The hip flexors are the grouping of muscles at the top of your thighs that allow you to pull your knee into your chest and bend forward at the waist. Tight hip flexors are a common problem because our lifestyles these days have us perpetually bent at the waist, causing those hip flexor muscles to always be in a shortened state, which causes them to grow tighter over time. Not only can this cause discomfort and pain in the hip and groin area, but it can pull you off balance and cause pain in other areas, namely, the lower back.
The hip flexors can be difficult to reach, but if you make a special effort to stretch your hip flexors, you can counteract a lot of the built up tightness. Work the following stretches into your regular routine and notice the difference.
Remember: You should only stretch after you warm up, but before you do any major exercise. Your muscles are like taffy: warm taffy stretches, cold taffy snaps, so always warm up for 5-10 minutes before you do anything.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Lunge
Begin in a kneeling position. Lift one leg up and in front of you, foot flat on the ground, knee at a 90-degree angle. To stretch, slowly lean forward, keeping your back knee in contact with the ground until you feel a stretch through the hip of the back leg. Hold for 10 counts then release. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Sit up tall, with your back straight, the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees dropped to either side. Pull your belly button in and keep your back flat as you lean forward at the waist. Holding onto your feet, gently pull yourself even farther forward. You should feel the stretch spread throughout your inner thighs, the outermost part of your hips, and lower back. For a dynamic stretch, carefully flap those butterfly wings.
Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist while rotating at the hip to bring the right ankle to your left wrist -- the outside of your right leg should be resting on the the floor, hip to heel. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee so the front of your leg is flat on the floor. The right heel should be just in front of the left hip. For some, this is enough of a stretch, but if you need a little extra, walk your hand forward until your torso rests on your right inner thigh.
Begin standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Take a large step forward with your right foot and lower into a lunge. Your front knee should be bent at a 90 degree angle, your left leg straight, back heel raised from the floor. For some, this will be enough of a stretch through the back, left leg, but if you need a little more of a flexibility challenge, drop forward on the inside of your right knee. If you can, drop your right elbow to the ground on your right instep. Hold for 10 counts, then release. Repeat on your opposite leg.
Kelly Turner is a fitness writer and contributor, personal trainer and social media and marketing consultant. If she's not in the gym or behind her computer, she's lost, so please call the police. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.