Have you got a sore back? Maybe your hip flexor muscles are too tight. These days many people spend a large proportion of their days sitting, which puts the hip flexor muscles in a shortened position for extended periods of time. But your desk job isn’t the only thing to blame, tight hip flexors can also be due to a range of causes such as weak abdominal muscles, weak butt muscles (glutes) or an unstable pelvis.
The hip flexors are a number of different muscles that work together to allow us to perform everyday movements such as lifting the knee when walking/ running and bending at the waist. The predominant muscle group which allows these movements to occur is the iliopsoas (consisting of the psoas and iliac muscle). The iliopsoas runs deep in the abdomen and connect the lower limbs to the torso. Stiffness of the hip flexor muscles is commonly associated with lower back pain and knee pain as these areas of the body are compensating for the limited movement available in the hips.
If you want to know more about how chronic lower back pain develops listen to this Podcast, after you have finished reading of course!
To ease the feeling of tightness in the hip flexors and lower back, you need to stretch regularly. Try these five simple moves to help ease tight hips.
My go to hip flexor stretches
- Create a 90 degree angle at both knees, ensuring the left knee is in line with the left ankle.
- Raise the right arm and maintain a straight posture i.e. avoid arching the lower back.
- Whilst squeezing the glutes, pull your belly button towards your spine and lean slightly forward.
- Hold for 30 seconds per leg.
Tip: add a bit of extra padding under the resting knee for comfort.
Standing hip flexor stretches
- Begin in a standing position with a straight posture and bring the right foot towards the glute.
- Bend the standing leg to sink into a deeper hip flexor stretch.
- Focus on drawing the belly button into the spine and tilting the pelvis slightly upwards.
- Hold for 30 seconds for each leg.
- Starting in a standing position, take one big step forward to create a 90 degree angle at the left knee. Ensure the left knee is in line with the left ankle. i.e. the knee doesn’t go over the toes.
- Keep the right leg as straight as possible and lean forward into the stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds for each leg.
Elevated hip flexor stretch
- Starting in a standing position, raise the right leg and rest it on a bench that is slightly lower than your hips.
- Whilst maintaining a straight posture and not arching the lower back, bend the standing leg.
- Focus on drawing the belly button towards the spine and tilting the pelvis slightly upwards.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds each side.
Foam rolling the rectus femoris muscle (front of quadriceps) and upper frontal area of hip can also be beneficial in releasing tight areas within the hip flexor muscles. Perform slow and steady movements up and down the front of the thigh, spending extra time on tight areas.
If you want some foam rolling exercise tips check out our previous post on Myofasical release for triathletes.
But remember, with tight hip flexors stretching isn’t the only solution. Don’t forget to move more. Break up long periods of sitting with short walks. Combining stretching with strength training exercises that target the hip flexors as well as other associated muscle groups is recommended and will often making stretching a lot easier. If you are finding it difficult to start regularly stretching think about playing some favourite music while you stretch. Music can motivate you though a workout.
Try strengthening exercises that target the hip flexors, glutes and abdominal muscles such as:
- Barbell hip thrust
- Single leg glute bridge (great for your butt!)
- Single leg hold
- Step ups
- Leg raises
- Mountain climbers
Now that you have plenty of stretches and ideas for strength exercises targeting the hip flexors, consider adding some of them to your training routine.
Author Camille Brennan
I have recently graduated from a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science from UTS and have aspirations of combining my passion for sport and nutrition into a fulfilling career, helping individuals to improve their health and wellbeing. In my spare time you’ll find me at the beach or out and about exploring the outdoors.