Those poor neglected hip flexors. They’re not as famous as biceps. They’re compromised every day by those of us who sit at a desk. And yet they do so much.
Want to go surfing on vacation? Who doesn’t—the waves, the bonfires on the beach, the sun! You need good hip flexors to lift your leg up onto the board as you hit the wave. Runners will bemoan tight hip flexors—they’re responsible for pulling the knees toward the chest. Being able to bend over at the waist and touch your toes in yoga? That’s a result of flexible hip flexors.
And unfortunately, flexible hip flexors are a rarity. Sitting at a desk all day (or on the sofa in front of the TV all evening) allows them to shrink up and tighten. Working your hip flexors will help you avoid low back pain and participate in a wider range of physical activities more successfully.
So how do you stretch your hip flexors?
Yoga is an incredible way to expose many of your weaknesses. This isn’t discouraging if you’re committed to improving your health and level of fitness for the long term. A challenging yoga class can reveal a lack of balance and tightness in many parts of your body, particularly the side body and the hip flexors. A simple crescent lunge is harder than it looks or sounds when those small stabilizer muscles are out of shape and your hip flexors are weak. Many of the poses in yoga will stretch your hip flexors, particularly the pigeon pose.
A barre class is another way to identify gaps in your strength. As you engage in tiny repetitive movements, you’ll discover the edges of your fitness. When your major muscles give out, you’re forced to employ the secondary muscles that allow you full range of motion. Those leg pulses after you’ve already worked to failure? They’re calling upon all of the muscles that make up the hip flexors, strengthening the inner and outer thighs, the glutes, the lower back and the lower abdomen. Afterward, as you stretch your hip flexors, you’ll feel a release in places where you didn’t even know muscles existed.
If you work at a desk, set a timer and get up to stretch your hip flexors each day. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding onto the back of your chair. (If your chair is on wheels, hold on to the edge of your desk instead.) Place your right ankle on your left thigh, just above your knee, and squat backward and down, bending at your left knee. This should create a nice stretch in your right hip flexor. Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds, then release and switch sides to stretch your hip flexor on the left.
Add in some marching in place to restore blood flow to the muscles that make up your hip flexors, as well as a few walking lunges if you have the space.
My goal is to get up on a surfboard and stay up for a few seconds, even though I’m in my early 40s. It’s never too late to develop neglected muscles, and the time is always right to protect and stretch your hip flexors and other stabilizer muscles that will prevent falls and improve balance. Give your hip flexors some attention and enjoy a greater range of activities than you ever thought possible!