Situated on the upper thighs and just beneath the hipbones, hip flexors allow for lifting of the knees and bending at the midsection. Because they continuously work to support the body, hip flexors tend to become stressed and tight. Typical fitness routines designed to work out major muscle groups often lack necessary stretching, especially for embedded hip flexor muscles.
Before engaging the hip flexors in intense stretching, start with a very gentle yoga relaxation stretch. While lying flat on your back, pull your knees toward you but keep both feet on the ground and approximately 12 to 16 inches away from the buttocks. Keep the arms and hands relaxed either beside you or resting on your stomach. Next, surrender to gravity and concentrate on your bones as they are pulled toward the ground. When hip flexor muscles begin releasing, you will also notice that "the distribution of weight will start to feel increasingly even throughout your body,” according to the "Yoga Journal."
From a supine or flat back position again, stretch hip flexor muscles by bending and pulling one leg into your chest while gradually extending the other leg straight out in front of you and eventually resting it on the floor. As you hug one leg, feel a release in the hip flexors in the extended leg. Hold the position for about 20 seconds for each leg.
Prone Quad Stretch
Once you gain awareness of and begin releasing subterranean core muscles making up the hip flexors, move on to deeper stretching exercises, such as the prone quad stretch. From the relaxation stretch or supine stretch, roll over on to your stomach and lie flat on the floor or prone. With a flat back, relaxed neck and relaxed legs, begin lifting your right foot and lower leg upward and bend it at the knee. Lift your body up slightly, reach back behind you and try to grab your right foot with your right hand. Use an exercise strap or a belt to hold your foot if you’re unable to reach it. Pull your leg upward and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds. Next, perform the same quad stretch using your left leg.
More Quad Stretches
You can also perform quad stretches for hip flexors from a kneeling or standing position. Use a chair or wall for support if needed. Pushing backwards toward a wall with your leg bent between your body and the wall during quad stretches will intensify the stretch and provide support. Instead of holding your foot, use the wall behind you to balance and stretch.
Seated Hip Flexor Stretch
A more intense stretch is the seated hip flexor stretch. If your muscles are extra tight, take it easy with this one. Using a mat or another soft surface, get into a kneeling position. From there, lower your buttocks gently down toward your heels. While keeping the right leg bent, start sliding it out in front of you. At the same time, begin straightening the left leg out behind you and eventually extend it out straight allowing it to rest on the ground with the knee facing down. While supporting your body with your arms, lean forward and move your right hip over into a seated position. Hold the position for 20 seconds or more and switch legs.