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Tight hips can cause back pain. Avoid it with these 14 hip-flexor stretches

Sit all day? These hip-flexor stretches are a must.
Bridge pose helps with overall stability in the hip joint by strengthening and stretching the quads and hip flexors.
Bridge pose helps with overall stability in the hip joint by strengthening and stretching the quads and hip flexors.Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Whether you work a desk job, spend a lot of time driving, or love a good Netflix marathon, many of us live sedentary lifestyles.

Sitting for long periods of time causes the hip flexors to tighten and shorten, resulting in pain. And tight hips can cause pain in other areas of our body, too, including the low back.

Luckily, stretching is a simple, proven solution. Research shows that range of motion in individuals experiencing tightness in the hip flexors improved over time from consistent stretching.

What are hip flexors?

Hip flexors are a group of muscles located in the front of your hip and upper thigh area. The hip-flexor muscles include the psoas major, iliacus and rectus femoris. They play a crucial role in hip movement, allowing you to lift your knee, bring your thigh toward your abdomen, and bend forward at the waist. They also help you take a step forward and walk! These muscles are responsible for flexing the hip joint and are actively engaged in activities like walking, running and even sitting. 

Hip flexors also play a crucial part in maintaining proper posture and balance. When these muscles are tight or weak, it can lead to imbalances in the hip and lower back, which may contribute to pain or discomfort. It is important to keep your hip flexors flexible and strong through regular stretching and exercises such as lunges, leg raises or yoga poses

Is walking good for tight hip flexors?

Walking can be a great exercise to help with tight hip flexors as it alleviates tightness and promotes healing in the hip flexors. When you walk, you engage the hip flexor muscles, which can help stretch and strengthen them over time. By taking regular walks, you can improve the flexibility and range of motion in your hip flexors, reducing any tightness or discomfort you may be experiencing. The repetitive motion of walking helps to increase circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and flushing out any toxins or waste products.

Best hip flexor stretches

Make it a habit to take just a few minutes out of your day to step away from your desk and stretch. This can be enough to combat hip and back pain and even prevent hip problems in the future. You can perform these simple moves anywhere to get a nice stretch in the hip flexors. Make sure to take each one slowly so that you get the most out of each stretch.

Frog stretch.
Stephanie Mansour

Frog stretch 

Begin on your hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under the hips. Turn your toes out and slowly and with control let your knees slide away from your body, bringing your pelvis closer to the floot. Allow your legs to spread as far as comfortable to really feel the stretch in the inner thighs and hip flexors. Lower down onto your forearms and hold the position for 10 seconds.

Modified Dancer Pose.
Stephanie Mansour

Modified dancer pose

Begin with feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your left arm out in front of you to help maintain balance (or use a wall). With your weight on your left foot, bend your right knee as you bring your right foot up to meet your right hand. With your right foot in your right hand, bring your foot up toward your glutes (as close as you can get it to touching) as you feel the stretch in your quads. Hold for 10 seconds and then release your foot back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. 

Kneeling hip flexor

Start kneel on the ground. Step your right foot out in front of you, with your right knee bent at 90 degrees. Keep your left knee on the ground and stretch the left leg behind you, resting the top of the left foot on the ground. Keeping your back straight, push forward into your right hip, being sure to keep the right knee over the right ankle. Hold this position for 10 breaths, then switch sides.

 Standing lunge with side bend

Standing with your feet hips-width apart, step your right foot forward and keep your left leg straight. Come up onto your back toes, and bend your right knee over the ankle. Pull your naval in toward your spine. Then reach the left arm up and over toward the right to intensify the stretch in the front of the left hip. Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.

Happy baby yoga pose

Happy baby

Lie on your back. Keeping a neutral spine, bring your knees to your chest. Flex both feet and bring your soles toward the ceiling, so that your shins are perpendicular to your body. Your knees should bend at 90 degrees. Wrap two fingers of each hand around your big toes, if you can reach, and gently pull your feet down toward your chest. If you can’t reach your toes, hold on to your calves. You should feel a comfortable stretch in your hips. Breathe deeply and hold the position for a 5 breaths.

Goddess yoga pose

Goddess pose

Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders and your toes turned out slightly. Reach the arms up into a goal-post position at shoulder height. Bend the knees out toward the sides of the room, lowering the body toward the ground. Keep your back straight and keep your pelvis tucked under by engaging your core. Ultimately, work to lower down so much that your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold for 5 breaths.

Warrior II yoga pose

Warrior II

Start in a wide stance with both feet pointed forward and your arms straight out to your sides. Turn your right foot and knee to face the right side of the room. Turn your left foot on a slight diagonal toward the right foot. Bend the right knee so that it tracks over the second toe on the right foot and look over the right fingertips. Keep the left leg straight. Make sure your torso stays centered over the hips. Relax the shoulders, and bend the knee so much so that the right thigh is parallel to the floor. Check to see if you need to scoot the right foot forward to keep the right knee over the right ankle. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch sides.

Crescent lunge

Crescent lunge

From a standing position, step your left foot back behind you. Bend your right knee so that your quadricep is parallel with the mat. Reach your arms toward the sky and straighten your back. Hold for 5 breaths, relaxing the shoulders, before switching sides.

Single knee to chest stretch

Single knee to chest

Lying on your back, hug your right knee into your chest. Wrap your arms around your leg so that your hands rest on your shins. Gently pull the right leg in closer to the chest and extend the left leg straight on the ground. Feel a stretch in the right hip flexor, hold for 5 breaths, and then switch sides.

low lunge exercise

Low lunge

Start on your hands and knees. Step your right foot forward in between your hands. Slide your left foot back so that your shin is flat on the ground and your thigh forms a 45-degree angle with the floor. Bend your right knee and keep your right foot pressing into the floor. Tuck the left toes under and come up onto them as you straighten your left leg. You should feel the stretch in your left hip and thigh. Take a few deep breaths while engaging your left quad to keep your left leg straight. Switch sides and perform with the left leg forward and right leg back. 

lizard stretch

Lizard

Begin on all fours with your hands and knees on the ground. Step your right foot forward in between your hands, and then bring both hands to the inside of the right foot. Wiggle your right foot out to the right, and open the right hip, letting the right knee fall to the side so that you rest on the outer edge of your right foot. Keep the left knee on the mat, and rest the left foot on the mat. Push forward gently into your hips and hold. Switch so that your left food is forward and repeat.

butterfly stretch

Seated butterfly

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your back straight. Bend your knees, bringing your feet in toward your body until the soles of your feet touch. Grab both feet with your hands for extra support. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hips. Hold for 30 seconds.

bridge pose

Bridge pose

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat. Keep your arms at your sides as you tuck your pelvis and raise your hips into the air. Keep your shoulders on the mat as you form a straight line from your chest to your knees. Reach the knees toward the front of the room as you pull the naval in toward the spine. Hold for 30 seconds, wiggling slightly side to side in this position if you feel like it. This helps with overall stability in the hip joint, strengthening the quads and hip flexors while slightly stretching them.

Figure four stretch

Figure four

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your left foot off the mat, keeping a bent knee, and bring the leg toward your chest. Rotate your left leg outward, placing your left ankle on top of your right thigh. Gently pull your right thigh closer to your chest for a deeper stretch and hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.