Hip Flexor Stretch

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Who:

People who sit, run, bike, or spend a lot of time bent over. People with back pain, hip pain, buttock pain.

What:

Muscles that flex the hip: Psoas Major, Iliacus, Rectus Femoris, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Gluteus Medius and Minimus, Sartorius, and the Adductor group.

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These muscles are crucial for such movements as lifting your leg up when going up stairs or getting out of a car, and bringing your torso closer to your leg when doing crunches or sitting up in your coffin. Anytime you close the space between your thigh and your torso, these muscles are put in a shorter position.

Why:

Since many of us spend a significant amount of time sitting, whether in a chair, car, or sofa, we are keeping our hip flexor muscles in a cramped space much of the time. Just like you weren’t made to be curled up in the trunk of a car all day, these muscles weren’t meant to be in such a restricted position so often.

Maybe you feel pain or tightness in your low back, hip, or groin region. Or maybe you feel stiff and sore when you stand up after sitting for a while. In addition to changing your lifestyle to avoid metaphorically cramming these muscles in a car trunk, and getting massage to help calm them down and say you’re sorry, you can add this stretch to your day as a way to encourage them to become longer and more functional again.

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How:

To stretch the right hip flexors, start with your right knee on the ground (it can be on a thin cushion if needed) and your left knee bent at 90° in front of you. Your back foot should be pointing straight behind you, either with toes tucked under or with the top of the foot lying flat on the ground. Your front foot and knee should both point straight forward, and the knee should always be behind the foot.

To increase the stretch, bring your front foot forward while keeping your pelvis neutral. You may notice a tendency to allow your hips to tilt forward, but this will create slack in the muscle you are trying to stretch. Keep your torso upright and tilt your pelvis back a smidge (as if you were to tuck your tail) while inching your front foot further in front of you.

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Feel free to hold on to a wall or something sturdy to help you balance during this stretch. To add variety, you can change the angle between your thigh and hip by shifting your front foot horizontally on the ground. You can also shift your pelvis horizontally (a very small movement).

As an alternative, you can do this stretch while standing instead of kneeling. Get into a long stride position, again scooting your front foot forward while keeping your pelvis neutral in order to increase the stretch. Some people like to have the back foot at an angle so the toes point laterally (outward) from the midline, but make sure both hips continue to face forward.

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Every nuance to a movement or stretch means that different muscle cells get to work slightly differently, or different muscle fibers are stretched more or less. This translates to better cell nutrition overall, so feel free to play around with how you stretch and move to get the most benefit.

As always, it will be easier and more beneficial to your tissues to do this stretch after moving around a bit first. Instead of stretching immediately after standing up from your chair, all stiff and sore, walk around a bit first to ease the muscle into activity just like you slowly ease yourself into motion at the start of your day.

When and Where:

In the aisle way of your plane mid-flight

Between courses of Thanksgiving dinner

At the top of a mountain you just cycled up

In line at the copier at work

On the sidelines, watching your kid’s soccer game

After your kidnappers release you from the trunk of their car

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Don’t worry about being watched, they are just jealous.

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