers alike. Whether the cause is overuse or a sedentary lifestyle, you can treat and prevent your hip flexor pain by doing regular strengthening exercises and appropriate stretches. In this article, we tell you all you need to know to get started.

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Krista Bugden Human Kinetics & Rehab Exercise Expert
Medically reviewed by 

Content:

Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches

Why Hip Flexor Strength and Mobility Are Important

Common Causes of Hip Flexor Pain

General Tips for Avoiding Hip Flexor Pain

When To See A Doctor About Your Hip Pain

Prevent Hip Pain Before It Happens!

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that attach at the femur, the thigh bone, and the lumbar spine or hips. The strongest hip flexor muscle is the iliopsoas. When contracting this muscle, the thigh is brought up toward the torso of the body.

This group of muscles is activated whenever you walk or run. In fact, hip flexor injuries are very common in runners. Usually, a running hip flexor injury happens when increasing your mileage, duration, or intensity by too much. As a result, you may experience pain, increased tightness, and reduced mobility in the front of the hip.

Interestingly, the hip flexors may also become tight from sitting for too long. This means that if you sit and work at a computer all day, you may be more prone to tight hip flexors.

So, what can you do about it?

In this article, we outline hip flexor stretches and exercises, why hip flexor mobility is important, common causes of hip flexor pain, and more!

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Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches

Exercise is important. The human body is made to move, and it functions best when you regularly participate in physical activity. The hip flexors are no exception. Through strengthening exercises and appropriate stretches, you can reduce your risk of experiencing hip flexor pain and reduced hip mobility. Here are five great exercises and stretches to get you started.

  1. Hip joint stretch
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    This basic hip joint stretch targets the smaller hip flexor muscles. If you sit all day or are prone to tight hip flexors, this is an excellent exercise to perform regularly, such as every other day. It can also help with mobility issues if you are experiencing hip flexor pain. If you are experiencing pain while stretching, ensure you only go to the point before pain and not past it.

    • Stand in a broad stance.
    • Turn both feet 45 degrees in the same direction.
    • Keep one leg stretched while you bend the other a little.
    • Move your pelvis forward and turn your body and pelvis in the direction of the toes.
    • The stretch should be felt deep in the groin.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.
  2. Front hip stretch II
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    This stretch is very similar to the one above. However, this stretch specifically targets the main hip flexor muscle, the iliopsoas. This muscle is frequently injured through overuse, such as through running or walking. Stretching this muscle can contribute to better healing and recovery, as well as improved hip mobility after an injury. In turn, this can prevent future hip pain.

    • Stand with one leg in front of the other facing a chair.
    • Put the back leg up on the chair while you keep your knee bent as much as possible.
    • Keep your body straight while you bend the knee on the leg you are standing on.
    • If you don't feel a stretch in the front of your thigh, try taking a wider stance.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.
  3. Squat with ball
    10 reps x 3 sets

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    Squats are a great exercise for strengthening your hip flexor muscles. They are a full-body movement that works the major muscles in the legs and your core. By strengthening these muscles, you can prevent injuries from happening due to overuse or doing too much, too soon. For runners, squats are an excellent addition to any cross-training weightlifting routine.

    • Stand up in front of a chair without touching it.
    • Stand on both legs with your feet slightly apart.
    • Your toes should point straight ahead.
    • Place a football or similar ball between your knees.
    • Squeeze the ball while slowly bending your knees, such that you just touch the chair without sitting.
    • Then slowly go back up.
    • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  4. Standing thigh stretch
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    The quadriceps, the muscles in front of the thigh, are made up of four muscles; vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris. The rectus femoris is the one quadriceps muscle that acts as a knee extensor and hip flexor. As such, stretching the front of the thigh can help prevent hip pain and reduce current hip pain. It may also contribute to improved mobility in the hip.

    • Stand up.
    • Bend your knee and grab your foot with your hand.
    • Pull your foot up and your knee a little backwards.
    • Be sure your thighs are held together throughout the exercise.
    • Support yourself with a hand on a chair or something similar if necessary.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.
  5. Hip bend II
    5 reps x 3 sets

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    This hip bend is an isometric exercise. This means you are holding a contraction but no movement is taking place during the exercise. This is the perfect exercise to isolate the hip flexors and strengthen them, especially if you’ve recently experienced a hip flexor injury.

