Sports Magazine

6 Best Hip Flexor Stretches for Tight Hips and Better Athletic Performance

By Jessicashaw

Hips feeling tight? Stretching your hip flexors is a great way to unlock your lower body, improve posture, and crank up your performance in the gym. Here are the best hip flexor stretches you can do anytime, anywhere.

Best Hip Flexor Stretches

I’ve talked a lot before about the benefits of stretching, and how stretching improves not only mobility, but plays a huge role in fitness overall.

After all, no matter how strong your muscles are, if you can barely move because you’re all stiff and locked up, can you really call yourself “fit”?

Not in my books!

No muscle group is more important to stretch than your lower body, because they’re the muscles that tend to get stiffest/tightest after a long day spent sitting down.

On Leg Day, a lot of people focus on their quads and calves in anticipation of the heavy squats and lunges. Some will spend time on their hamstrings and glutes, too.

But far too few will incorporate hip flexor stretches into their routine—and this is a huge mistake, as I’ll explain below.

Benefits of Stretching Your Hip Flexors 

You know that stretching your quads helps to increase muscle growth, and stretching your hamstrings and glutes reduces the risk of lower back and knee injury.

That’s why so many people do these leg stretches before working out.

But why should you pay particular attention to your hips?

Why is it worth adding more hip-focused stretches into your warm-up routine?

Glad you asked!

Reduce Injury

Loosening up your hips is crucial for improving movement in your pelvis, including your glutes and hamstrings.

Better hip mobility also helps to reduce the strain on your lower back—your lower back often ends up compensating for tense lower body muscles, which increases the risk of back injury.

Your glutes are also the “opposing muscles” to your hips, and when your hips are tight, your glutes may lose strength, too.

Fun Fact: Tight hip flexors are a leading contributor to back pain and restricted hip extension1.

Stretching your hips ensures that your glutes can activate fully and provide the support your lower back needs to maintain good posture and mobility through your training sessions without injury.

More Jumping Power

Who wouldn’t want to jump higher?

When you jump, your hips have to extend in order to allow your leg muscles to propel you into the air. Without proper hip mobility, your jumping power will be limited. You won’t have the explosive strength you need to get some serious vertical height.

Plus, you increase the risk of pulling a muscle or damaging connective tissue when you explode upward if your hips are tight.

Better Run Performance

Your hips play a significant role in running form. They have to flex to pull your leg forward as you transition between steps, and they help your legs to extend fully to push off the ground behind you.

Tight hips will reduce your stride length and limit the amount of power that can be brought to bear on every step.

As you can see, there are a lot of great reasons to pay close attention to your hip flexors and spend time stretching them out using the hip flexor stretches I’ll share below.

Best Hip Flexor Stretches You Can Do Anywhere, Anytime

In this guide, we will focus mostly on static stretches you can do for your hip flexors.

Dynamic stretches–swinging your legs laterally, for example–are a great way to loosen up the hips, but when it comes to straight-up increasing flexibility, static stretches are your ideal tool for the job.

Hip Flexor Stretch #1: Pigeon Stretch

This Yoga pose is one of the absolute best stretches you can do to loosen up not only your hips, but also your glutes and lower back.

It’s an amazing stretch to improve lower body mobility and increase your hip range of motion.

See also: How Long Does It Take to Improve Flexibility? (And Why You Should Stretch Every Day)

Best of all, it’s an easy one that can be mastered in a matter of minutes, but you can always find a way to go deeper into the stretch to keep improving your hip mobility.

To perform this stretch:

  • Start with your hands and knees on the floor, in the “tabletop” position.
  • Slide your right knee forward until it is directly behind your right wrist. Cross your right ankle in front of your left knee. Slide your left leg back to straighten the leg. Make sure your hips are square (facing forward) as much as possible.
  • Bend forward to lower yourself to the ground, going as low as you possibly can. Shoot to get on your elbows first, then work your way down toward folding fully forward on top of your bent leg.
  • Hold the pose for 20 seconds, then push back up. Reverse all your movements until you’re once again in tabletop position, then repeat on the left side.

Hip Flexor Stretch #2: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

This is an excellent stretch to help loosen up hips that are feeling tight and stiff.

You can do it pre-run, pre-weightlifting session, or even just throughout the day whenever you remember it. It’s that awesome for loosening up your hips (especially after sitting for long stretches of time).

It’s a gentle stretch that will help to loosen up your entire body and increase mobility in your legs particularly.

To perform this stretch:

  • Stand with your feet together, arms by your side, spine straight.
  • Step your right foot forward. Bend your right knee to lower until your left knee and shin are resting on the floor.
  • Try to keep your upper body as straight as possible as you bend forward at the hips. Press your hips forward into that bent right leg. Move as far forward as you can without leaning forward.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, then switch to the left leg and repeat.

Hip Flexor Stretch #3: Standing Quad Stretch

This classic quad stretch is typically utilized to loosen up your quads prior to an intense squatting session, but if done right, it can also help to loosen up the hip flexors.

Hip Flexor Stretches - Standing Quad Stretches

You’ll find it does an amazing job of improving hip mobility so you can squat, lunge, jump, and run more effectively.

