18 Stretches for Hip Flexor Muscles That You Can Easily Do at Home

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

The average adult spends about 6.5 hours a day...sitting. That’s 45.5 hours a week, 182 hours a month and 2,184 hours a year...sitting. It’s no wonder we’re all complaining about tight hips, strained backs and sore knees. Spending all that time in a compressed position can be extremely taxing on one of our major muscle groups: the hip flexors. And because this area bears the brunt of the daily impact we experience, tight hips can lead to a number of other aches and pains. Luckily, there are a ton of simple stretches for hip flexor muscles that can relieve pain, decrease tightness, increase mobility and even boost strength when added to your fitness routine and maintained consistently.

Before you dive headfirst into downward dog, let’s take a closer look at some of the symptoms, causes and prevention methods associated with tight hip flexors.

What Symptoms Are a Result of Tight Hip Flexors?

Discomfort from tight hips will usually be felt in the upper groin area where your abdomen meets your thighs. The pain can often feel like a too-taut rubber band that refuses to release. Aside from the direct discomfort felt on the muscle, tight hip flexors can cause a whole slew of other anatomical symptoms. “Common signs of tight hip flexors can include a pulling feeling on the front of the knee, lower back pain, leg cramping, muscle spasms and reduced mobility,” says certified personal trainer and founder of NOVA fitness, Jackie Wilson. “When the hip flexors are tight, they can pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt, which can make it more difficult to get the proper hip extension.” Essentially, this means that your legs physically aren’t able to extend past a certain point because the muscle just won’t allow it. Try breaking into a 100-yard sprint without proper stretching and you’ll see what we mean (although, please, don’t actually do this).

What Causes Tight Hip Flexors?

All that time you spend sitting at work (or on the couch or in the car) can have a huge impact on the flexibility of your hip flexors. Sitting habits aside, there are a number of other causes out there––some you might not even realize are harmful. “Improper form while working out, poor exercise choices and, of course, failure to stretch can all be contributing factors of tight hip flexors,” Wilson explains. “Specific movements such as loaded back squats or deadlifts can also cause the hip flexors to be in a compromised position, especially when the form is incorrect or the weight is too heavy.”

What Can I Do to Prevent Tight Hip Flexors?

Stretching is a great way to relieve tension and prevent future strains. Static or stationary stretching isolates an individual muscle group, while dynamic stretching activates multiple muscle groups by incorporating movement. “You should incorporate a dynamic warm-up with activated movements prior to working out,” Wilson explains. Say, before your next Barry’s Bootcamp class. Dynamic stretching should be active and energetic. Think beyond touching your toes here. We’re talking butt kicks, side shuffles and lunges with a torso twist. “Static stretching is best reserved for post-workout relief and recovery.” Now is when you can touch your toes...and hold for 30 seconds. In addition to stretching, Wilson also suggests using exercise to strengthen your hip flexors as a means of prevention: “My favorite movements for strengthening hip flexors are medicine ball slams, jump lunges and jump squats.”

Feel like your hips could use a little TLC? To get you started on the road to relief, here are 18 stretches for hip flexor muscles that you can easily do at home (or in the gym). Find your favorites, start a routine and kiss unwanted muscle pain goodbye.

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1. Standing Quad Stretch

Step 1: While in a standing position, bend your left knee and extend your foot up and back toward your bum. Grab your ankle and use your left hand to pull your leg closer to your glutes. To avoid overstretching, keep your body weight centered by tilting your pelvis slightly forward.

Step 2: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 3: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 4: Switch sides and repeat.

2. Side-Lying Quad Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your right side with both legs extended out. Prop your top half up by bending your elbow and resting your head in your right hand.

Step 2: Bend your left knee and extend your foot up and back toward your bum. Grab your ankle and use your left hand to pull your leg closer to your glutes. To avoid overstretching, make sure your body remains in a straight line.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 4: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 5: Roll over to your other side and repeat.

3. Lying Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your back with both legs extended out.

Step 2: Lift your right leg toward your chest while keeping your left leg straight and your lower back pressed firmly into the ground. Use your abs to maintain this alignment.

Step 3: Interlacing your fingers, wrap both hands around your shin and pull your right leg in toward your chest.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

4. Figure Four Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your back with both legs extended out.

Step 2: Cross your left ankle over your right quad and bend your right knee until your calf is parallel to the ground.

Step 3: Interlace your fingers behind your right thigh and gently pull in toward your chest.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

5. Butterfly Stretch

Step 1: While sitting in an upright position on the ground, bend both knees outward until the soles of your feet touch. Pull your feet in toward your center until you feel a stretch in your hips.

Step 2: Drawing your belly in, fold forward as far as you can safely go while pressing your elbows on your legs to deepen the stretch. Be sure to lengthen your spine as you hinge forward. Your back should be straight, not curved.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, pull your feet in closer or extend your arms out in front of you while continuing to fold forward.

Step 4: Release, return to the starting position and repeat.

6. Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

Step 1: From a standing position, take a big step forward with your right foot as if you were doing an extended lunge. Plant your right foot firmly on the ground.

Step 2: Place your arms gently on your right thigh and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip. Keep your back and head upright. Do not put too much weight on your right thigh and do not overextend the knee past your right ankle (this could cause unnecessary strain on your knee).

