The True Hip Flexor Stretch - Mike Reinold

The True Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexor stretch has become a very popular stretch in the fitness and sports performance world, and rightly so considering how many people live their lives in anterior pelvic tilt.  However, this seems to be one of those stretches that I see a lot of people either performing incorrectly or too aggressively.  I talked about this in a recent Inner Circle webinar on 5 common stretches we probably shouldn’t be using, but I wanted to expand on the hip flexor stretch as I feel this is pretty important.

I’ve started teaching what I call the “true hip flexor stretch.”

I call it the true hip flexor stretch as I want you to truly work on stretching the hip flexor and not just torque your body into hip and lumbar extension.  It’s very easy for the body to take the path of least resistance when stretching.  People with tight hip flexors and poor hip extension often just end up compensating and either hyperextend their low back or stress the anterior capsule of the hip joint.

I explain this in more detail in this video:

The good thing is, there is a simple and very effective.  Once you adjust and perform the true hip flexor stretch, most people say they never felt a stretch like that before, hence the name “true hip flexor stretch.”

True Hip Flexor Stretch

To perform the true hip flexor stretch, you want to de-emphasize hip extension and focus more on posterior pelvic tilt.  Watch this video for a more detailed explanation:

Key Points

  • There is a difference between a quadriceps stretch and a hip flexor stretch.  When your rationale for performing the stretch is to work on stretching your hip flexor, focus on the psoas and not the rectus femoris.
  • Keep it a one joint stretch.  Many people want to jump right to performing a hip flexor stretch while flexing the knee.  This incorporates the rectus and the psoas, but I find far too many people can not appropriately perform this stretch.  They will compensate, usually by stretching their anterior capsule too much or hyperextending their lumbar spine.
  • Stay tall.  Resist the urge to lean into the stretch and really extend your hip.  Most people are too tight for this, trust me.  You’ll end up stretch out the anterior hip joint and abdominals more than the hip flexor.
  • Make sure you incorporate a posterior pelvic tilt.  Contract your abdominals and your glutes to perform a posterior pelvic tilt.  This will give your the “true” stretch we are looking for when choosing this stretch.  Many people wont even need to lean in a little, they’ll feel it immediately in the front of their hip.
  • If you don’t feel it, squeeze your glutes harder.  Many people have a hard time turing on their glutes while performing this stretch, but it is key.
  • If you still don’t feel it, lean in just a touch.  If you are sure your glutes and abs are squeezed and you are in posterior pelvic tilt and still don’t feel it much, lean in just a few inches.  Our first progression of this is simple to lean forward in 1-3 inches, but keep your pelvis in posterior tilt.
  • Guide your hips with your hands.  I usually start this stretch with your hands on your hips so I can teach you to feel posterior pelvic tilt.  Place your fingers in the front and thumbs in the back and cue them to posterior tilt and make their thumbs move down.
  • Progress to add core engagement.  Once they can master the posterior pelvic tilt, I usually progress to assist by curing core engagement.  You can do this by pacing both hands together on top of your front knee and push straight down, or by holding a massage stick or dowel in front of you and pushing down into the ground.  Key here is to have arms straight and to push down with you core, not your triceps.

I use this for people that really present in an anterior pelvic tilt, or with people that appear to have too loose of an anterior hip capsule.  In fact, this has completely replaced the common variations of hip flexor stretches in all of our programs at Champion.  This works great for people with low back pain, hip pain, and postural and biomechanical issues related to too much of an anterior pelvic tilt.

Give the true hip flexor stretch a try and let me know what you think.

20 replies
  1. Daniel Geen
    Daniel Geen says:

    Mike, If you add internal rotation wouldn’t that provide an extra plane of movement to make the stretch even more comprehensive ? ( the kneeling leg rotate lower leg outward a little)

  2. Nick
    Nick says:

    Ohh wow – I’ve been searching so long for a stretch that would work for me. I’m hyper flexible but have really tight hip flexors, which means I often find it very difficult to get a good stretch.
    I’ve been in so much pain for the past year or so, and even after seeing a number of physios none have been able to help me get any relief.
    This stretch is *perfect* – I can feel it targeting exactly where I need and it’s helped so much. Thank you!

  3. Jess McCafferty
    Jess McCafferty says:

    This stretch is great- thanks for sharing.

    I hadn’t thought of progressing the stretch with core engagement- how does this help? Is it to increase strength in the proper pelvic position?

