In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.
In this post we will be talking about stretches specifically for the front of the hip. This includes the psoas/hip flexor, illiacus, sartorious and the smaller internal rotator muscles of the hip.
1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the front of the hip (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).
2) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.
3) If hurt- be sure to stretch the opposing muscle groups. For the front of the hip, this means the back of the hip (glutes, piriformis, etc), the inner thigh (adductors), and the outside of the hip (glute med, TFL, and ITB). If it is too painful to stretch out the side of the hip do to injury, focus on these groups instead and work your way up to stretching the injury itself. Always start at level 1 and work you way up.
Level 1. Half Kneeling
For this stretch, start in a lunge position kneeling on the side you want to stretch with the other leg out in front. From here you’re going to want to lunge forward onto the front leg (aka push your hips forward with your back STRAIGHT- no leaning forward). Keep the side you are stretching completely relaxed. You should feel a stretch right in the front of your hip and may even feel it in the top of your quad (thigh muscle). Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 4 times.
Same idea as the first one except this time we’re going to change the upper body position to increase the stretch. As you lunge forward onto the front leg, I’m going to have you lift your arm up overhead and once you have push your hips forward all the way, lean away from the side you are stretching. Try not to lean forward or back at the waist when you do this. Try to stay in the middle and bend to the other side. Hold 20-30 seconds and switch to the other side. repeat 4 times.
The third stretch is also a progression of the first stretch. Instead of changing the upper body position though, we’re going to use the leg to increase the stretch. In this case, we’re going to increase the bend of the knee. This can be accomplished in a few ways. You can either reach back and pull your foot up towards your butt or you can prop something under your foot. This is also the stretch you may have seen people with their foot on a chair or stability ball dropping down into the lunge. Personally I like to start in the lunge and and make sure I’m set up right before adding in other parts. The ball/chair idea is great, but I tend to cheat when I use them- I don’t push my hips forward enough or my back angle gets all wonky. so instead, I start by pulling up my foot myself. when that isn’t enough and I still want to increase the stretch, I use the wall. I’m still starting in that lunge position, but my back knee is bent and my foot/shin or against the wall. From here, I try to straighten up my back and push my hip forward. It’s a HUGE stretch when you do this so go easy. Same holds. Shoot for that 20-30 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 4 times.
Level 4- Combo stretch and one of my favorites!
This stretch has made a few appearances on this site. It’s easy to do and covers a lot of ground. If you break it up into two parts the first gets the ITB + TFL (the outside of the hip and upper thigh) and the second gets the the hip flexors/quad. Remember, once you’re in position- push that hip up and towards the ceiling until you feel a good stretch. Here’s a video demonstration.