To perform this stretch:

  • Stand with your feet together, next to a wall or solid object that you can lean on for stability/balance.
  • Bend your right knee behind you, aiming to touch your heel to your butt. Reach around behind your back to grab your foot and pull it deeper into the stretch.
  • Try to thrust your hips slightly/gently forward to focus the stretch on your upper quads and hip flexors.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then release your foot. Repeat on the left side.

Hip Flexor Stretch #4: Butterfly Stretch

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try a more advanced stretch, give this one a go! It’s an amazing hip stretch to use after long hours spent sitting in a chair, and it can help to loosen up tight, stiff hip flexors.

The beauty of this stretch is that you can always go deeper, so you can keep working on improving your mobility no matter how often you do it.

To perform this stretch: 

  • Sit on carpet or a Yoga mat with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend your knees and bring your feet inward until the soles are pressing together right in front of you. Your knees should be flared outward and you should feel the stretch in your hips.
  • Use your elbows to press down into your knees, pushing to loosen up the hips. Don’t push too hard—the goal is to increase mobility, not hurt yourself—but focus on breathing deeply and stretching a little more with each breath.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Hip Flexor Stretch #5: Spiderman Stretch

This dynamic stretch will help you to work your hip flexors through a full range of motion, encouraging more mobility as well as flexibility.

It’s also great for strengthening your core and the muscles that enable your hips to move.

To perform this stretch:

  • Start in “Plank” position, with your hands and feet on the floor, legs extended, back straight and butt tucked in.
  • Without shifting your weight, bend your right knee and bring your right foot forward. Place your right foot on the ground outside of your right hand, and lean forward slightly to feel the stretch in your hips. Hold the stretch for 2-4 seconds.
  • Try to avoid raising your butt into the air, but keep your hips tucked in as you lift your right foot off the ground and swing it back to its starting position.
  • Repeat on the left side, then alternate between your left and right side for a total of 5 times per side.

Hip Flexor Stretch #6: Reclined Hip Stretch

This is definitely one of the best stretches to increase mobility in not just your hips, but also your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

You may find a bit of initial stiffness after long hours spent sitting or lying down, so make sure to go slow and give your body time to adapt to the movement.

To perform this stretch:

  • Lie on your back on the floor, on a carpet or a Yoga mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Reach through the gap between your legs to clasp your hands behind your thigh.
  • Gently pull your left leg up toward you. You’ll begin to feel tension in your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, and hips. Stop when you hit the “tension point”, before the stretch becomes painful.
  • Take slow, deep breaths. On every exhalation, try to bring your leg closer to your face to go deeper into the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then lower your feet to the mat and switch to your left side (crossing your left foot over your right thigh).

See also: 5 Best Stretches for Tight Glutes (Plus Benefits and How to Do Them)

Hip Flexor Stretches – FAQs

What are the symptoms of tight hip flexors?

A few signs you’ve got tight hip flexors are:

  • The hips feel tender when you press on them with your fingers.
  • You feel a pinch in the hip joint when you pull your knee toward your chest.
  • Your legs feel tight (or even misaligned) when you’re standing.
  • One of your feet rotates outward (when lying down) more than the other.
  • The joint pop, clicks, or clunks when you move it.

Any of these are indications mean you need to pay more attention to your hip flexors!

How often should I stretch my hip flexors?

In a perfect world, you should stretch out your hips every day.

Even just spending a few minutes in the morning and/or at night doing some of the stretches listed above will do wonders for your hip mobility.

Add in a few more hip-focused stretches during your pre-workout warm-up, and you’ve got the recipe for success.

That being said, you should aim for at least a minimum of 3-4 days per week if you can’t get around to it daily.

Do flexible hip flexors improve athletic performance?

Absolutely! You’ll run, jump, squat, lunge, bend, and generally move better. Your hip flexors are needed to pull your legs forward/pull your knees upward, and they work hand-in-hand with the hip extensors and the glutes to ensure strong lower body movement.

Tension in your hip flexors will reduce mobility and compromise your movement, preventing your muscles from working properly. This will decrease the amount of force that can be generated during any lower body exercise.

The Bottom Line

Your hip flexors play a role in virtually every leg movement—from running to squatting to swimming to lunging—and when they get tight and/or stiff, they can actually inhibit effective athletic performance.

It’s worth taking the time to focus on limbering up those hip flexors so you can move smoothly and easily through every aspect of your training.

Give those hip muscles some love, and you’ll notice significant improvements in your leg strength and overall core/lower body mobility. 

More Stretching Guides and Articles

Stretching Routine for Front Splits: Stretches, Tips, and Step-by-Step Instructions. Master the front splits with this stretching routine that you can do anywhere. Includes step-by-step instructions, muscles stretched, safety tips, and more.

The Best Stretching Programs and Apps for Improving Flexibility. Looking for a stretching program or app to help you kick up your flexibility? Here’s a detailed look at the top stretching apps for every level of user.

Hyperbolic Stretching – An Athlete’s Full Review. Looking for a comprehensive stretching program that can help you do the front splits, side splits, pike splits, and more? Hyperbolic Stretching is a fully guided and digital program that can help both beginner and intermediate people master these stretches.

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