Hip Flexor Stretches and Iliopsoas Stretches
Stretching Exercises and Flexibility Exercises
Hip flexor stretches are important for anyone who does ab workouts or core workouts.
The main hip flexors (also known as the iliopsoas muscle) play a role in posture, hip flexibility, and hip and core stability.
When the hip flexors are tight and inflexible, they can compromise the posture of the lower back, decrease hip range of motion, and decrease core stability. So stretching the hip flexors is important for everyone!
Our society is very sedentary. Prolonged sitting tends to lead to extremely tight hip flexors, and many ab exercises and core exercises involve the hip flexor muscles.
In addition, tight hip flexors are associated with lower back pain. These factors all make it extremely important for almost everyone, from athletes to seniors, to stretch the hip flexors.
Hip Flexor Stretches
There are many ways to stretch the hip flexors/ iliopsoas. The hip flexors pull the hip/ thigh forwards, so any stretch that pulls the thigh backwards will stretch the hip flexors/ iliopsoas.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch: To stretch the iliopsoas in a standing position, take a step backwards and very slightly turn your back foot inwards. Then, contract your butt muscles (glutes), to tilt your pelvis backwards. This should be enough to feel a slight stretch through the front of your hip.
To add a little more to the stretch you can reach your hand over head and lean towards the leg that is forward. Bringing the arm overhead is an optional step, you can simply keep your hands at you side. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: This is a great stretch for the hip flexor. Simple step one leg out in front of the other from a kneeling position. Just like the above stretch it is important to contract the glutes through the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
To increase the stretch in the hip flexors, obliques, and lower back muscles, reach your arm overhead and lean to the side of the leg that is forwards.
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch: This stretch is similar to the one above, except you are balancing on your toes instead of resting on your knee. This exercise requires some balance and strength. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
It is really important to stretch the hip flexors. For many of my personal training clients we focus on stretching the hip flexors at the beginning of a workout, so that their body moves in a more ideal way throughout the workout. And for those that don't stretch in the beginning, there is almost always hip flexor stretching during the workout or at the end of a workout.
If you sit at a desk, it is important to stretch your hip flexors.
If you run or do any type of standing cardio (ellipticals, classes, stairmaister, etc...), you should stretch your hip flexors.
If you ride a bike for exercise or take spinning classes, it is extremely important to stretch the hip flexors. Bikers often have tighter hip flexors than runners because bikers are in a hunched over position.
If you do ab exercises or core exercises that involve the hip flexors, you should stretch before and/or after your workout. Exercises like leg raises (of all kinds), bicycle crunches, v-sits, sit ups (of all kinds), and plank exercises all work the hip flexors-- for more information on this topic read my article on the hip flexors role during ab exercises.
Hopefully, I made it clear that it's important to stretch the hip flexors, so don't skip out on stretching!
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT
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