To lift your knees and bend at the hips, your body uses the hip flexors, a group of strong muscles found deep within the abdominal cavity. However, when you exercise intensely, particularly when running or playing sports, you put a lot of stress on the hip flexors. If they’re not strong and limber, the intense activity can easily cause an injury. To avoid this, stretch your hip flexors daily and incorporate strength-training activities at least two times a week.
Why It's Necessary
Between working at a desk, watching TV and other sedentary activities, people can easily spend more than 15 hours a day sitting down, according to Dr. Neville Owen in an article from ABC News. When you spend this much time sitting down, your hip muscles flex because of bent knees, tightening or shortening the muscles. Then, when you do physical activity, whether it’s running on a treadmill or simply running to catch the bus, the muscles become unexpectedly stretched – and that can cause hip flexor pain. By stretching and strengthening the hip flexor muscles frequently, you can keep the muscles long and loose and avoid this sudden injury.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Take five to 10 minutes daily to stretch your hip flexors on both sides. To do a basic hip flexor stretch, kneel on your right knee with your left leg bent in front of you. Place a folded towel under your kneecap for cushioning, if necessary. Place your hand on your hip and keep your back straight. Lean forward to put your weight in the front leg, feeling the stretch in the right thigh and hip. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
For convenience, certain hip flexor exercises can be done at home or at the office, if you have the space. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your butt muscles and push your hips off the ground. Hold this for five seconds, and then lower yourself back down. Work your way up to 30 reps with five-second resting periods in between. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, take it one step further. When you lift your hips off the floor, contract your ab muscles and lift one foot 3 to 4 inches off the floor. While keeping your hips lifted, put your foot down and lift the other one. Lower yourself to the ground. Work up to 30 repetitions, remembering to breathe while doing the exercise.
If you have access to weight machines, use them to strengthen your hip flexors. A squat machine can strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings, both of which help support the hip flexor. Select a weight that you can lift comfortably and begin in a standing position. Bend your knees, squatting down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then slowly lift yourself back up. Work up to 30 repetitions. If you’ve had a hip replacement or suffer from arthritis, do not attempt to use a squat machine. The quadriceps squeeze and hamstring squeeze machines also work your hip flexors. Sit in the chair, place your knees under the cushioning pad and straighten your legs, using your hips and quadriceps to lift the weights. To use the hamstring machine, lie on the machine’s bench on your stomach and position your legs so your calves are under the cushioned pad. Use your hamstrings and hip muscles to lift the weighted pad. Work up to 30 repetitions.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.