The 10 Best Hip Flexor Stretches to Get Loosened Up

Improve your mobility and stretch out tight hips with these moves.
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The importance of your hip flexors can't be overstated: They help you move forward, backward and laterally, and they allow you to complete movements like squatting, sitting and walking. And it's not just one muscle — 11 muscles near your trunk, hip bones and upper thighs make up the hip flexors.

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When one or more of those 11 muscles become tight, it can make the entire hip area feel stiff or even like you've got a hip strain. This can make it difficult to comfortably go about daily life or participate in all the activities you love.

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Irritated hip flexors? Try these 10 stretches specifically designed to loosen them up.

10 Hip Flexor Stretches

The following stretches, designed by physical therapists, can be done by anyone, including beginners and experts. Be sure to stop if you feel excessive pain or discomfort.

1. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Time 30 Sec
Activity Stretching
  1. Find a soft surface and start in a half-kneeling position. Your bottom knee should be directly underneath your hip, and your front foot should be directly underneath your knee.
  2. Start by tilting your tailbone down toward the ground to engage your core, and slowly move forward over your front foot. It is important to maintain a neutral spine and upright position as leaning forward will reduce the ability to stretch your hip flexors.
  3. You will feel this stretch along the front of your thigh and hip of the back leg.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds 2 to 3 times on each side.

2. Couch Stretch

Don't want to use a couch? Find a wall to help support your foot to perform this classic quad and hip flexor stretch.

Time 30 Sec
Activity Stretching
  1. Start in an all-fours position in front of a wall. Lift one foot up and place it about 3 to 5 inches off the ground on the wall
  2. Slowly rise up into a half-kneeling position with your spine completely upright and your tailbone directly downward.
  3. You may already feel this stretch in your back thigh; however, you can also lunge slightly forward into your front leg to get a deeper stretch of your quad and hip flexor.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds 2 to 3 times on each side.

3. Thomas Stretch

The Thomas stretch is also a great test to know if your hip flexors are tight, weak or both.

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Time 30 Sec
Activity Stretching
  1. Sit on the very edge of a bench or bed. Hug your right knee into your chest.
    1. Slowly lie down while keeping your left leg relaxed as it falls toward the ground. If your left foot touches the ground, see if you can bring your left foot closer to you to increase the bend in your knee.
    2. Make sure not to arch your back so you can maintain a neutral spine. You will feel this stretch in the front of your thigh and hip flexor of the leg that is reaching toward the floor.
    3. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and perform 2 to 3 rounds on each side.

4. Pigeon Pose

This classic hip opener is a yoga pose, but it's great on its own, in or out of a yoga flow.

Time 30 Sec
Activity Stretching
  1. Start in a downward dog position.
  2. Lift your right leg to bring your right knee to your right hand. Place your right leg at a 90-degree angle in front of your torso. Stretch your left leg straight behind you.
  3. You should feel this stretch in your right hip and glute area or even down your outer thigh.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg. Perform 2 to 3 rounds on each side.

5. Runner's Lunge

Time 30 Sec
Activity Stretching
  1. Start in a plank position. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot up to your left hand into a lunge position, making sure your left foot is directly underneath your knee.
  2. Keeping the right leg straight and your right hand on the ground, lift your left arm up toward the ceiling.
  3. You'll feel a stretch in the front of your right hip as well as in the front of your left shoulder.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg. Perform 2 to 3 rounds on each side.

You can also perform this as a dynamic warmup by holding the final position for 3 seconds, moving back to a downward dog and then switching to the other side. Alternating quickly between sides allows this to warm up your hips, spine and shoulders.

6. 90/90 Hip Stretch

Don't be surprised if you find this dynamic mobility exercise tough — modifications can help.

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Reps 10
Activity Stretching
  1. Start in a "Z" sit, where one leg is in front at a 90-degree angle and your other leg is bent behind you at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Lift your hips up from the floor until you are kneeling through your front leg.
  3. Sit slowly back down to the floor and switch your leg position by doing a windshield wiper move toward your back leg.
  4. You should find that you are in the same “Z” sit position, but with your legs in the opposite positions. Lift your hips up again.
  5. Repeat this exercise as you slowly move back and forth like a windshield wiper.
  6. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.

7. Hip CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)

These rotations should be done slowly and controlled while using your glutes and your core to help control each movement. If you need help with balance, place one hand gently on a wall or chair next to you.

