If you spend a good chunk of your day with your bottom in a desk chair, your hip flexors have it pretty rough. All that sitting forces them into a shortened position, which leads to tightening at the hip and a decrease in joint mobility. Your tight, short flexors also put you in the risk zone for certain injuries. When you finally clock out at the end of your work day, do some damage control. Extension stretches can lengthen and loosen the muscles that act at your hips, help preserve or improve hip range of motion and reduce your susceptibility to back and lower-extremity pain.
Incorporate a dynamic hip flexor stretch -- involving smooth, continuous, repetitive movement -- into your general warm-up. Walk or jog in place for five to 10 minutes, then perform a set of low front-to-back leg swings. Stand an arm-length from a wall with your feet together. With your right side adjacent to the wall, rest your palm on the wall for support. Gently swing the leg forward and backward while keeping your right leg relatively straight, the knee facing front and the foot flexed. Develop a rhythm, repeating the swing for 20 to 30 seconds. The backward phase of the swing gently stretches the hip flexors without straining them.
Perform static hip-extension stretches -- which involve holding the stretch position for up to 30 seconds -- when your muscles are particularly warm, supple and receptive to stretching, ideally as part of a cardio cool-down. Progress gradually from prone stretches to more challenging stretches that involve kneeling or standing. Avoid static stretching immediately before activities that require muscular strength and endurance, since static stretches might hinder your performance.
Lie on your stomach on the floor, and cross your forearms under your forehead. Relax the back of your right thigh, but tighten your glutes as much as possible as you raise your right leg off the floor. Keep both hips on the floor and both legs extended. Hold the leg extension for up to 30 seconds, then slowly lower the leg. Repeat two to four times. Switch legs.
Kneel with your right knee on the floor and your left foot planted on the floor in front of you. Both knees should be bent at 90-degree angles. Place a small folded towel under your right knee for comfort. Put your right hand on your hip and extend your left arm overhead. Tighten your abs and glutes and rotate your right hip outward slightly as you hinge forward over your left knee. When you feel mild tension along the front of your right hip, hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Slowly move your hips back to their initial position, then repeat the stretch two or three times, keeping your torso upright at all times. Switch legs.
Stand a leg-length from a bench, low wall or similar stable object, and put your feet together. Face the object, and place the sole of your left foot on its surface. Tighten your abs and buttocks and slowly hinge forward from your right ankle. Keep your torso lifted as you bend your left knee into a lunge, moving your hips directly forward. When you feel a mild stretch along the front of your right hip, hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Shift your hips back to their initial position, then repeat two or three times. Switch legs.
Items you will need
- Small towel
- Bench or low wall
- Breathe evenly to achieve a deeper, more effective stretch.
- If you prefer a more active stretch, shift into the stretch position and hold for only two seconds. Pull back and repeat 10 times, developing a steady rhythm. Rest briefly, then repeat two or three times.
- Stretching when your muscles are cold puts you at risk for injury.
- If you've injured your hip in the past, speak to your doctor, physical therapist or trainer about the advisability of specific stretches.
- Yoga Journal: Get Hip About Flexors
- Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: The Effects of Two Stretching Procedures on Hip Range of Motion and gait Economy
- University Health Services, Tang Center at UC Berkeley: Managing Low Back Pain
- Complete Guide to Fitness and Health; American College of Sports Medicine and Barbara Bushman
- Physical Therapy: Passive Versus Active Stretching of Hip Flexor Muscles in Subjects With Limited Hip Extension -- A Randomized Clinical Trial
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training: Micheal A. Clark, et. al.
- ExRx.net: Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images