What it stretches: hips, glutes, outer thigh, hamstring
Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms extended out in a cactus formation.
Step 2: Cross your right foot over your left thigh and let it rest on your quad. Lift your left leg until you can grab the back of your thigh with your hands. Give a quick squeeze in toward your chest, then let your right leg fall to the ground until your foot is flat while your left stays bent and tucked close to the body.
Step 3: Shift your gaze to the left while keeping your hips and shoulder blades square to the ground. You’ll feel the stretch in your left side.
Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Step 5: Release and return to the starting position.
Step 6: Switch sides and repeat.
Now that you're done with downward dog, let’s take a closer look at some of the symptoms, causes and prevention methods associated with tight hip flexors.
What Symptoms Are a Result of Tight Hip Flexors?
Discomfort from tight hips will usually be felt in the upper groin area where your abdomen meets your thighs. The pain can often feel like a too-taut rubber band that refuses to release. Aside from the direct discomfort felt on the muscle, tight hip flexors can cause a whole slew of other anatomical symptoms. “Common signs of tight hip flexors can include a pulling feeling on the front of the knee, lower back pain, leg cramping, muscle spasms and reduced mobility,” says certified personal trainer and founder of NOVA fitness, Jackie Wilson. “When the hip flexors are tight, they can pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt, which can make it more difficult to get the proper hip extension.” Essentially, this means that your legs physically aren’t able to extend past a certain point because the muscle just won’t allow it. Try breaking into a 100-yard sprint without proper stretching and you’ll see what we mean (although, please, don’t actually do this).
What Causes Tight Hip Flexors?
All that time you spend sitting at work (or on the couch or in the car) can have a huge impact on the flexibility of your hip flexors. Sitting habits aside, there are a number of other causes out there––some you might not even realize are harmful. “Improper form while working out, poor exercise choices and, of course, failure to stretch can all be contributing factors of tight hip flexors,” Wilson explains. “Specific movements such as loaded back squats or deadlifts can also cause the hip flexors to be in a compromised position, especially when the form is incorrect or the weight is too heavy.”
What Can I Do to Prevent Tight Hip Flexors?
Stretching is a great way to relieve tension and prevent future strains. Static or stationary stretching isolates an individual muscle group, while dynamic stretching activates multiple muscle groups by incorporating movement. “You should incorporate a dynamic warm-up with activated movements prior to working out,” Wilson explains. Say, before your next Barry’s Bootcamp class. Dynamic stretching should be active and energetic. Think beyond touching your toes here. We’re talking butt kicks, side shuffles and lunges with a torso twist. “Static stretching is best reserved for post-workout relief and recovery.” Now is when you can touch your toes...and hold for 30 seconds. In addition to stretching, Wilson also suggests using exercise to strengthen your hip flexors as a means of prevention: “My favorite movements for strengthening hip flexors are medicine ball slams, jump lunges and jump squats.”