Reps 10
Activity Stretching
  1. From a standing position, balance on your left leg. Bring your right knee up toward your right hip.
  2. Move your right knee outward without letting your hips rotate. Your hips should be square to the front throughout this exercise to reduce excessive pelvic or spinal rotation.
  3. With your right knee out to the side (perpendicular to your torso), rotate it downward toward the floor as far as your hip will allow without pain.
  4. Finally, move your right knee in a circular motion behind you (hip extension) and then toward the front to the original starting position.
  5. Move your right hip in these specific positions within a circular motion for about 10 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

8. Psoas March

Reps 20
Activity Stretching
  1. Lie on the ground and wrap a resistance band around the balls of your feet. Lift your legs into a reverse tabletop position, with your knees bent 90 degrees and your shins parallel to the floor.
  2. Keep your feet flexed toward your face as you slowly your right heel down to the floor. Your left leg should remain engaged, using your core and hip flexor to maintain tension on the band.
  3. Alternate tapping your heels to the ground for 20 to 30 repetitions, or do 10 to 15 repetitions on one leg before switching to the other side.

9. Seated Leg Raises

This is more of a strength exercise than a stretch, but it's important to balance out flexibility work to make sure your muscles are strong as well.

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Reps 15
Type Strength
  1. Begin in a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Use a kettlebell, dumbbell or yoga block and place it on the side of your foot. The taller the object, the harder this exercise will be!
  3. With your core and quad engaged, lift your leg up and over the kettlebell and tap your heel on the ground, then lift it up and over to return to the starting position.
  4. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions on each side.

If it's uncomfortable to sit fully upright, you can put your hands behind your hips and lean slightly backward.

10. Standing Banded Knee Drive

Reps 10
Activity Stretching
  1. Place a looped band around the balls of your feet and stand about 1 foot away from a wall.
  2. Lean forward and place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the wall.
  3. Drive your right knee toward your right hip as your foot remains flexed into the band. This targets your core and hip flexors muscles in a dynamic and functional position.
  4. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions slowly and controlled before switching to the other side.

The more you do this move, the easier it will become. Try moving away from the wall to add a balance challenge.

Benefits of Stretching Your Hip Flexors

Sarah Zimmer, DPT, is a physical therapist and co-founder of Boulder Sports Physiotherapy in Boulder, Colorado. Zimmer frequently works with people to release tight hip flexors as well as strengthen their hip flexors.

"Focusing on the strength and flexibility of your hip flexor muscles is important for maintaining healthy movement in our hip joints, stability of our spin and optimal form during athletics," Zimmer says.

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"The hip flexor muscles have many tasks, including moving our legs for running, cycling and jumping while also stabilizing the low back — it is critical to keep the hip flexors healthy and mobile for pain-free movement."

In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching two to three times per week as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.

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Including hip exercises on a regular basis is a good idea for long-term fitness and mobility. Hip flexor stretches can be incorporated into a weekly or daily stretching regimen or they can be used to address a specific issue such as chronically tight hips.

Common Hip Flexor Stretching Mistakes

Skipping the Warmup

Be sure to warm up before beginning a hip flexor stretch or exercise routine. Power walking, jogging, or spinning on a bike for 10 to 15 minutes before starting the hip opener stretches is ideal.

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According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, any light exercise will help get your blood flowing and "wake up" your muscles to prepare them for further activity.

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Not warming up before any stretching regimen can result in further injury or irritation of the body.

Arching or Rounding Your Back

It is also important not to arch your back or conversely, round your back (unless instructed) when stretching your hip flexors or working on hip flexor strength. Arching or rounding your back when not instructed can disengage your core and leave you vulnerable to low back or hip injuries.

"Our hip flexor muscles are considered to be part of the body's 'core' and some would even argue that they have a role in our pelvic floor health, as well," Lindsey Mayer, DPT, says. "Weakness in these muscles leads to injuries."

Stretching Too Far

A good stretch will always come with sensation, but don't push a stretch too far if you feel like you need more, and don't push yourself into stretches you can't do. That can lead to injury.

If you feel any pain or sharp discomfort, ease off or stop stretching completely.

FAQ

Common Questions

What are the symptoms of tight hip flexors?

Mayer explains that “low back pain, hip pain, SI joint dysfunction and knee pain” can all be symptoms of tight hip flexors. Other symptoms may include pain or stiffness in the hips while walking, running, cycling or doing other movement activities that require the use of your legs.

How long does it take to loosen tight hip flexors?

This will vary for each person. For some, a single hip flexor stretching session a week may be enough to keep tight hip flexors at bay. If your hip flexors are not just tight but weak as well, you may need to do strengthening sessions multiple times a week or work directly with a physical therapist.

What are some safety tips when stretching tight hip flexors?

Be sure to warm up before beginning a hip flexor stretch or exercise routine and keep your core engaged throughout your stretching session. Rounding or arching your back will disengage your core and leave you at a greater risk for injury and discomfort.

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