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5 Exercises for Tight Hip Flexors

After a popular response to our blog "5 Exercises for Tight Adductors", our latest post explores the hip flexors and outlines some mobility drills that you can start implementing straight away.


Overview

When we refer to the hip flexors, we are talking about the muscles that lie on the front of the hip that are used in activities like sprinting and kicking. They function by flexing the hip, flexing the trunk and stabilizing the pelvis. Extended periods of sitting causes these muscles to tighten which can lead to poor posture and lower back pain.

The iliopsoas is the most commonly tight hip flexor and is composed of two muscles, the psoas and iliacus as they share the same insertion point. The psoas has an origin on the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine and the iliacus which has an origin on the iliac fossa (See figure 1). The rectus femoris, which is another hip flexor, crosses the hip and knee joint making it a hip flexor when the knee is in extension. Finally, a less commonly known hip flexor, the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). The TFL is not commonly classified as a hip flexor but it originates on ASIS of the iliac crest and inserts onto the IT band, which means it assist in helping flexion.


 

Figure 1: Hip Flexor Anatomy
 

Why are these important?

If these muscles are tight, they will negatively effect our posture and cause the lumbar spine to become over extended. This posture, most commonly known as anterior tilt, leads to inhibition of the glutes and posterior chain. The easiest way to think about this is liken it to a pulley system. If the muscles on the front of the pelvis are tight, they will rotate the pelvis forward. This not only effects our performance in the gym but may also increase the chance of injury.

How to fix this?


1. SMR Hip Flexor

The self-myofascial release on a trigger point ball is a great place to start. Lay flat on a trigger point ball and apply pressure to the front of the hip. The ball should sit just below the hip crease. The goal is to use your bodyweight to help to apply pressure down on the ball to help break up the tissue. Move back and forth over the tender areas, holding on the tight spots. Rotate onto your side to apply pressure to the TFL.

  • Recommendation:  4 sets of 90 seconds each side.


2. Couch Stretch

The couch stretch is a great exercise that can be done pretty much anywhere. The couch stretch focuses on the rectus femoris as the position involves hip extension and knee flexion. When doing this stretch, the goal should be to rotate the pelvis posteriorly and squeeze the glute on the side you are stretching. To increase the tension, slide your knee back towards the bench ensuring you keep an upright posture throughout the stretch. Remember to breathe and try to relax into the stretch.

  • Recommendation:  4 sets of 90 seconds each side.




3. Spiderman with Thoracic Rotation

The sidearm with thoracic rotation is a more dynamic mobility drill that is great to do as a warm up before training. Start in the push up position with your hands under your shoulders. Bring one foot forward outside your hand while keeping the other leg straight. The goal is to drop your hip down, feeling a stretch in the rear hip flexor. On the same side as the forward leg, lift the arm off rotating towards the ceiling.

  • Recommendation:  4 sets of 8 reps each side.



4. FFE Split Squat

The split squat is an exercise that can be used in a warm up or completed during a strength program. It helps improve ankle mobility and lengthens the hip flexors. To perform the exercise, start with your feet shoulder width apart and step one foot forward into the starting position. Keeping an upright posture, move forward and down, allowing your knee to track over your toe until your hamstring touches your calf. Once you have reached the full stretched position, push through the front foot back to the start position.

  • Recommendation:  4 sets of 8 reps each side.


 

5. Bench Hip Flexor Stretch

The bench assisted hip flexor stretch is another variation that targets the iliopsoas. This stretch has less emphasis on the rectus femoris as the knee joint isn't in full flexion like the couch stretch. Set up on the side of a bench and ease into the stretch like the video below. It's important to keep the pelvis in posterior tilt and not overextend through the lumbar as you relax into the stretch.

  • Recommendation:  4 sets of 90 seconds each side.


Ben

The Author - Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson is the Owner and Head coach of Movement Enhanced. He trains a wide range of clients with goals ranging from fat loss, strength, rehabilitation and athletic development. With a thorough understanding of the technical and theoretical components involved in training, he helps clients achieve their goals across these areas.

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