Your hips form the center and pivot point of your body. Many muscles are connected to it, affecting almost every move you make. Strengthening the lower body muscles that connect to the hips will make you better able to handle the demands of daily living. However, a lack of hip mobility can negatively impact your daily mobility and your ability to get an effective workout.
In this article, we’ll discover why hip mobility is so important when working out the lower body. I’ll then present five stretches for tight hips that you can do to improve your hip mobility so that you can maximize the benefits of your lower body training.
- Hip Flexor Muscles
- How the Hip Flexors are Involved in Your Lower Body Workout
- Why Many People Have Tight Hip Flexors
- Hip Mobility Exercises
- Frog Stretch
Hip Flexor Muscles
Lifting the leg and bending at the hip joint is called hip flexion. The main muscles that are involved in hip flexion are the psoas major and the psoas minor. Also involved, but to a lesser degree, are the sartorius, rectus femoris, and tensor fasciae latae.
The psoas is a two-part muscle made up of the psoas major and the psoas minor. Interestingly, not everyone has a psoas minor, so it is not an essential muscle. So, the psoas major is the only real hip flexor between the two is what most people are referring to when they talk about the psoas.
The psoas originates on the lumbar vertebra, just above the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone). It passes by the inguinal ligament and attaches to the lesser trochanter at the very top of the inside of the thigh.
The second most important hip flexor muscle is the iliacus, which originates on the upper edge of the iliac ridge, on the front side of the pelvis. It then converges with the psoas and also attaches to the lesser trochanter.
The psoas and the iliacus are collectively known as the iliopsoas.
How the Hip Flexors are Involved in Your Lower Body Workout
Whenever you do any sort of leg raise exercise that involves pulling the femur (upper leg bone) upward, it is the hip flexors that are doing all of the work. Keeping your hip flexors strong and mobile will help you to maintain good posture and allow you to move the quads through a full range of motion.
When your hip flexors are tight, however, you will place added strain on your lower body muscles and tendons. This hip flexor tightness will prevent your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps from getting a full range of motion. As a result, they won’t be able to fully fire, and your level of muscle activation will be less than ideal.
Tight hips are often symptomatic of a weak posterior chain. So, people who have tight and weak hip flexor muscles are likely to also be weak in the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae muscles.
Why Many People Have Tight Hip Flexors
The average person spends around nine hours each day sitting. As a result, their psoas muscles sit idle, never receiving the exercise and stretching they need to be strong and mobile. Weakness in this area is directly related to pain and injury susceptibility in the lower back, knee, and hips.
Tight hip flexors are also a consequence of weak glutes. The glutes connect to the pelvic bone and the femur. The gluteus Maximus, the largest of the glute muscles, is the body’s biggest and potentially strongest muscle. But, in most people, the glutes are chronically undertrained. Weakness in the glutes contributes to hip flexor tension.
Check out our review of the Voodoo Floss Band for enhanced tissue mobilization.
Hip Mobility Exercises
Adding a series of hip mobility exercises into your workout schedule will improve your hip mobility and strength. This will allow you to achieve an optimum range of motion and muscle fiber stimulation during your lower body workout.
Here are five stretches for hip flexors you can do right in the comfort of your home.
Supine Leg Rotations
- Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent. Place your left foot on your right thigh just below the knee and cross your hands over your tummy.
- Move your left knee forward and backward five times.
- Put your left hand on the left knee and gently pull it back to stretch out the iliopsoas muscles. Hold the stretched position for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Standing Piriformis Stretch
- Stand against a wall with your back flat against it. Position your feet two feet in front of the wall.
- Descend to a parallel squat position.
- Place your left ankle on your right knee. You’ll feel a stretch through the glutes.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel on one leg with the other leg bent at 90 degrees in front of your body.
- Put both hands on the front knee and push down gently.
- Tucking your hips under your torso, squeeze the glutes and core.
- Lean your body forward slightly and hold this position for two minutes.
- Push your front foot into the floor and push the knee forward. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Return to the start position and hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the opposite leg forward.
Hip Rotator Stretch
- Sit upright in a chair with your butt close to the edge.
- Put your left ankle over your right knee.
- Press gently on the left knee with your left hand.
- Hold this position as you lean forward while maintaining a neutral spine and uplifted chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Lie face down on the floor with your knees bent and as far apart as comfortably possible. Your feet should be on the floor with toes pointing away from you.
- Gently rock your torso back and forth as you extend the stretched position as wide as you can.
- Continue for 30 seconds.
Improving your hip mobility will allow you to get a lot more out of your lower body workout. The stronger and more mobile your hip flexors are, the greater your exercise range of motion will be, and the more your muscle fibers will be stimulated. Follow our five exercise hip mobility routine 2-3 times per week for best results.