    • Stand up with your back against a wall.
    • Stand on one leg and lift the other leg slightly above horizontal.
    • Push down on the thigh with as much force as possible while being able to hold the position for 10 seconds.
    • Perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions.

Why Hip Flexor Strength and Mobility Are Important

The hip flexors are crucial when it comes to stabilizing the spine and pelvis. This ensures you can move through a wide range of movements - without injury or pain. It also helps you maintain proper posture. In fact, this is why hip flexor stretching is so important for those who work long hours at a desk.

When sitting all day, the hip flexors become tight and weak. By performing proper stretches and strengthening exercises, you can combat these ill effects, which could mean less pain in the long term.

Posture correction when sitting

In addition, these muscles are important for basic mobility movements, including walking, running, and jumping. They provide power, and for most athletes, strong hip flexors can contribute to improved performance. And if restrictions are present in the front of the hip, this may result in lower back pain, knee pain, or even ankle pain.

Common Causes of Hip Flexor Pain

Hip flexor pain happens due to various reasons. Some of the most common causes of hip flexor pain include:

1. Hip Flexor Strain

A hip flexor strain happens when these muscles are pulled past their normal limits. In turn, they may stretch or tear. Usually, this happens due to overuse or incorrect form during an exercise. For instance, your hip flexors may become strained due to squatting too much weight or using improper form during your squat.

2. Hip Flexor Tendonitis

Tendonitis is when the tendons(the tissue that attaches muscle to bone) becomes inflamed. Like hip flexor strains, this type of injury frequently happens due to overuse. However, it may also arise from poor posture, arthritis, or an incorrect walking gait.

3. Iliopsoas Syndrome

The iliopsoas is actually two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas. This muscle group is the primary hip flexor muscle. They help pull the upper thigh and knee up and support proper spinal alignment.

When these muscles become injured, it is called iliopsoas syndrome. Along with injured muscles, such as a muscle strain, the bursa (a fluid-filled sac that prevents friction in the joint) may also become irritated causing pain. Overuse is also frequently the cause of this type of injury. In particular, running or jumping movements may cause pain in the iliopsoas.

General Tips for Avoiding Hip Flexor Pain

Athletes who perform various jumping or running movements are more at risk of developing hip flexor pain. Thus, it’s important for these individuals to take proper precautions when participating in their sport or activity. Some things to keep in mind include:

  • Always perform a proper warm-up, including dynamic stretches like squats and lunges.
  • Work on strengthening the hip flexor muscles to avoid injury. This means if you’re a runner, you may benefit from strength training moves that target the hip flexors.
  • Always ensure you stretch your hip flexor muscles after your activity or sport. Further, regular stretching can help improve mobility, preventing injury.
  • Avoid sitting for long durations. Sitting for long periods of time may result in tight and weak hip flexors, increasing your chances of experiencing injury and pain.
  • Be careful when it comes to overtraining. Aim to gradually increase your load, intensity, and frequency. This gives your body the appropriate amount of time and progressive overload to adapt.

When To See A Doctor About Your Hip Pain

Seek out immediate medical attention if your hip pain is accompanied by deformity, an inability to bear weight on your affected leg, inability to move your leg, or sudden swelling. You should also visit your doctor if the pain is severe or if there are obvious signs of an infection, such as a fever.

Prevent Hip Pain Before It Happens!

Take care of your body and proactively plan ahead by preventing injuries before they happen. By improving the strength of your hips and regularly stretching your hip flexors, you can thwart hip flexor pain and continue to enjoy your regular activities.

Are you currently experiencing hip flexor pain? If the pain is not accompanied by the above symptoms and is not severe, simple exercises at home can help you heal and recover. And Injurymap can guide you every step of the way. The Injurymap app creates a customized plan, addressing your specific needs and goals. Take an active approach to your recovery and download the app today!

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About the author

Krista Bugden has worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for the past 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.