Most people sit too much these days. When we sit, we shorten our hip flexors. Sitting too long makes the hip flexors chronically short - these muscles remain in the short position even after we get up from sitting. This chronic tightness causes a slew of problems that show up as back pain, ITB syndrome, Piriformis syndrome, and Hamstring tendinitis. Here's what to do to help fix the problem of tight hip flexors long term.
One of the best stretches for hip flexors is the Lunge. Notice how the Lunge reverses the seated position with the back leg extended backward.
Lunges can be done almost anywhere. You can modify from a deep lunge to a gentle lunge depending on how comfortable and how deeply you'd like to stretch.
Most important element in the lunge is NOT to arch the lower back. Instead, keep it neutral, or slightly tuck the tailbone, so the stretch is felt in the hip flexors and not in the lower back.
Ideally, hold Lunges for a long time - over a minute - to get the most benefit from the hip extension and in order to create real length in the muscles.
Another safe and very effective stretch for the hip flexors is the Quad stretch. I prefer to call it the King Dancer stretch as it is known in yoga. Notice how Tim the runner (in the photo) tucks the tailbone to minimize the lower back curve.
As in Lunge, it's very important to keep the lower back neutral or tucked - this action isolates the hip flexors. Otherwise you can do this well - but completely avoid stretching the hip flexors as many people do in yoga classes. It's a very common mistake.
Similarly, it's important to hold this stretch for a long time - start with 30 seconds on each leg and build up to over a minute. You can also hold on to a chair or wall for balance in the beginning.
It's not important to keep your heel close to your butt. It's not about stretching the Quads at the knee. The stretch should be felt high in the front of the thigh instead.
It helps to engage your Glutes (butt muscles) to move the leg backward into extension. But it's not important how far your knee goes back as long as the stretch is felt in the hips.
It's also not critical to have a very deep stretch - a gentle stretch held for a long time - goes a long way.
If you have any questions about these stretches, please email Slava at firstname.lastname@example.org.