Sitting a Lot? Try These Hip Flexor Stretches to Avoid Stiffness and Pain

by | Read time: 5 minutes

A day spent sitting is unavoidable for many, with desk work, meetings, commutes and TV watching taking up most hours of the day. Reports suggest on average, people take about 3,000 to 5,000 steps per day—a far cry from the 150 active minutes per week recommended by the CDC.

Even if you hit the gym a few times per week, if your daily routine involves a lot of sedentary time, you’re likely to experience the physiological effects of sitting. This often means stiffness, tightness and soreness, particularly in your neck, shoulder, low back and glutes.

Woman Who Learned How to Stretch Hip Flexors Exercising on Mat in Living Room

What are hip flexors?

Your hip flexors are found in front of your hips. They are powerful bands of muscle tissue that include the psoas major and minor, which connect your spine and femur (thigh), and the iliacus, which originates at your pelvis and runs to your femur.

Your hip flexors help you walk, run, step and kick, helping to extend your knee and flex the hip. What’s more, your hip flexors assist your glutes and other core muscles to support and stabilize your spine. This means your hip flexors are critical postural muscles that, when weakened, can lead to low back pain and eventual injury.

What causes weak, tight hip flexors – and why it matters

Considering where the hip flexors are, you can see how they can become weak and inactive if you sit a lot. They are kept in a flexed position, rarely extended or stretched, leading to tightness and weakness. Physically, you will likely notice stiffness or pain when ascending stairs, running or, in more severe cases, when walking.

Since your hip flexors are connected to your pelvis and thighs, your other muscles involved in these actions will attempt to compensate for the ineffective hip flexors, leading to postural changes and affecting the way you move and walk. Eventually, this causes muscular imbalances that lead to worsening pain, including low back pain and knee pain.

So, weak, tight hip flexors can result in poor posture, changed gait, muscle imbalances, back pain and abnormally functioning joints. It’s imperative you work on reducing these effects if you want a pain-free, functional body.

How to stretch hip flexors & best exercises to do

Strength and mobility work are two crucial ways you can relieve the effects of sitting on your hip flexors and surrounding musculature. When your hip flexors, or any muscles, are kept consistently inactive for extended periods, they will lose muscle mass and become weak.

Sitting also keeps your hips in a flexed position with shortened psoas muscles. This positioning leads to tightness, so working on flexibility and mobility is vital.

Side Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Lie on your side and bend your top leg behind you. Reach back and grasp your foot or ankle.
  2. Keep your knees stacked while you pull your foot toward your glutes.
  3. Don’t arch your back too much, and stop if you feel pain.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Psoas Lunge Stretch

  1. Kneel on the floor and step one leg in front of you, knee bent.
  2. Tuck your tailbone under and lean forward, resting your hands on your front knee.
  3. You should feel the stretch in your rear hip flexors.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Stand and cross one leg over the other.
  2. Lean sideways at the hip, bending toward the back leg.
  3. You should feel the stretch in the outer hip of the front leg.
  4. For added effect, raise the arm on the front leg side and reach over your head.

Banded Hip Flexor Strengthener

  1. Anchor a resistance band to a fixed point and loop it around your foot.
  2. Lay on your back with your feet facing the fixed point.
  3. Lift the banded foot off the floor and raise it, bending your knee toward your chest against the resistance.
  4. Release by returning your foot in front of you without resting it back on the floor.
  5. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps and then switch to the other side
  6. Take this movement up a notch by adding a single leg bridge with the other leg. In this case, your unbanded leg should be bent with your foot flat on the floor.

Walking Lunge

  1. Stand tall and take a large step forward. Bend your front knee until your back knee almost touches the floor.
  2. Use your front foot to press up to standing, bringing your back leg to the front in a large step.
  3. Repeat the motion to lunge on the opposite side.
  4. If taking a large, sweeping step is too challenging for your balance, you can touch down your foot in the middle with each lunge.
  5. Aim for 30 reps on each side, building your strength as you go.

Reverse Nordics

  1. Get on the floor on your knees, with your torso in a straight line above your knees (not sitting on your heels, but raised up).
  2. Grasp your hands in front of your chest and ensure your toes are pointing down with tips on the floor, feet flexed rather than having the tops of your feet on the floor.
  3. Slowly lean back as far as possible, using your hip flexors and core to lower you.
  4. Use the same muscles to pull you upright, allowing your arms to swing slowly by your sides to assist with balance. Your knees stay stationary.
  5. You can use a balance pad, yoga mat, or folded towel under your knees for comfort.
  6. Aim for 5 to 10 reps.

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