Hip Flexor Series – Part 2 – How to Correctly Stretch Your Hip Flexors

Recently you may have seen my Instagram post on a common mistake made when completing a kneeling hip flexor stretch. This post is going to address this issue in more detail, as well as provide improvements to this common stretch.

The most common hip flexor stretch is completed in a kneeling position, with one knee on the ground and the other knee at 90° with the foot on the ground as seen a Figure A below. The athlete then translates their hips and torso forward, increasing the stretch placed on the Hip Flexor Complex (HFC) of the side with the knee touching the ground. This stretch is common and very beneficial if done correctly, however it is extremely common to see the stretch done incorrectly as seen by the first photo in Figure A below.

Figure A  – Hip Flexor Stretch

In comparison of the two pictures, the most obvious change is the pelvic inclination levels. In the first picture an Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) can be seen, where as in the second picture a Neutral Pelvic Tilt (NPT) can be seen. This change in pelvic tilt is extremely important when stretching the HFC, but before we go in to why, first you need to know your basic anatomy.

Anatomy

The hip flexor complex is made up of two primary muscles, the ilicaus and the psoas major. Together these are known as the iliopsoas as seen in Figure B below. The last muscle is the rectus femoris which is one of the four quadricep muscles. As this muscle crosses the hip joint, it also has the ability to assist with hip flexion, as well as knee extension. These muscles and their respective origins and insertions can be seen in Figure B and C below.

Figure B –Iliopsoas Anatomy

Figure C – Rectus Femoris Anatomy

Due to the origins of the HFC being primarily on the pelvis, if an excessive APT is present while stretching, the hip flexors will be shortened and therefore this is doing exactly the opposite of what is needed to stretch the muscle group. Due to this, if the pelvis is not controlled as the hips move forward, the stretch is not on the hip flexors and more likely to target the hip capsule. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however if you have assessed yourself as previously mention in part one of this series and are suffering from tight hip flexors, stretching like this will not be addressing the main problem.

Instead, the stretch should be completed as shown in the second picture in Figure A. In this picture, the core and glutes remain tight to maintain a neutral pelvis. Often, as soon as a client is cued to do this, they will feel a resultant stretch even in an upright position as shown in the picture. This is because as the core and glutes are tightened, the pelvis is moved in to a Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT) which increases the resultant stretch on to the HFC.

So in summary, if a true hip flexor stretch is what you are after make sure to follow the steps below.

  1. Chest High
  2. Brace Core
  3. Tense Glutes
  4. Tuck Hips Under

By following these steps you will be placing the HFC under additional stretch and this will result in faster improvements in HFC extensibility.