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Correct Hip Flexor Stretch Technique – Common Mistake

In today’s society, we’re sitting more than ever; we think this is having a significant effect on our body and our muscles. In this article, we are going to be discussing a group of muscles called your hip flexors. Why they get tight? How to know if you have a tight hip flexors? And importantly, how to stretch them properly?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that lift the leg; they are made up of the psoas major, illiacs, sartorius, TFL and rectus femoris. We are going to focus on the psoas.  The reason why we thought to explore this muscle is that we believe that there are an overlooked muscle.

The reason for this could be that it’s a muscle that we can’t see. Therefore it’s hard to know if it’s tight. It’s an intrinsic muscle inside our pelvis. It attaches on the inner part of our spine (L1-5 transverse processes) and then comes right down and attaches onto the front part of the leg (femur). The hip flexors purpose is to lift our leg; it leans us to one side and hinge us forward.  We must keep this muscle functioning well as it will affect our spine.

Something to consider, if you think that you might have tight hip flexors.  When you sit down on the sofa, do you sit on a portion of the sofa that has an armrest? If you always sit on one side and you tuck up your feet on the opposite side.  It will put this muscle in a shortened position. If you’re sitting there for hours each day, then inevitably it is going to get tight, especially over a long period.

So, how do we see if this muscle is tight? We can do a test called Thomas Test.  If you lay on your back and then you bring one knee towards your chest. You should find the other leg that’s on the floor should stay relatively close to the ground if the hip flexors are tight. You will find the other knee will want to come up.  You will have an angle or a gap behind your knee, therefore indicating this muscle is tight and needs stretching.

How do we stretch this muscle properly? Something we see very often that patients stretch this muscle incorrectly.  And is very understandable; It easy to fall into this mistake. All we need to do is make a slight alteration. This is to make sure you’re putting all the pressure of the stretch onto the hip flexors. 

We recommend if you get a yoga mat or you can use a pillow for the knee that’s contacting the ground. This can be useful if you suffer from knee pain or knee osteoarthritis.  It just makes the stretch more comfortable, although you don’t have to use this. Then you get into a kneeling position.

One way that I find that patients do this incorrectly. They will perform a lunge forward, completely relaxed. What this does, it doesn’t keep the pressure on the hip flexors and allows other areas to do some of that movement/stretch. Therefore what we want to do if we remember the anatomy of the muscle.  It attaches from the lower back to the front part of the legs we want to get these two points as far away from each other as possible.  To do this, we recommend that you tilt the pelvis back. To do this, you want to tense your core and also your glutes as you stretch. Keep tensing your glutes and your abdomen, and immediately you will feel more of a stretch on to the front of the leg. It will make it more difficult now, but this is the aim. Stretching can be uncomfortable sometimes.

Considering if this muscle has been tight for a long time, it can get aggravated if you stretch it too strongly. We advise, therefore, if you gently hold the stretch for maybe three to five seconds. Then you can ease off the stretch and then repeat.  You can keep repeating this process for approximately a minute. After your body gets used to this, you can then start doing more static stretches. This means you sustain the stretch for a more extended period. You can hold the stretch for roughly 30 seconds, rest and then repeat once more. After exercise is a great time to perform your stretches.

When you start exercises more (like running), this muscle will begin to loosen off over time. It is still essential that you do stretch if you have a job you have to sit down the majority of the day. It can speed up this process of loosening this muscle anyway. You may be less likely to get other injuries as well.

We hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful so that you can implement this into your daily life. If you have any further questions, please let us know.

Further reading on hip flexor – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/hip-flexors

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