2 Hip Flexor Strength and Flexibility Exercises for Tight Hips

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Shakira said it best: Hips don’t lie. And if yours have been particularly achy or tight due to spending even more time sitting down during the pandemic, first know that you’re not alone, and second, know that these hip flexor strength and flexibility exercises can help. Current research shows most American adults spend over eight hours per day sitting (and those findings are from before WFH eliminated daily commutes). Now, many just have to walk from the bed to the bathroom to the kitchen and finally to their work station in the morning, meaning you’re not getting as much time to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hips. As a result, they are becoming less mobile—hence why they may pop up in unexpected ways when you do try and use them.

You will likely feel these clicks during moves that involve bending and extending your leg, like going from sitting to standing. “When our psoas muscle—what most people are referring to when they say hip flexor—gets stiff from not using it through its full range of motion regularly, it makes that ‘snapping’ sound,” explains Carolyn Lyons, founder of Wild Girl Wellness.

Lyons is a personal trainer who studied exercise physiology and stresses on social media that tightness in the hip flexors can lead to instability in the pelvis, which has a ripple effect along the body. These imbalances often cause one side of your hip to overcompensate, affecting your posture. Frequently sitting is a major cause of tight hip flexors, as the hip stays flexed and is shortened in this position. The good news is there are two simple hip flexor strength and flexibility exercises you can do (no weights required!) to help increase your hip mobility and reduce those clicks and creaks.

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1. Seated straight-leg hip flexion

Start sitting down on the floor with your legs straight and wider than your shoulders. Place a weight or object (like a small water bottle) on the floor between your calves. Position your right hand on the floor in between your legs and left hand on the floor to the outside of your left leg. Keeping your legs straight, lift your left leg up and over the object, next to the right, tapping it gently on the floor then returning to your start position. Aim for 5–10 reps, then switch sides.

“[This] hip-flexion exercise can always be made more difficult by raising the height of the thing you lift your leg over or [sitting] against a wall, which won’t allow you to lean back,” shares Lyons.

2. Supine straight-leg hip circles

Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms bent and hands placed behind your head. Lift your left leg straight into the air, forming a right angle to the body. Using your hip muscle, draw 5–10 tiny circles clockwise and then counterclockwise in the air (keeping your back flat to the floor and limiting body movement). Once you’re finished, switch legs and repeat.

“Both of these can be done two to three times a week,” says Lyons. “If these are challenging for a person, I work the moves into the body of their workout as a regular hip or abs move, and as they get stronger with them, I move them to their warm up.”

Not only will these hip-flexor strength and flexibility exercises help ease your hip clicks and creaks, but research shows that they may help improve your running and jumping, too. For even more benefit, take standing and brisk walking breaks throughout the day. Your hip flexors—and posture—will thank you.

To treat your tight hips to some extra TLC, add this hip-opening yoga flow to your fitness routine: 

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