Do you spend most of the day sitting? Well no wonder your hips are tight and possibly painful!
In this post, I’ll be describing 4 of the best hip flexor stretches that are specifically targeted to undo the effects of sitting.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that allow you to move your leg or knee up towards your torso, and to bend forward at the hip. Specifically, we’ll be targeting the biggest muscle in your hips, called the ‘Psoas’ muscle, because this muscle is what gets most impacted by sitting many hours per day.
Before Covid I spent the last 8 years teaching yoga. I learned a lot of hip stretches like the popular yoga ‘Pigeon’ pose. I’m not going to include Pigeon pose and other hip stretches that don’t directly target the Psoas muscle.
In this post I’ll model and describe what I consider to be the 4 best hip flexor stretches to help with tightness in the hips and the Psoas muscle caused by sitting down.
After modeling the poses, I’ll answer some additional frequently asked questions:
- How do you loosen your hip flexors without overstretching?
- What are the causes of tight hip flexors?
- What muscle does the hip flexor stretch?
Finally, there is an extremely popular and cheap online hip flexor training program which I’ll recommend at the end of this post!
Without further ado, let’s cover some easy hip stretches for tight hips!
Best Hip Flexor Stretches
Listed below are my top 4 recommended hip flexor stretches if you sit too much.
Overall, these poses are straightforward and you definitely don’t need a background in yoga to successfully do these poses and get a good stretch.
However, please note that the first two poses are slightly more advanced than the third and fourth poses. So if you feel out of balance on the first pose, then you can decrease the difficulty and skip to the third or fourth pose.
Finally, if you still have hip pain or tightness after trying these stretches daily for 1 month, then it’s likely you’ll want to consider other additional hip stretches (which are part of the online training program below).
1 – Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
This is your gold standard hip flexor stretch to counter the effects of sitting.
It’s easy and effective so that’s why it’s #1!
This standing hip stretch directly lengthens your ‘Psoas’ muscle. I know Psoas is a fancy word, but basically it’s the muscle on the front of your hip.
When you sit down, your Psoas gets shorter. Sit for many hours each day and your Psoas will get used to being shorter. This contraction will make you have tight hips!
Then when you try to stand up, your hip will actually resist standing up because your hip flexor is now used to being short!
Here’s how to do a Standing Hip Flexor Stretch:
- Stand up with your feet together. Then step forward 2 feet with your right foot. Then step back 2 feet with your left foot.
- Engage your core, and you may want to hold onto a chair or table if you aren’t sure about your balance too.
- Keep your back left knee straight and slowly bend your right knee until you feel a stretch on the front left hip.
- If you don’t feel a stretch, then step your left leg farther back, or your right leg farther forward and try again.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds
- Switch sides
- Optional: you can also drop your left knee to the ground into a Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch and lift back up into the standing position for a little workout!
Summary: Not too hard, can be a great stretch, and perhaps a little workout too.
2 – Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch is a variation of the Standing Hip Flexor Stretch.
Basically, instead of having your back leg straight, your back knee is down on a cushion.
As you can see in the video below, putting your knee down on a cushion enables you to get a deeper stretch.
Here are 5 steps to the Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch:
- Find a pillow or gentle support for your left knee. Plant your left knee down on the ground.
- Put your right foot a foot or two in front of your right hip. Your right knee should be bent.
- Shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip. If you’d like to bend your right knee more you can do so, but be careful if your right knee goes past the 90 degree mark.
- Your torso can lean forward to decrease the intensity of the stretch, or you can keep your torso up right if you want to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds or so and then switch sides.
Summary: More stable and can get a deeper stretch, but
3 – Bridge Pose
This stretch is probably the most beginner friendly stretch for your hips, however you won’t get as deep as a stretch in comparison to the first two poses.
However, if you find the Standing Hip Flexor stretch to be too much of a muscular workout, then this pose can help you strengthen your leg muscles while giving you a good Psoas stretch.
