If you get a pinching or tight sensation in the front or side of your hips, aka your hip flexors, when you sit cross-legged, or when you’re doing a movement like hugging knees to your chest, this post is for you! When we get tightness in any muscle, it’s a natural reaction to try and stretch that muscle to loosen it up. Surprise, we may actually be making already overstretched hip flexors worse!
Why our hip flexors get overstretched
You may have heard that if you sit a lot – whether around the house, or at a desk job – that your hip flexors can get tight from the hip bend of a sitting position. On the other hand, our standing posture often gets overlooked. If you’re someone who’s hips come forward and glutes tuck under when you stand (possibly from carrying a baby), you may be constantly lengthening those hip flexors. At the same time, you’re also tightening your glutes, and not in the good way 😉. This leaves us with tight hip flexors that need something other than stretching, because they’re being stretched and worked daily. Here are 4 exercises you can try to get some hip flexor relief.
Exercise 1: Elevate your legs and watch those hip flexors relax
This is honestly one of my favorite moves for the hip flexors, low back and more. Sometimes we just need to relax. To do this, all you need is a bench, a couch, a chair or something that you can comfortably prop your lower legs on while you lay on the ground.
- Lie on the floor with your feet elevated, and your hips and knees both at roughly 90 degrees
- If your legs keep wanting to roll open, just use a yoga strap or a belt to hold them parallel to each other.
- Stay there for 3-5 minutes.
That’s all! This can often be enough to really let those hip flexors relax, because we’re taking all of the work out, while getting them shortened from that over-lengthened position. Feel free to listen to a calming song, or scroll through social media, or whatever helps you unwind.
Exercise 2: Foam Rolling Your Piriformis and TFL for looser hip flexors
Foam rolling isn’t some magical cure to everything, but it’s definitely a great way to target those tight spots and help them relax. This exercise targets two other muscles that are also getting tight to help you relieve that forward pressure on the hip flexors. It also helps prevent anterior pelvic tilt, which can be contributing to your tight hips.
To roll your piriformis:
- Sit on your foam roller with your hands behind you on the floor, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Cross one ankle over the opposite knee to make a “figure 4”.
- Lean over to the side of the crossed knee and roll the meaty outer part of your butt cheek for 1-2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other side.
To roll your TFL:
- Lie on your foam roller with the front hip on the foam roller, arm out in front for support
- Your other leg can either be stacked almost like a side plank position, or you may want to roll forward a bit.
- We’re looking to target where your front jeans pocket would be. Roll across this area for 1-2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other side.
Exercise 3: Foam Roller Glute Raises
The foam roller can do more than just be a massage tool. We can actually use it as counter pressure against our hip flexors while we work the opposite side. For this exercise, we want to focus on form and muscle engagement, not how far we can lift our leg or how many reps we can pump out quickly.
To do foam roller hip raises:
- Lie on your stomach with your foam roller (or rolled/folded blanket) under your hips.
- Engage your glute to lift one leg off the ground.
- Focus on good glute engagement. We’re only really looking to get to parallel to the floor, not try to get our heel to the ceiling.
- Make sure you’re not rolling open.
- Also make sure you’re not bringing your legs out wide. They should remain about hip distance apart.
- Do this for 1-2 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Exercise 4: Eccentric Hip Rotator Loading
That may sound really technical, but this exercise is meant to help lengthen those outer hip muscles that may be gripping and tight all the time. For this, you’ll need a yoga block, or a well folded blanket.
To perform eccentric hip rotator loading:
- Get on hands and knees with one knee on your block/blanket.
- Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips, with a neutral spine.
- Lift your knee straight off the floor, feeling like your hip is going up to the ceiling.
- Focus on lowering slowly to get that strong loading on the block side.
- Do this exercise for 1-2 minutes and switch side.
Building your Loose Hip Flexor routine
Tight muscles – especially ones that occur from daily movement patterns – take time to undo. Many, if not all, of these exercises can help you feel instant hip flexor relief. However, to make these changes stick, I recommend performing this as a group 2-3 times a week. This will build better glute engagement, outer hip engagement and hip flexor loosening that stays with you.
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If you are postpartum and struggling with:
- Low-back pain
- Diastasis recti (ab separation or “mommy tummy”)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Hip, groin, or pelvic pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Urinary leaking or frequency
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