Stretches for the Iliacus Muscle

You can target the iliacus from a variety of positions.
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Working jointly with the psoas major and psoas minor, the iliacus muscle controls hip flexion. It also assists with forward pelvic tilt and outward rotation of the thigh. After many hours of sitting, this group of muscles – referred to as the iliopsoas -- can shorten, which affects your posture, contributes to lower back pain and leaves your hips feeling tight and stiff. Stretching the iliopsoas throughout the day can increase range of motion and keep the area fully functional. Failure to warm up the iliacus and its companion muscles before activity is a risk factor for hip flexor strain, so warm up before you stretch.


Stretching the iliopsoas from a standing position is convenient and generally comfortable, because it places little stress on the knees. Standing with your torso upright and your feet together, grasp a stable surface with your right hand for support. Rest your left hand on your hip and extend your right leg behind you, placing the ball of the foot on the floor. Center your weight between your feet and slowly bend both knees, lowering your hips straight downward. Your left knee should be in line with your left heel and your right heel should be raised. You might need to adjust your back foot, moving it farther from your standing leg, to achieve a comfortable stretch along the front of the hip. Breathe normally and hold the position for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat with the left leg.

Raised Lunge

Using a wall or tree for support, you can get a particularly deep, effective stretch along the front of the hip. Stand facing a wall at a distance of 1 to 2 feet with your toes directed forward. Raise your left leg to the front and rest the ball of the foot on the wall at hip level. Place your hands on your hips, align your head over your spine and pull your shoulders back and slightly down. Engaging your core muscles, bend your left knee and hinge forward slightly at your right ankle. As you bend the left knee, your hips should move directly forward, further extending the hip and elongating the hip muscles. When you feel the stretch, hold the position for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg.


To stretch the iliopsoas from a supine position, lie on your back on a firm table or bed with your buttocks near the edge. Relax your legs, allowing them to dangle off the end of the table, but engage your abdominals to prevent your lower back from arching. Release tension from your neck and shoulders. Bend your left knee and draw it toward your chest, grasping your left thigh with both hands. Your right leg should hang from the table, so your hip joint extends completely and the muscles lengthen fully. You should feel a light stretch along the front of the right hip. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds, and then switch to your left leg.


Kaiser Permanente recommends stretching the hip muscles from a side-lying position. Using a mat or towel for comfort, lie on your left side. Your head and shoulders should align with your hips and feet. Rest your head on your left hand and engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand to take hold of your right instep. Slowly draw the working foot toward your buttocks, keeping your knees together. You should feel light tension along the right hip and quadriceps. To further extend the hip and deepen the iliopsoas stretch, move your right knee directly behind you. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat on the left leg. If you feel strain or pain in the working knee, avoid this stretch.

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