If you suffer from tight hips, I’ve compiled the best stretches and exercises to help you get the relief you need! Whether your hips are tight from sitting all day or from killing your last workout, these hip flexor stretches should help you get some relief. Tight muscles can potentially be shortened, and tight hips might mean your abs are weak or you have some instability in your back. Let’s stretch these babies out and help you work to get balanced and feeling better!
Oh and good news, I’m sharing mostly easier hip flexor stretches that most people can do, even if you’re an extremely inflexible desk jockey. I am also a member of the tight hip community, and I know which ones are realistic and which ones are laughable! First off, let’s quickly discuss what muscles we’re talking about and what they do!
What Are Your Hip Flexors?
The Hip Flexors are a group of muscles that do helpful things like flex your hips (shocking, I know), help you bend forward, pull your knees upward, move your legs from side to side and front to back, help stabilize your lower body, and they are an important component of healthy posture.
The big three when it comes to your hip flexors are the Illiopsoas (which is the Bennifer of the anatomy world, combining your Psoas and Illiacus muscles), your Sartorius, which crosses the upper leg to attach to your shinbone, and Rectus Femoris, which is part of the quadriceps muscles.
Playing a smaller but still important role, the rest of the hip flexors are the Pectineus, Adductor Longus, Adductor Brevis, Tensor Fascia Latae, and Gracilis. You can see most of these in the photo below.
Author: Beth Ohara // Creative Commons ASA 3.o License
Now let’s get to stretchin’!
8 Hip Flexor Stretches To Help Relieve Your Pain
Some stretching basics: you should feel a stretch, but not pain. If it really hurts, contact a physical therapist and figure out what’s really wrong. If your hip flexors are truly tight, a few weeks of doing these stretches should help you feel better! You should notice relief, so if you’re not, you may have something else wrong besides “tightness,” or you might need to address what you’re doing the other 23 hrs and 50 minutes of each day.
Hold each for about 30 seconds. You can increase up to 60 seconds as you improve your flexibility. For most of these, you should be able to go deeper into the stretch if you do a second set, but don’t push yourself, especially your first few tries.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This is one of the most commonly done hip flexor stretches, and if done correctly, it should help you get relief! Unfortunately, this is commonly done incorrectly, so pay attention to your form so you aren’t wasting your time.
Get down on the floor on one knee, and bend both knees to 90 degrees. Your bottom knee should be directly under your hip, and your top knee should be directly over your ankle. You can put a pad or towel under your knee if it feels painful.
Think about keeping your head over your heart, and your heart over your hips, and don’t allow an excessive curve in your back. Keeping this correct posture will ensure you’re doing the stretch right. Squeeze your glutes as tight as you can, keep your back tall, and lean forward slightly. One to two inches should be enough! You should feel this in the front part of your hip on the leg that’s underneath you. Switch legs after 30 seconds or so; repeat as desired.
Fun fact: I was hoping I could rename this because I have a phobia of butterflies. But.. I want you to be able to easily recognize this gym class favorite, so here we are. When it comes to hip flexor stretches, this is hands-down the most embarrassing for me- your knees should be much lower to the ground than mine, but that takes time. Work in progress, friends.
Get down on floor and bring your feet together in front of you, bending your knees out to the side. Sit down into your hips, while keeping your back tall and core tight, and push your knees down to the ground. You can place your hands on your feet or the floor behind you, whatever you need to keep your back tall. If your hips are really tight, gravity might be painful enough for you, no extra pushing required.
This is one of my faves. It helps you get a good, deep hip flexor stretch while allowing for easier modifications you can drop into at anytime!
Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward, and lower your left knee to the ground, releasing so the top of your left foot is flat on the floor. Place your hands on the ground under your shoulders, keeping them both to the inside of your right leg. Keep your arms straight and press your chest forward to increase the stretch. Sink into your hips, but try to keep the weight balanced between them. Be aware that your front knee doesn’t go over your toes. Repeat on the opposite leg.
You can make it harder by curling your left toes under and pressing up into a lunge. Think about pressing your heel toward the wall behind you. You can also drop down to your forearms to increase the stretch (this is where you’ll feel more lizard-like). If you’re a true yogi, you can enter and exit this position via downward dog.
Lying Hip Flexor Stretch
This is a delicious and effective hip flexor stretch. If getting on the floor is tough, you can try this standing, next to a wall in case you need help with balance. It should feel nice for your back as well!
Lie on your back with your legs straight and feet relaxed. Slide your left foot back near your hip so that your foot is flat on the floor and the knee is pointing toward the ceiling. Keep your right leg straight and flat along the ground.