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, activate your left glute muscle as you continue to lean forward.

Step 4: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 5: Switch sides and repeat.

7. Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch with Rotation

Step 1: From a standing position, take a big step forward with your left foot as if you were doing an extended lunge. Plant your left foot firmly on the ground.

Step 2: Place your right hand on the floor next to your left foot and twist your upper body to the left as you extend your left arm toward the ceiling.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, lower your right [[?]] leg to the ground and continue to twist your upper body.

Step 4: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 5: Switch sides and repeat.

8. Kneeling Side Bend Stretch

Step 1: Kneel on the floor with your legs together. Keep your spine aligned and your core engaged.

Step 2: Extend your left leg out to the side as if doing a split. Keep it perpendicular to your body (not too far in front of or behind you).

Step 3: Rest your left arm on your left leg and extend your right arm overhead. Gently bend your upper body and right arm to the left while keeping your hips facing forward to activate the stretch.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

9. Cobra Press-Up Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your stomach with your elbows bent and hands flat against the ground on either side of your shoulders.

Step 2: Press into the ground with your hands to lift your head, chest and abdomen up off the floor. Simultaneously activate your glutes to help push your hips toward the ground. Engage your entire spine as your press up and back.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 4: Release, return to the starting position and repeat.

10. Glute Bridge Pose

Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press into the ground with your heels and engage your glutes to lift your hips until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight diagonal line. Keep your head and shoulders on the ground.

Step 2: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. In addition to stretching, this will also help strengthen your glutes, hip flexors and surrounding muscles.

Step 3: Release, return to the starting position and repeat.

*This is a favorite of our resident expert, Jackie Wilson. To intensify this pose, add some weights into the mix. Try holding a lightweight barbell at your hips while using your glutes to press up through your heels.

11. 90/90 Stretch

Step 1: Sit down with your right knee bent in front of you at a 90-degree angle with the sole of your foot facing to the left. Flex your right foot to engage your muscles.

Step 2: Bend your left leg in the opposite direction so that your knee is facing to the left and your foot faces behind you. Flex your left foot to engage your muscles.

Step 3: Your left bum cheek will naturally rise off the ground as your weight falls to the right. Keeping your right bum cheek on the ground, attempt to move your left side as close to the floor as possible. Your mobility here will depend on your flexibility. Do only what you can; do not overextend.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

12. Reclining Angle Bound Pose

Step 1: Lie down on your back with your legs extended out in front of you.

Step 2: Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open up and butterfly out toward the floor.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 4: Release, return to the starting position and repeat.

13. Piriformis Stretch

Step 1: Sit down on the floor with both legs extended out in front of you.

Step 2: Cross your right leg over your left and place your right foot firmly on the ground next to your left knee.

Step 3: Twist your upper body to the right and place your right hand behind you.

Step 4: Place your left elbow on your right knee and press outward to deepen the stretch as you continue to twist.

Step 5: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 6: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 7: Switch sides and repeat.

14. Three-Legged Dog Stretch

Step 1: Start in downward-facing dog with your feet hip-width apart, hands shoulder-width apart and hips pushed up into the air.

Step 2: Maintaining this position, lift your left leg up off the floor and extend it as high as you can while still keeping your knee straight. To deepen the stretch, bend the extended leg, bringing your foot to your bum and rotating your leg in a circle at the hip.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 4: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 5: Switch sides and repeat.

15. Pretzel Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your left side with both legs extended out. Prop your top half up by bending your elbow and resting your head in your left hand.

Step 2: Bend your right knee until you’re able to grab your right foot with your right hand.

Step 3: Bend your left knee to a 90-degree angle and hinge your left hip forward until it’s perpendicular to your body.

Step 4: Slowly bring your shoulder blades back down to the ground.

Step 5: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 6: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 7: Switch sides and repeat.

16. Pigeon Stretch

Step 1: Begin on all fours in a tabletop position.

Step 2: Extend your right leg straight behind you as you bring your left knee forward until it sits in a triangle directly below your abdomen. Your left foot will be facing back behind you or to the left depending on your flexibility.

Step 3: If you feel a stretch in your hip and glutes, hold here. To deepen the stretch, fold forward until your chest is resting on top of your left leg.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

17. Double Pigeon Stretch

Step 1: While sitting in an upright position on the ground, bend your left knee until your calf is parallel to your body.

Step 2: Bend your right knee and place it on top of your left leg so the two are stacked. This pose will stretch the hip of whatever foot is placed on top. To deepen the stretch, walk your hands out as far as possible while folding your chest and head down toward your legs.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 4: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 5: Switch sides and repeat.

18. Twisted Reclined Pigeon Stretch

Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms extended out in a cactus formation.

Step 2: Cross your right foot over your left thigh and let it rest on your quad. Lift your left leg until you can grab the back of your thigh with your hands. Give a quick squeeze in toward your chest, then let your right leg fall to the ground until your foot is flat while your left stays bent and tucked close to the body.

Step 3: Shift your gaze to the left while keeping your hips and shoulder blades square to the ground. You’ll feel the stretch in your left side.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.

Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.

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