Let me know if this sounds familiar…
You have a long day of work (aka sitting at your desk). Work (finally) ends, so you decide to hit up your fave fitness class or take a long walk.
24 hours later, cue the cringe worthy soooo-ooore, tight hip flexors ::womp womp::
It’s not a crisis, but to experience that every time you workout = fitness purgatory…like a banner that says “Welcome to eternal fitness mediocrity!”
No one wants to settle for a mediocre experience. That’s what the airport is for 😉
But I get it. What are you supposed to do about it?
If you work in an office, stretching at your desk is awkward.
It’s so much easier to just live with it and hope it goes away on it’s own. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. More importantly, you deserve better.
What if I told you it was possible to get all the benefits of your favorite activities + fitness classes without the tight, angry hip flexors or having to do some weird stretch in front of your boss?
Turns out that while tight hip flexors are definitely a “thing” for many of us, they don’t have to be.
However, in order to address this issue, it helps to know why your hip flexorsfeel achy and tight (because #spoileralert stretching them might not be the best solution anyways.)
So let’s unpack this. Everyone is a lil different, but here are 3 reasons why your hip flexors get cranky:
1. You need more inner thigh strength
Confused? Let me explain. Your inner thigh muscles play an important role in walking…running…squatting.
However, for lots of us they’re weak, because we don’t use them much. For real, if most of your day is spent sitting, you don’t get many opportunities to work your inner thighs.
While lots of sleepy muscles could contribute to that feeling of tight hip flexors, the inner thighs are especially noteworthy, because they’re the next door neighbor to your hip flexors.
If your inner thighs don’t turn on enough, your hip flexors have to work extra hard during those workouts and long walks. This makes your hip flexors tired and tired muscles let you know they’re cranky + ready for a break by sending signals of stiffness and tightness.
This is also why stretching may not be a long term solution to the problem. There’s nothing wrong with stretching. It can feel really good.
However, if you want to stop the tightness from coming back every single time you use your legs, you might want to do some inner thigh strengthening exercises too!
2. Your hip flexors are weak + overstretched
Yep, you read that right.
I know it’s counterintuitive, but sometimes feelings of tightness are a symptom of weakness and sitting all day doesn’t necessarily = short, strong hip flexors, because those muscles are passive when you sit in a chair.
In fact, it’s possible to have hip flexors that are actually overstretched or held in a locked long position.
This might be you if:
- You tend to sit or stand with your pelvis in a tucked position and your butt is rolled under
- Your back is shaped like a C (aka it looks kinda round or you feel like you look a little hunched in photos)
- Your quads (aka the front of your legs) feel like they’re on all the time
- You have a hard time straightening your knees.
If you have a tendency to adopt this posture, you don’t need to freak out.However, it does mean strengthening your hip flexors (preferably with your pelvis in a not so tucked position) might be the ticket to reducing that annoying feeling of tightness.
It’s again why stretching might not make your hip flexors feel better. They’re already open, so stretching them would just move them further in the direction that they’re too good at going.
3. Your hip flexors are short + strong and you need more glute strength
Yes, it is also possible to have short, strong hip flexors.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that this posture/tendency is often adopted by people who have to stand a lot or who already do a lot of hip flexor intensive activities, such as sprinting or who have to stand for a living.
This might be you if:
- You tend or sit or stand with your your butt sticking out
- You’ve noticed you tend to pop your ribs or have a big natural arch in your back
- You tend to hyperextend your knees
Again, this isn’t a sign that something is wrong with you, but it does signal something to potentially work on if you’re experiencing discomfort.
In this case stretching the hip flexors could make sense, buuu-uuut you’d still want to follow it up with glute n’ hamstring strength (without archy back, booty out pelvic position) to teach your body how to use the flexibility that you gained from stretching.
TLDR? (That’s shorthand for too long didn’t read!)
Ultimately stretching isn’t bad and you don’t need to be a biomechanics expert to address your tight, sore hip flexors.
However, you might want to consider doing some corrective work to create balance and strength around your entire hip + leg, so you’re strong in all directions.
Not only will this improve your mobility (aka flexibility with the strength to control where you leg goes!), but it will also reduce feelings of stiffness for the long term and help you do hard exercises + enjoy your favorite activities without so many ouchy joints or injuries.
And because I know this is a problem for so many of us, I created a something to help you do just that 😉
Hips Don’t Lie is an at home program that you can do in less than 30 minutes a day, 2x a week in your living room…or you cubicle if you’re real comfortable with your boss (No? Fair enough. Good talk).
Even if your favorite activity is Netflix (no judgement, friend. Those Netflix originals are amazeballs) this is still for you, because whether your BFF is the TV or the running 20 miles on open road, you deserve to feel good in your body.
Curious to learn more?