The hip flexor stretch targets a muscle located at the front part of the thigh, around where the trousers' pockets should be. This muscle is a group of five major muscles that are essential in enabling lower body movement, and they consist of the iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, rectus, and sartorius muscles.
Hip flexors are vital when bending the hips, lifting the knees closer to the torso, and rotating the hips. Hip flexors are also responsible for allowing the leg to go above the waist.
Hip flexors are crucial for walking, kicking, and basically any other hip joint movement. Besides that, hip flexors keep the posterior pelvic muscles in balance, affecting the posture.
Inelastic Hip Flexors
Tight hip flexors will affect not only the hip joints but also the back muscles and the knees. In addition, poor hip flexibility may cause discomfort in the surrounding area and, when not appropriately treated, even chronic or acute pain.
When inactive, our muscles get smaller and tighter and therefore lose their ability to move in a full range of motion. Also, by nature, as we get older, our muscles' flexibility declines, further triggering joint aches and back pain.
Tight hip flexors may be a result of prolonged sitting. Spending many hours in a seating position will tighten the hip flexors, and when activated, these muscles might not work as effectively. Weak glute muscles can also be the cause of tight hip flexors. Our body relies on our muscle structure to support daily movements, and our muscles rely on adjacent muscles to evenly disperse pressure. Therefore, when our glute muscles are weakened, hip flexors may become overwhelmed and, over time, tighten, causing pain and discomfort.
Continuous contraction of large muscle groups demands stretching those muscles, improving their flexibility and overall efficiency. If not stretched regularly and appropriately, intense physical activity may cause the hip flexor to tighten, increasing the chance of injury. Whatever is causing tight hip flexors, a proper stretching routine will alleviate the pressure and subsequently improve the quality of movement.
Symptoms of Hip Flexor Injury
The circumstances that cause hip flexor tightness are the same ones that can potentially lead to injury and tear of hip flexor muscles. Since hip flexors are crucial for lower body movement, the injury may cause significant discomfort in everyday life. Some of the symptoms of hip flexor injury or muscle tear are:
Feeling of pain when attempting to lift the leg towards the chest
Discomfort when attempting to stretch the hip muscles
Muscle cramps in the hip or thigh when walking, running, or cycling
Enlarged muscles in the hip and thigh area
Tenderness in the hip and thigh area
It is essential to react when one or more of these symptoms occur. Make an appointment with a physician, and make sure to implement a stretching routine alongside the appropriate treatment for the injury.
Best Stretches to Increase Hip Flexor Mobility
When developing a personal stretching routine, it is important to focus on large muscle groups, the muscles that are regularly active, and problematic areas as well.
Hip flexor stretches are advised to be done before a workout routine and especially before the activity that largely engages the lower body, such as running and cycling.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start this stretch in a standing position, then step forward with one leg so the knee of the other leg rests on the ground.
Put your hands on the sides of your body and slowly push the hips forward to feel the stretch in the hip flexors.
Stay in this position for about 30 seconds, and make sure not to push through the pain limit.
Stand up, switch sides and repeat.
Reclined Hip Flexor Stretch
Start this stretch lying, with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Place the ankle of your right foot on the opposite thigh as though you are making a number four with your feet. During the stretch, keep the top foot flexed to prevent knee injury.
Pull the structure you've created with your legs towards your chest, and this is where your hands come in. Intertwine your fingers behind the left thigh while keeping your shoulders relaxed.
Gently pull the structure towards you, and feel the outside of the hip opening and stretching. You can experiment with the duration of the stretch, but make sure to breathe throughout.
Change the leg and repeat.
90/90 Hip Flexor Stretch
Start this stretch in a sitting position, with your right leg in front, and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle so it is aligned with your right shoulder. The bottom of the right foot should be facing the opposite wall.
Put your left leg to the side, align it with the hip and the left shoulder, and bend the knee at a 90-degree angle.
Hover with your upper body over the right knee, and make sure your back is straight and your chest is up. Try to sink your right knee and ankle into the floor until you feel the deep stretch in the hips.
Switch legs and repeat.
Conclusion for a Hip Flexor Stretch
Whether a professional athlete or just trying to alleviate the tension of prolonged sitting, the hip flexor stretch should be an integral part of your flexibility routine.