Best ways to reduce hip flexor pain and release tight hips

Many people experience tightness in the front of the hips or hip flexor discomfort and pain during exercise. In this post, I’m going to talk a little bit about why this happens and what you can do about it.

I’ve discussed this before, but a common cause of tight hip flexors is habitual sitting and lack of hip flexor strength or lower body strength in general.

I know it might be surprising to hear that weak or “tight” muscles can feel tight, but it’s true! When something isn’t strong enough it tends to get tired faster, which can create feelings of tightness and when we habitually hold our body in one position for too long (aka sitting a lot), then the area that doesn’t get to move (aka those hip flexors) may start to feel stiff and sore.

So what can you do about it?

  • You can stretch or mobilize your hip flexors and the surrounding areas. This won’t change how your hip flexors feel long term, because it’s almost always a strength issue, BUT it can reduce discomfort to make exercise feel more comfortable and temporarily increase your flexibility, which may help you feel less creaky while strength training. Ways to do this include static stretching (aka the video below), foam rolling, or moving through your hips in an animal flow, yoga class, Pilates practice, or during certain strength training exercises.
  • Be aware of your sitting habits. It’s absolutely fine to sit, but if you know you’ll be sitting a lot, try to take mini stretch, movement, or walking breaks AND try to sit in lots of different positions. Changing positions frequently may reduce hip flexor pain.
  • Strength train. This can be with dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. It’s amazing how getting strong while also working on mobility / flexibility eliminates feelings of tightness. As I mentioned above, it might seem counterintuitive, but for many people getting stronger everywhere – including your hip flexors – can really reduce feelings of tightness. Final strength tip. Strengthen those inner thighs. When they’re stronger, your hip flexors will often feel more open and relaxed long term.

If you need some ways to get started with strength and mobility, I can help! Check out my online strength programs or learn more about custom strength programming with gym AND at-home options. 

Or if you’re looking for some hip flexor stretches, then check these out.

3 best hip flexor stretches to release tight hips

3 hip flexor stretches to release tight hips

Psoas stretch over bolster

  1. Place a bolster or rolled up yoga mat underneath your hips.
  2. Bend both knees into your chest, so your back is rounded towards the ground.
  3. Hug the right knee in and slowly reach the left leg out. Pause when you feel a tug down the front of the left hip.
  4. For an extra stretch, reach the left arm overhead. Continue to sink your ribs to the ground and hug the right leg tight.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second leg.

Prone hip flexor release

  1. Lie on your stomach with legs a few inches apart and your forehead resting on your hands.
  2. Gently press  your pubic bone towards the ground to lengthen out the low back.
  3. Bend your right knee and catch your right ankle with your right hand. If you have to arch your back to do this, use a strap instead.
  4. Keeping the knees close to one another (or if possible touching), continue to imprint your pubic bone towards the floor, so you feel a stretch down the front of your right leg
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat second side.

Kneeling hip flexor stretch with optional side bend

  1. Come to kneeing with your right leg forward.
  2. Gently tuck your pelvis, so your pubic bone moves towards your rib cage and your low back flattens.
  3. Slowly shift your weight towards your right leg and pause when you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your left hip.
  4. For a greater stretch, reach your left arm overhead and lean to the right.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat second side.