This pose is also a good warmup pose, as there isn’t much pressure on your hips.
Here’s how to do Bridge Pose:
- Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent up to the ceiling, hip width apart.
- As you lay flat on the floor, engage your legs and butt muscles and press up to the ceiling
- If your low back hurts, lower your hips a bit.
- Hold for 30 seconds or so
- Lower your hips and low back to the ground
- Repeat 5-10x
- Optional: You can raise your right leg towards the ceiling (and then alternate with your left leg) to strengthen your core here too.
Summary: A great warm up pose with lots of stability, but less pressure will also mean less of a stretch too.
4 – Supported Bed Hip Flexor Stretch
Like the name suggests, this stretch is done in your bed!
This is what’s known as a ‘passive’ stretch, where you exert very little muscular effort and simply let gravity stretch your tight hips out.
Because this is a passive stretch, it’s also a good stretch to try initially along with bridge pose, before trying the standing and kneeling hip flexor stretches.
Here’s how to do the Supported Bed Hip Flexor Stretch:
- Lie on your back on your bed, with your left leg near the edge of the bed.
- As you lie on your back, slowly let your left leg drop down over the edge of the bed.
- Lower the leg down off the left side of the bed.
- Notice a gentle stretch in the front left hip
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
Summary: Laying down in your bed to stretch is awesome!
Now that we’ve covered these awesome stretches, let’s move onto answering some frequently asked questions:
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Do You Loosen Your Hip Flexors Without Overstretching?
Here is my general rule of thumb to prevent overstretching:
If your muscle begins to shake because of the stretch, then back off a little bit to decrease the pressure.
While this general rule of thumb can help prevent injury, here are some other ideas prevent injury too:
- Go on a short walk before stretching or exercising to get the blood moving
- Another way to loosen up and get the blood moving is to take either a hot or cold shower
- Try self-massaging the muscles around your hips. While you won’t be able to dig too deep without a physical therapist, the pressure you are able to generate simply with your fingers is oftentimes enough to loosen up and help prevent injury. You certainly do not need a physical therapist or masseuse in order to prevent injury.
- You can also try these two mindset tricks to reduce stress.
What Are The Causes Of Tight Hip Flexors?
As we mentioned earlier, sitting many hours during the day is a huge cause of tight hip flexors.
As you sit more, the muscles become progressively shorter, and therefore tighter. There’s actually a condition called ‘adaptive shortening’ which is discussed extensively in this biking article here.
Adaptive shortening can occur in other situations like:
- Having a tilted or tipped pelvis
- Standing habits where you bend one knee habitually and shift your weight into one hip
- Laying on one side of your back without much rotation while you sleep
- One leg is longer or shorter than the other leg
- You have a clearly dominant foot or stronger leg
- You have a history of weightlifting incorrectly
- Nutritional deficiency (which can be alleviated with proper supplementation and diet)
What Muscle Does The Hip Flexor Stretch?
The hip flexor stretches out your Psoas muscle. For more information on the Psoas muscle, you can read this article here.
Generally speaking the stretches listed here are specifically for the front of your hip.
The reason I am focusing on the front of your hip is because this muscle is most affected by sitting down. When you sit down, the front of your hip muscle contracts and can become shortened.
Please note however that there are many other hip muscles in addition to your hip flexors, here’s a graphic of just a few of your additional hip muscles:
An Online Training Program
I highly recommend this Hip Flexor online training program, which is one of the best selling hip flexor programs on the market.
Mike is a national best-selling fitness author, sports nutrition specialist, personal trainer, Iron Man magazine contributor and founder of the internet’s longest-standing strength site, CriticalBench.com
I first came across Mike’s program a few years ago when I was researching how to become a better yoga teacher, and I’ve always fondly remembered this ourse!
Check out the Hip Flexor online program here. It’s cheap around $10-15 too!
With that being said, which of these are your favorite stretches? Leave a comment below 🙂