Did you know that stretching can eliminate your belly pooch? Sure, those sit-ups and crunches you've been doing strengthen your abdominals, but if your hip flexors are tight, your bulging belly won't budge. Daily activities, such as sitting, walking, running and climbing stairs, shorten your hip flexors, which then tilt your hips forward, push your tush out and overarch and stress your back. Stretching your hip flexors can correct your posture and eliminate that pooch.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
The standing hip flexor stretch targets the front of your hips down to your knees. Stand upright with your back facing a knee-high bench and your hands on a wall or counter for balance. Bend your right knee and rest the front of your right foot on the bench behind you. Contract your buttocks, tighten your tummy and tilt your pelvis slightly forward so your back is flat. Then bend your left knee and lower straight down until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left upper leg. Hold this for 15 seconds before switching sides.
Lying Hip Flexor Stretch
Lying hip flexor stretches can be done in different ways. For an easy stretch, lie face-up on a bed, right next to the left side edge. As you bend your right knee and pull it into your chest, simultaneously ease your left leg off the side edge. Let it hang there so you feel a stretch in your left hip area. Alternatively, place your right foot on the bed while your left leg is straight, and then, push your hips up until your knees meet. Only your right foot, shoulder blades and head are on the bed. Hold these stretches for 15 seconds before switching sides.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Knee on your right knee while your left knee is bent at 90 degrees and your top left foot is on the floor in front of you. Flatten your back by tightening your tummy and buttocks and slightly tilting your pelvis forward. Then lean your hips forward so you feel a stretch in your right upper leg. Hold this for 15 seconds, and repeat it on your other leg. For a slightly deeper stretch, extend your right arms straight up and slightly it lean over to your left side.
Always warm up before performing hip flexor stretches and stretch after finishing your exercise routine. A light jog or walking in place for 10 minutes will do. Avoid bouncing while you stretch, and never stretch to the point where it's painful. For optimal benefits, stretch at least two to three times per week. If you're new to stretching or have a health condition or injury, consult a doctor beforehand. Also, avoid eating fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods that pack on the pounds. Stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet to help reduce that belly pooch.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.