Pull your shoulder blades down and back and reach down with both hands to grab the back of your left thigh to pull your knee toward your chest. Keep the right leg straight and push the back of the right heel into the ground; feeling your right glute muscle contract. Keep your abs and core tight and as your hip relaxes, pull it in closer if possible. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Thread the Needle Stretch
This stretch always gets some wows, groans, and exclamations when I lead bootcamp classes! It’s one of my faves!
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, pull your left knee in towards the chest by threading your hands between your legs and pulling gently on your left thigh. Think about keeping your right knee open to really stretch your hip. You’ll feel a little extra lovin’ in the outside of your hip with this one! Repeat on the other side.
I’m not really a big yoga person, but I’m obsessed with any flow that includes lunges. God bless these tight hips! Here’s another challenging but feely-good stretch.
Start in a runner’s lunge position with your right foot forward and your hands on the floor with your right foot in between. Keeping your back leg lifted and long, lift your chest and your arms up, resting your hands on your front thigh.
Keeping your abs engaged, make sure your head is over your heart, and your heart over your hips. Your hips should be centered, which means your back shouldn’t be arched nor your butt tucked under. Try to keep the weight displaced evenly between your hips. Sink into the lunge as your hips relax. Draw your back heel towards the wall behind you. You can lift your hands up, palms facing each other if you’re able. Repeat on the other side.
I’m loving all of these animal names as much as I love how wonderful this hip flexor stretch makes me feel! If your knees and ankles feel OK with this pose, it will be a great way to open up your hips.
Start on all fours and place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips on your mat- or blankets if you need extra padding.
Widen your knees ever so slowly until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Make sure your ankles are in line with your knees, your hips stacked over your knees, and your feet and calves should be grounded and toes pointed out. Relax your shoulders, and if you’re able to, lower down to your forearms. If you have a yoga block, resting your chest on it will help you release your hips.
This is the only pose I’m including that I’m hesitant about for those of us with really tight hips. Your knees might not like this one, so really ease into it, don’t force anything, and remember it’s OK to quit if there’s pain!
Sometimes stretching doesn’t cut it, and you need to work out some of the tension with a foam roller. This is definitely one of those hurts-so-good situations, so be warned.
In this first photo, see how my toes are pointed at the ground. Follow the instructions back and forth with your foot at this angle, and then angle it like the following photo!
Lie face down on your foam roller. Place it underneath and a little below your right hip. Bend your left knee about 90 degrees and move it over to the side to help ensure it’s out of the way. Place your forearms on the ground in front of you to help support you and some of your weight. Keep your abs engaged so your back doesn’t sag.
Extend your right leg out straight behind you and have the top of your foot flat against the ground if you can, if not, your arms will have to do most of the “rolling.” Begin to roll slowly forward and backward, and add a little right to left movements too.
Roll for about 20 to 30 seconds, or until you find a trigger point (like a painful knot). Focus on any trigger points for about 10 seconds.
I personally find that rolling my quads also helps to release pressure or tightness in my hips. One of those muscles is also a main hip flexor! (Similar position, but can put both thighs on the foam roller, knees slightly bent. Start closer to your knees and work your way up your thighs, slowly, focusing on trigger points along the way.)
Foam rolling takes some strength and the ability to get up and down off of the floor. If you’re not able to do that right now, you can use a lacrosse ball in your hands to work out the same areas mentioned.
Don’t have a foam roller? Get one here
If You Need Hip Flexor Stretches You Might Need Core or Glute Work, Too
Tight hips can stem from multiple things, so I recommend you see a physical therapist, physiotherapist, or personal trainer to help identify the actual issue. Like I mentioned before, your hip flexors may be tight because they are shortened and weakened from desk jockeying all day, or maybe your workout is leading to a muscular imbalance. Perhaps your back is weak and some muscles are pulling double duty, creating extra tension. There’s also a good chance your core is weak and your glutes are underdeveloped.
I recommend finding out what’s really wrong from a professional. But it probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover your core is weak or your butt could use a little muscle tone! :) Here are some exercises you could do in the meantime, or sign up for a Fit Tutor membership to help keep you balanced, strong, and fit! Check out membership options here: Fit Tutor Membership Levels
You’ll get access to 8+ programs (including nutrition!) and accountability to help you stick with it!
Glute Exercises to Help with Imbalances
Core Work to Get You Started
Remember, don’t push past pain in the name of toughness. If it hurts, stop. There should be a feeling of the muscles being stretched, but not painful. If your hip flexors need stretched, they should feel better after doing these regularly. If you don’t notice a difference, reach out to a local PT!
Best of luck. I’m suffering, I mean stretching, with you!
Please share with your fellow tight-hipped friends!
**Try at your own risk! If you have a medical condition or injury or are pregnant, talk to your doctor before you try any exercise program. If you have blood pressure issues, don’t get above an 8 on the RPE scale. The Fit Tutor is not responsible for any injuries.