I love running. I can’t even begin to talk about the many fitness and health benefits that running has to offer.
Check this post for more running benefits.
With that all being said, there are some shortcomings to running. And one of the major ones for me: it makes my hip flexors tight.
The fact is, tight hips is a common source of problems for many a runner—from beginners to elites—especially common in long distance runners.
In fact, hip tightness is one of the most common complaints I hear from my readers, clients, friends, and running partners.
As a result, today I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite stretches to deal with this unwelcomed tightness.
But before I do that, I’ll first talk about what are the hip flexors and why are they important when it comes to running.
So are you ready? Then here we go…
Hip Flexors Anatomy and Function
So what are the hip flexors and why are they so crucial for running?
First things first, hip flexors are a group of skeletal muscles located in the upper thighs and the pelvis region, linking the legs to the pelvis. These muscles connect the thigh bone—known as the femur—to the pelvis.
The primary hip flexor muscles are the psoas major and the iliacus— collectively known as the iliopsoas, which is usually the weakest of all of the muscles. Other hip flexor muscles include the sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and rectus femoris.
These powerful muscles are used in every stride when walking, running, and sprinting.
Some of the main functions of hip flexors include:
- Bringing the thighs up toward the chest.
- Driving the knees up and down when you walk and run.
- Maintaining proper running form.
- They are in charge of moving the legs from side to side.
- Key for stabilizing the pelvis.
Hip Flexors Troubles
The main reason I’m writing this piece is to address hip flexors tightness and what should you do about it.
Hip tightness is caused, mainly, by too much sitting. You can blame that on our sedentary lifestyle in which we have to sit in a position in which the hip flexors are passively contracted for a prolonged period of time.
Other causes for hip tightness include weak supportive glutes, and overuse.
Here are some of the negative consequences of having tight hips:
- Limited range of motion and mobility in the lower body, causing lower back and other issues.
- Hindered athletic performance by limiting your body’s ability to perform key movements like running, squatting, etc.
- Weakness in the glutes, which limits their ability to contract. This can mess up with your running form and efficiency, forcing you to slow down.
- All sorts of other overuse injury and trouble, including, knee pain, Achilles tendonitis, tight hamstrings and IT band syndrome.
Fix your Hip Flexors
Therefore, whether your job forces you to sit in a chair all day, preparing for your next marathon or you’re just plagued with hip tightness, there is always something you can do to to keep them loose and happy.
The 7 Hip Flexor Stretches Runners Should Do
Fortunately, there is an abundance of hip stretches you can do.
As a result, give your hips a little extra love with this sequence of seven stretches to boost your flexibility, prevent injury and increase performance.
Perform these stretches in the order shown below, or pick your favorites to slip into your training program.
Also known as Eka pada rajakapotasana, this is a famous yoga pose and one of the most effective hip openers in the fitness world. These can help you focus on one hip at a time.
Begin by sitting with your right knee bent and left leg stretched behind you.
Next, while making sure that your left hip is always pointing toward the mat, drag your right heel toward your left hip. Then rest your hands on your right thigh or your hips, then walk your hands out in front of you, and lower your hips down toward the floor over your right knee.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Be sure to breathe into any area of discomfort or tension.
Repeat on the other side.
2. Lunge Stretch
This powerful stretch doest not only target most of the muscles in the hips, but it’s also ideal for stretching the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Assume a lunge position with your right knee forward.
Next, drop your left knee to the ground, and place your hands on your right knee or on the floor under your shoulders, according to your own flexibility level.
Be sure to keep your upper body tall, and core engaged the entire time.
Then, while keeping your front knee directly above your ankle, hold the position for 30 seconds to one minute, and feel the stretch in your left hip flexor.
Change sides and repeat.
3. Happy Baby
Also known as Ananda Balasana in the yogic circles, this relaxing hip stretch also targets the lower back and the hamstrings.
Lay flat on your back with both knees bent while gently holding the outside edges of your feet with your hands.
Next, while keeping your arms on the outside of your legs, press both knees to the ground below your armpits. Feel free to rock lightly from side to side if that feels good.
Hold the pose for at least one minute, then move to the next stretch.
A powerful hip opener that also stretches the glutes and the inner thighs.
Assume a cross-legged seated position with the soles of the feet pressed together.
Next, while grabbing your ankles, lengthen your spine upward, draw your belly button inward then slowly fold forward from your hips with a deep exhale.
Focus on your inner thighs and be sure to breathe into that area to release any tension or discomfort.
For more stretch, feel free to crawl your hands forward away from your body.
Hold the pose for one minute then slowly release and move to the next stretch.
5. Extended Wide Squat
This stretch also opens up the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
Assume a standing position, with the feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointing out so that hips are open.
Next, while keeping your back flat and core engaged, slowly bend your knees and lower you hips toward the floor. For more stretch, place your elbows inside of your thighs, gently pressing them out against the inside of your knees.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute then slowly release back to standing position.
This simple pose stretches and opens up the hips, the insides of the thighs and the groin.
If you have any recent leg, hip or knee injury, be careful with this one.
Assume an all fours position with hands and knee in a tabletop position, then bring your forearms onto the mat or a yoga block.
Next, slowly slide both knees away from your body and widen them out as far as possible as you lower your chest and hips toward the floor.
Hold the position for one to two minutes then slowly release it and move to the next stretch.
7. Standing Wide-Legged Split
This stretch will not only target your hips but also opens up your inner thighs and hamstrings.
Begin by sitting up tall with the feet three to four feet apart, heels a bit wider than the toes.
Next, while keeping the soles of your feet flat on the floor and torso long, fold forward from the hips and place your hands on a yoga block or mat right below your shoulders.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
If your flexibility allows it, feel free to lower onto forearms for a deeper stretch.
Featured Image Credit – Amy via Flickr