    For a deeper stretch I added a small side-bend toward the uninvolved hip flexor, it feels great!

  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    When you say hip flexor muscle…which one are we talking about exactly? You say its psoas/illiopsoas, but surely with the knee flexed you would be more likely to stretch rec fem, since it crosses both the knee and hip, where psoas doesnt?

  5. Bruce Sullivan
    Bruce Sullivan says:

    Mike, I cannot thank you enough for this instruction on stretching the hip flexor muscle. Over the past three years, my driving has increased dramatically. It is not uncommon for me to drive 1,000 business miles or more each week. I have always been very fit, but now, in my early 50’s, I am finding that it is easier to get “wracked up” by things like excessive driving.
    To make a long story short, I have been experiencing acute pain in my right hip as a result of driving so much. It does not really hurt while I am driving, but when I try to get out of the vehicle, the pain can be quite severe (making it almost impossible to walk for a ten seconds or so). In fact, it had gotten so bad that I was having trouble after sitting period (i.e. in chairs, etc). I was beginning to fear that I was going to be fundamentally disabled unless something changed.
    This past weekend, I discovered your hip flexor stretch video. I have been doing that stretch five or six times a day and cannot believe the improvement. I am still experiencing some soreness, but it is NOTHING like it was before. I think this is a true God-send. Thank you so much!

  6. Muzza
    Muzza says:

    Could you possibly indicate exactly where I should be feeling the stretch or indicate on a body schematic on the video. Not everyone knows the term posterior/anterior pelvic tilt or the names of muscle groups.

    • Jessica Metz
      Jessica Metz says:

      If you have a stiff, tight or painful hip then will unlock your hip flexors and restore movement the way it should be. Unlocking your hip flexors instantly breathes new life, energy, and strength into your body! I experienced immediate results. I’ve been able to loosen up my hips, decrease back tightness, and even workout harder. With so many people suffering with hip pain out there, this program is a great tool for anybody that wants to reduce pain while improving strength, performance, and overall health. Hip flexibility, mobility and strength is one of the most important things you can do to keep your overall body healthy. The video presentation and visuals in the exercise program give me confidence that I am doing the exercises correctly which for me is key with no personal trainer. The website is very complete in listing the possible causes of tight hip flexors and other factors that can lead to the issue. It has detailed, descriptive information regarding the anatomy of the hip, causes of such injuries, and a very progressive and well explained exercise and stretching schedule that will assist to re-balance the hip and pelvic region, safely stretch and strengthen the muscle group. Best of luck to you! :)

    • Hank Sooth
      Hank Sooth says:

      I had compromised range of motion in my hips. I am a runner and I couldn’t increase my speed. Using this program – I adjusted my back and relieved the pain the tightness in my hips and lower back which allowed me to run harder and longer. Not only do I have less pain on a daily basis, but I also have more energy and stamina when I run. I find myself with better movement and sleep, and I have maximized my performance.

  7. Monica
    Monica says:

    I appreciate the key points section.
    In response to previous comments: the posterior pelvic tilt with concommitant lumbar flexion without trunk flexion (“staying tall”) should address both iliacus and psoas major, although I agree that a contralateral SB may add to a psoas stretch (Warfel) if lumbar spine is cleared.
    Anterior capsule stretch is minimized with the hip in neutral and pelvic in PPT rather than the anterior glide arthokinematics with hip extension that occurs in a “lunge” position (Kaltenborn).
    Gluteal contraction (especially if is a position of active insufficiency) must be monitored as some patients use hamstrings to perform PPT and a hamstring contraction can cause anterior shear at the hip joint(Sahrmann).
    Femoral IR position may decrease the stretch to the anterior capsule but could bias the stretch to TFL.

  8. Kris
    Kris says:

    Good points on isolating the single joint hip flexors and avoiding compensations. I am curious about your perspective (and others) on why this is less likely to stress the anterior capsule? I tend to add trunk side ending before finalizing the stretch to bias the psoas. The stretch you have outlined seems like an iliacus and ant. capsule biased stretch. Thoughts? If I really want to protect the anterior capsule, I’ll also add a slight amount of hip internal rotation.

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  1. […] out of alignment, can help you keep your TVA engaged throughout the day. Simple stretches, like this one, can help. Consider also strengthening your glutes, as weak glutes can cause  your hip flexors […]

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