Do you sit for most of the day? Think about it. Whether you’re driving to work or sitting at your desk (at work), sitting takes up a big chunk of our day.
Unfortunately, too many hours in a seated position can lead to locked-up and overly-shortened hip flexors. This leaves you feeling stiff, negatively affects your posture, and overtime can make you vulnerable to injuries and imbalances caused by misalignment.
Your hip flexors (collectively known as the iliopsoas) are the group of muscles in the front of your hips. When contracted, your hip flexor allows you to bend at the hip joint or raise your knees.
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When we are sitting, our hip flexors stay in a rested contracted position and can “lock” over time. So, how do you know if you have a “locked” or shortened hip flexor?
These are the clues:
- Your hips feel stiff and/or tight.
- You can’t freely move your hips when trying certain exercises like running, lunging, or cycling.
- You aren’t standing all the way straight (your posture is in a slight forward lean or you have a sway back because of an anteriorly tilted pelvis).
- You have lower back pain (this is often caused by tight hips).
- The muscles in the front of your hips feel tender to the touch and/or sore all the time.
If any of these clues sound familiar, it’s time to unlock that hip flexor! Try these five stretches to start reversing the damage and increase your flexibility.
5 Best Stretches to Unlock Your Hip Flexor
For the stretches below, hold each pose for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times per pose.
- Stand on your right foot and take a big step back with your left.
- Touch your finger tips down to the floor on the inside of your right foot.
- Press your hips forward to make the line from your shoulders to foot completely straight.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Tip: For a deeper stretch, you can lower your elbows to the ground. For the best stretch, keep the back knee as straight as possible and your heel reaching back.
Wall-Supported Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand near a wall so that you can hold on for balance support. (This is optional, but it’s nice not to have to worry about or focus on balance when trying to get a good stretch.)
- Bend your right knee and catch your right foot behind you with your right hand.
- Pull your foot towards your butt as you point your knee straight down towards the ground.
- Press your hips forward to create a straight line from your shoulder to your knee.
- Breathe deeply as you stretch and repeat on the other side.
Tip: Don’t worry about bringing your heel all the way to your butt. The main action for this stretch is to press your hips forward and create that straight line in the front of your body. If you feel any knee pain when bending your knee this deeply, try using a strap or belt to hold your foot up instead, and focus on the action of your hips.
Standing Frog Hip Stretch
- Take a wide stance with your toes pointed outward.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
- Press your knees outward to stretch your hips and inner thighs.
Tip: Do not round your lower back during this stretch. Although the focus here is on the inner thighs, it’s best if you can keep a tight core and straight spine. Make sure not to lift your heels off the ground, and keep the pressure evenly distributed through the heels and balls of your feet.
Modified Camel Hip Stretch
- Kneel on the ground with knees about hips distance apart.
- Place your hands on the back of your hips.
- Press forward as you lean back with your upper body.
Tip: This stretch can also be done standing. Tighten your butt muscles and press your hips forward to intensify the stretch.
Side-Lying Quad Hip Stretch
Hold this stretch for 20 seconds on each side, repeat 3x.
- Lie on your side and prop yourself up with the bottom forearm.
- Keep your bottom leg straight and rested on the ground.
- Bend the knee of your top leg and catch that foot with your hand.
- Press your hips forward.
Tip: Keep your abs tight to get a better stretch. Resist the urge to stick your belly out forward. Instead of pressing your foot towards your butt, keep it stationary and press your foot back as leverage to press your hips forward.
How often should you stretch like this to “unlock” your hip flexor? The answer is: it depends on you!
For some, doing a good stretch-out like this once per week could be enough, others might prefer to do it daily or every other day.
You should start to notice significant improvement after just one or two sessions, but try to think of this as an ongoing practice that will continue to benefit you for the rest of your life.
At any frequency that you choose, some stretching will always be more beneficial than none at all.
Creating a healthy, functional and mobile body is all about balance. If you find yourself sitting more than usual and feeling tight in the hips, keep this stretch routine handy to bring your body back to balance.
Share these stretches with anyone else you know who sits too much.
(Your Next Workout: How to Do The Splits: 6 Easy Steps)