Stretch and Strengthen your Hip Flexors
There is a group of muscles known as the hip flexors, and I bet you can guess what they do.
Yup, they flex the hip!
Sometimes they ask for extra attention: they might feel stiff or sore, or you might find this area cramps easily while doing exercises like mountain climbers.
Imagine you are standing, or lying down with your leg in line with your body. Hip flexion happens when you bring your leg up in front of you, closer to your torso.
Some of the hip flexor muscles attach at the lumbar spine (low back), and some cross over the knee, so it’s important to look beyond the hip when stretching and strengthening the hip flexors. Here are my favourite ways to stretch and strengthen the hip flexors:
- Strengthener with a Band
- Half-Kneeling Stretch
- King Runner
- Gravity Assisted Stretch
Strengthener with a Band: Remember how some of your hip flexor muscles attach at your low back? This strengthener will help you isolate your hip flexors without your back muscles taking over.
Attach one end of a stretchy band to an anchor point, and hook the other end around your flexed foot. Keep your tummy strong and low back completely stable as you pull your knee up towards your chest. Make it challenging enough that you feel work in about 10 repetitions per leg.
Hip Hip Hooray!
Half-Kneeling Stretch: Come into a half-kneeling position, cushion the back knee if required for comfort. Make sure your hips are square (parallel to each other). Fire the tip of your tailbone to the mat to keep low belly toned, breathe deeply and feel the stretch in the hip flexors.
King Runner: This is a more intense version of the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, and helps to stretch the hip flexor muscle that crosses the knee.
- Bring your shin vertically against a wall (or the back of your couch).
- Make sure your knee is as near the wall as possible: if the knee is any amount away from the wall, you will be resting on your knee cap which will be seriously uncomfortable.
- Schlep your other leg forward to find half-kneeling position.
- If your mobility allows, bring your torso up a bit.
- Remember: laughing is preferable to crying (and if you feel pain, choose a milder option!!)
Gravity assisted stretch: One of my all time favourite stretches to help open up the hip flexors. If anyone asks why you’re lingering in bed, tell them you’re doing some work on your hip flexors!
- Lie on a bed or high box or table
- Hug one knee towards your chest, dangle the other leg over the edge
- Keep your core braced and low back stable
- Make sure your hips are lined up below you (the dangling leg might want to wander off to the side, which will rob you of the best stretch)