Although hip flexor muscles don't get the attention given to the body-sculpting muscles such as the biceps, glutes and the pectorals, hip flexors are important to your ability to walk, run, dance, sit and all other activities that involve moving your legs. Hip flexor muscles include the iliopsoas, the tensor fasciae latae, the rectus femoris and the sartorius muscles. Stretching the hip flexors increases their flexibility, relieves muscle soreness and improves your range of motion.
Low back pain and morning stiffness can result from overwork or poor posture, affecting your hip flexor muscles. The cat yoga pose performed from a face-down position on your hands and knees can increase blood flow to the hip flexors. Stretching these muscles increases flexibility and improves your capacity for activity. With your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart, arch your back up and down 10 to 20 times. Perform the arch slowly on an exhale. Emphasize the upward pull from your lower back and pelvis. (See References 6 and 7.)
Stretch the muscles in the front of your body -- as well as the psoas hip flexors -- with the yoga bow pose. Located on either side of the spine, the psoas muscles attach to your lower vertebrae and aid in spinal alignment and rotation, plus hip flexion. A flexible psoas allows the front thigh muscles -- the quadriceps -- to lengthen. From a face-down position, with your legs together and your toes pointed away from your body, place your arms at your sides. Bend your knees as close to your buttocks as possible. Grasp your ankles. Press downward with your tailbone as you lift your chest and thighs off the floor. Hold the bow pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Do one to three repetitions. (See Reference 2.)
Lying quadriceps stretches increase the flexibility of the quads and the iliopsoas. Perform this exercise in two positions, beginning in a prone face-down position. Bring your right foot up to your buttock and grasp your ankle with your right hand. Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Engage the iliopsoas by turning onto your side and grasping your ankle, but do not flex your knee completely. Repeat the exercise on your left side. (See References 1 and 4.)
Warm up to increase blood flow and loosen your muscles before you stretch. Walk, jog or ride a bike for five to 10 minutes to prepare for stretching. Pay attention to your body and do not push beyond your limits. If you feel pain, you're stretching too far. Do not bounce while you're stretching, or you may injure or tear muscles. Consult a doctor if you've been away from exercise for a long time or if you have chronic pain or an injury.
- Sports Injury Clinic: Laying Quadriceps Stretch
- Yoga Journal: Bow Pose
- MayoClinic.com: Focus on Flexibility
- ExRx.net: Lying Quadriceps Stretch
- Sharecare: What Are the Hip Flexor Muscles?
- Sharecare: In the Morning When I Wake Up My Back Feels Stiff, What Can I Do?
- Yoga Journal: Cat Pose
- Yoga Journal: The Psoas Is