The 8 Best Hip Flexor Stretches, According to a Physical Therapist

hip flexor stretch

Stocksy

Wake up, work at a desk, walk around or maybe fit in a workout, then sit again all evening. Sound familiar? If so, you’re definitely not alone—and you’re likely experiencing tight hips as a result. The reason: Sitting for prolonged periods, without taking breaks to stretch or move, will almost certainly lead to a feeling of tightness in the front of the hip.

“Your body tends to adapt to postures and movement patterns that you spend the most time in,” explains physical therapist Cameron Yuen of Bespoke Treatments. Certain workouts can also lead to tight-feeling hips. If you do a lot of core work, you might actually use your hip flexors more than your abdominal muscles, which can lead to tightness, Yuen says. 

What’s more: Women are more prone to tightness in our hips than men. Because of anatomical differences in women’s hips, they're inherently less stable than men’s hips. This makes the hips work harder and thus, more prone to overuse, says physical therapist Amy Hoover, who works at workout studio P.volve

Plus, other factors including female pregnancy hormones, growing abdomens during pregnancy, and even wearing high heels (!) can also cause women to have an anterior pelvic tilt, or an increased curve in your lumbar spine, Hoover says. “Since part of the hip flexor muscles (the psoas) attach to the lumbar spine, this increased curve can contribute to shortening in the hip flexors.” Read on for some expert-approved hip flexor stretches to ease pain and tightness.

Hip Tightness vs. Weakness

Before we talk more about how to loosen up your hips, an important distinction needs to be made. “Complaints of ‘tightness’ or ‘pain’ in the hip flexors is something I commonly hear in the clinic, but before I ever prescribe hip flexor stretches, I always test to see if the muscle is actually lacking range of motion,” says physical therapist Laura Werber of Gloria Drummond Physical Rehabilitation Institute.

“Tight” muscles are usually in fact weak muscles that fatigue quickly, leading to muscle ache and that tight feeling, Werber explains. Since many of us deal with both tightness and weakness, be sure to both stretch and strengthen the hip flexors to prevent any longterm issues, Werber notes.

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Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Hoover says you should aim to do a stretch like this daily when your muscles are warm, like after a walk or a workout. The key to this stretch is to maintain a tall spine for proper alignment, and to make sure the hips are not dumped forward (rather, they should be in line with the length of your spine).

Instructions:

  1. Kneel down into a lunge position with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Contract your glutes so that your pelvis tilts beneath you slightly. 
  2. Push your hips forward, but don't lean backwards into your spine. (You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip and down the thigh.)
  3. Hold 60 to 90 seconds breathing slowly and relaxing into the stretch.
02 of 08

Standing Quad Stretch

Quads feel tight? Do this stretch to provide some much-needed comfort. It's especially helpful to perform before and during sports or exercises that use the quads (think: cycling, running uphill, or hiking). It's also particularly helpful for those who sit for extended periods of times, or those suffering from back tenseness.

Instructions:

  1. While standing, contract your glutes slightly to keep your pelvis tilted slightly beneath you. Bend your knee and use your hand to pull your ankle towards your glutes. 
  2. Hold 60 to 90 seconds breathing slowly and relaxing into the stretch. 
  3. Switch legs and repeat.
03 of 08

Cobra Press-Up

It may look familiar if you're a yogi, but this move is especially great for strengthening the back, shoulders, arms, chest, and abs. It's also very therapeutic and has been known to help with digestive issues like constipation.

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your stomach with elbows bent and hands by your shoulders. 
  2. Contract your glutes and push your hips towards the ground as you press into the ground with your hands, lifting your chest and abdomen off the floor. Extend through your hips and entire spine, not just your low back. 
  3. Do 20 to 25 reps.
04 of 08

Chair Stretch

This stretch is great for women, as factors including female pregnancy hormones, growing abdomens during pregnancy, and even wearing high heels (!) can cause women to have an anterior pelvic tilt, or an increased curve in your lumbar spine, Hoover says. “Since part of the hip flexor muscles (the psoas) attach to the lumbar spine, this increased curve can contribute to shortening in the hip flexors.”

What Is the Psoas?

The psoas is the strongest muscle in the hip flexors located between the vertebral column and the brim of the lesser pelvis. It helps pull the thigh and the torso toward each other.

Instructions:

  1. While standing, place one foot up on a chair and lunge forward, keeping a very slight bend in the knee of the standing leg. You should feel the stretch in the front of the standing leg. 
  2. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg.
05 of 08

Bed Stretch

Tight thigh muscles can lead to posterior pelvic tilt, but this simple stretch targets the thighs and groin. Best part? It can be done in the comfort of your own bed. Make sure to keep the knee bent to support your back.

Instructions:

  1. Lie down along the edge of your bed, letting the leg closest to the side hang off. Pull the other knee into your chest and let gravity lower the leg off the bed. 
  2. Gently bend the knee to increase the stretch across the thigh and front of the hip. 
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each leg.
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Side-Lying Stretch

This is similar to the quad stretch, except you're laying down. If you have knee issues, this is the move for you.

Instructions:

  1. Lie on one side and grab the ankle of the top leg behind you.
  2. Bend the knee and extend the hip, feeling the stretch in the front of the hip and thigh.
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each leg.
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Glute Bridge

This exercise not only stretches your hip flexors, but also help strengthen your glutes, which can become weak due to tight hip flexors, according to Werber.

Instructions:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Press into the ground with your heels, lifting your hips up until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. 
  2. Be careful not to hyperextend your low back at the top. 
  3. Do 20 to 25 reps for 3 sets.
08 of 08

Bridge March

Similar to the above move, this glute exercise has the same benefits as a squat (perfect for those who have knee or hip issues and can't perform squats). It targets the hamstrings, abs, lower back, abs.

Instructions:

  1. Place an exercise band (if you have one) around your feet and get into a bridge position, as described above. Engage your core and activate your glutes. 
  2. Now alternate marching with your legs while keeping your hips parallel to the floor. 
  3. Do 10 to 15 reps on each side for 3 sets. 

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