Hip flexor stretches for runners are important to keep you running strong. Your hip flexors can often become tight, so it’s important you include a stretching routine as part of your training plan.
What are your hip flexors important when running?
Hip flexors help contract and pull the thigh towards the torso, allowing you to bring your knee towards your chest as you run.
When you run, you regularly shorten the main muscles in your hip flexors, instead of lengthening them, which can lead to imbalances.
According to a 2015 study on female football players in the US, athletes with hip flexor muscle tightness show less glute activation while extending the hip and knee.
The study highlights restricted hip flexor tightness is a risk factor for various lower body injuries, including hamstring injury, groin injury and lower back pain.
What causes tight hip flexors?
As discussed above, tight hip flexors are linked to a range of common problems, including lower back pain, tight hamstrings, knee pain, shin splints and even IT band syndrome.
The main cause of tight hip flexors is linked with leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Car travel and sitting behind a desk all day cause your hip flexors to become overused and under-stretched.
The fact is, the more time you spend in a seated position, the more time your hip flexors are kept in a shortened position, which in turn makes them tight.
Tight hip flexors equals problems with your posture and running mechanics.
The tighter your hip flexors, the more your pelvis tilts back and the more likely you are to lean forward (arch your back and stick your bum out) when you run.
Over time, poor posture like this not only leads to injury, but can seriously impact your running efficiency and performance.
Weak glutes (the muscles in your bum) also lead to tight hip flexors.
That’s why glute-strengthening exercises are effective to relieve tightness in the hip flexors.
How to strengthen your hip flexors
Strength training, stretching and mobility work are all great ways to strengthen your hip flexors.
If you sit behind a desk all day, to help you run more efficiently it’s important to include hip flexor strengthening exercises and stretches in your running routine.
Your hip flexors and glute muscles are like the ying and yang of good hip flexion.
They cannot work without one another so it’s important you stretch and strengthen the front of your hip flexor and the back, which are your glutes.
The easiest way to start is by adding these easy hip flexor stretches into your training plan to release tension in your hip flexors and strengthen your glute muscles.
You can do these before a run, at the gym, or from the comfort of your own home.
These hip flexor stretches for runners will strengthen and open up your hips and keep them loose in the long term.
They will also make you a better and more happy runner.
Hip flexor stretches for runners
Low lunge stretch
The lunge stretch is probably one of my favourite stretches because it’s so simple and effective.
This stretch is great to stretch your quads and hips.
You can either do it before a run as part of a dynamic warm up, or after a run as part of your cool down.
How to do a low lunge stretch:
- Stand with your feet together.
- Step forward with your right leg and extend your left behind you.
- Lower your left knee to the ground and keep your front knee directly above your ankle.
- You will feel the stretch in your left hip flexor.
- For a dynamic stretch, move your front knee and body in tiny circles. Repeat on the other leg.
- For a cool down stretch, hold the stretch for 30 seconds then repeat on the other leg.
One-legged bridge lift
This stretch targets the glutes and lengthens and stretches the hip flexors.
It differs slightly from a traditional hip bridge in that your glutes are engaged a lot more to lift your hips.
How to do a one-legged bridge lift
- Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest your arms at your sides.
- Press into your heels and engage the glutes to lift hips.
- Transfer your weight onto your left leg and extend your right leg out for five breaths.
- Inhale as you lower your right leg to hover over the floor for five breaths. Exhale as you bring it back up.
- Repeat for 8 repetitions, then repeat on the opposite leg.
Wide deep squat
A squat is a compound movement that targets various areas of the body, including your lower back, hamstrings and glutes.
Wide squats are ideal for the hip abductors. They increase mobility and open up that area.
How to do a wide deep squat
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointing forwards so that your hips are open.
- Slowly bend your knees and lower your hips to the floor. Make sure you keep your back flat, keep your core engaged and your heels planted on the floor.
- Place your elbows inside of your thighs and gently press them out against the inside of your knees.
- Hold this pose for roughly 30 seconds then slowly release back to standing position.
Standing wide leg forward bend
This is another one of my favourite stretches as I feel so good afterwards having done it.
The standing wide leg forward bend targets your hips and opens up your inner thighs and hamstrings.
How to do a standing wide leg forward bend
- Stand with your feet three to four feet apart. Your heels should be a bit wider than your toes.
- Fold forward from the hips and place your hands on the floor. Remember to keep the soles of your feet flat on the floor and torso long.
- Hold this pose for roughly 30 seconds to one minute.
- If you feel flexible enough, feel free to lower onto your forearms for a deeper stretch.
There are various pigeon stretch exercises out there, but a lot of them require quite a bit of flexibility in order to do them successfully and without injuring yourself.
The reverse pigeon is a great exercise for first timers.
It targets the hip flexors by lengthening them and increases external range of motion in the hip socket.
How to do a reverse pigeon
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip distance apart.
- Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your ankle bone clears your thigh.
- Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back.
- Gently pull your right knee in toward your chest.
- Thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your right leg.
- The goal is to avoid creating tension in your neck and shoulders as you open up your hips.