The Active Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Do you spend most of your day in a seated position – in a chair, car, or on a bicycle?
- Are you an athlete who spends a lot of time in a slightly flexed position? (Sports which can create tight hip flexors include paddle boarding (SUP), kitesurfing, cycling, field hockey, baseball, horseback riding, football, track and field, tennis and/or skiing.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a victim of shortened and tight hip flexors, the muscles responsible for hip flexion and for pulling the thigh and trunk toward each other.
It is important to unlock these muscles and restore proper function to the hip area. If you do not unglue the hip flexor muscles, their functioning will worsen, leaving you vulnerable to discomfort, compromised movement and injury. If you are an athlete, tight hip flexors leave you at risk for sub-optimal performance with your sport.
Spend as much time possible mobilizing and stretching the front of your hip and the muscles around this joint. One stretch you can incorporate into your fitness regimen is called the active kneeling hip flexor stretch. Here’s how to execute this stretch:
- Kneel (on a towel or mat) with front and back legs bent at 90-degree angle.
- Place your left foot so that it is facing forward.
- Brace abdominal muscles. (Pull navel inward).
- Internally rotate back hip. (Position the right back leg/knee so that it is bent in toward the other leg).
B: “Movement – raise opposite arm overhead”
- While keeping navel pulled in, raise right arm (side with leg behind) overhead.
- Squeeze glute (butt) of the right side being stretched (side with leg behind), while rotating pelvis posteriorly (toward the back/up towards the ceiling).
- Slowly, move body forward until a mild tension is achieved in the front of the right hip.
- While keeping the right arm overhead and your pelvis in position, reach towards the left (opposite side/perform a side bend).
- Hold for 2-5 seconds.
- Relax stretch.
- Repeat for 5-10 repetitions.
(Note: In this photo, I have changed the placement of my back foot. This is optional. Place your foot in a position that is most comfortable for you.)
C: “Optional movement #1 – raise same arm overhead”
- To target different muscles such as your lats and serratus anterior muscles, you can raise the left arm overhead.
- Reach this arm toward the opposite side.
- Hold for 2-4 seconds.
- Relax stretch.
- Repeat for 5-10 repetitions.
D: “Optional movement #2 – rotate torso”
- For a greater and deeper stretch, rotate torso toward the open side while keeping your arm overhead (refer to photo D).
Incorporate the active kneeling hip flexor stretch into your fitness program
Making the active kneeling hip flexor stretch part of your routine is simple. Perform this stretch by itself or add it to a preexisting program.
Here is a short video demonstrating how I dynamically include the kneeling hip flexor stretch in my fitness regimen. I like to start and end my workouts by stringing together various dynamic movement exercises. For example, I may start with the active kneeling hip flexor stretch but flow into ground transitions, yoga-like movements and other exercises geared to unglue my stuck joints and muscles.
- If kneeling is difficult for you, this exercise can be performed while standing.
- Do not hold your breath. Breathe slowly throughout the entire stretch.
- Keep glutes (butt) squeezed and engaged during the stretch. This will enhance neuromuscular connection between the hip flexors and hip extensors and will help achieve a deeper and more effective stretch.
- Stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.
- As with any exercise program, make sure you are cleared by a physician before beginning this exercise.
More information and exercises
- To learn more about hip flexors, please read my article, “Address Those Tight Hip Flexors.”
- Watch Kelly Starrett demonstrate how to unlock the hip flexors using a band: Tight IT Band and Hip Flexor Fix with Kelly Starrett .
- Open up your hips with the stepping over and under exercise: Movement Skill: Stepping Over and Under .
- Move and stretch your hips with the Foot-Hand Bear Crawl Exercise.
Share your thoughts
- What do you think of the active kneeling hip flexor stretch? Do you like it? Why or why not?
- How do you increase range of motion in your hip flexors?
- What is your favorite hip flexor stretch?
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.