Of all the different muscles that are important to stretch, the hip flexors come at the top of the list more often than not. Hip flexors are stiff, short and overactive in a lot of people ranging from high level athletes to Jo Schmo’s working at their computer all day.
Athletes usually have pretty stiff hip flexors from running or skating. On the other hand, desk jockeys sit all day, which shorten the hip flexors. So hip flexors are a problematic area for a lot of people, whether you’re an athlete or not; this is why it’s important to stretch them regularly.
There are different types of hip flexor stretches that can be more or less appropriate for you, depending on your situation. Let’s go over a couple of them.
1. First, and most importantly, the hip flexor stretch done wrong.
This is something that is seen way too often in people doing a hip flexor stretch; they just crank their hips forward as far as they can go until they feel something. The problem with that is they don’t reverse the anterior pelvic tilt, which doesn’t even end up stretching the hip flexor muscles. All they’re doing is overstretching the ligaments and front of the capsule making the joint unstable on top of not getting a stretch in their hip flexors. No matter which hip flexor stretch you decide to perform, always make sure you maintain a posterior pelvic tilt; you should only have to shift forward slightly to feel a stretch.
2. The classic 1/2 kneeling hip flexor stretch on the ground.
This is the classic hip flexor stretch where you assume a 1/2 kneeling position, perform a posterior pelvic tilt, and slightly shift forward while squeezing your butt the whole time. It is pretty basic, and a good way to teach someone who’s just starting how to perform a hip flexor stretch the right way (posterior tilt, squeeze the butt, etc).
3. The rectus femoris stretch.
Of all the different hip flexor muscles we have, the rectus femoris is one that is often problematic. Since it crosses both the knee joint and the hip joint, flexing the knee while extending the hip will emphasize the stretch on the rectus femoris.
4. The box hip flexor stretch
The internal rotation of the femur on the back leg, the front foot being elevated, and the overhead reach all increase the stretch on the psoas. The psoas is another problematic hip flexor, so getting some manual work done on it in combination with this stretch should help release it.
5. The back knee elevated hip flexor stretch
This is a variation of a hip flexor stretch for someone who presents with Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI). Most people with FAI can’t flex their hip past 90 degrees because of bony overgrowth either on the femoral head or on the acetabulum. With a conventional hip flexor stretch, the front hip flexes at around 90 degrees and a little more, so this variation prevents any irritation of the hip.
There are plenty other variations of hip flexor stretches, but this should at least give you a basic understanding of what type of stretch to use when, when stretching the hip flexors.
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