For good reasons, this is one of the classic stretches for hip flexors. First, it gives you lots of control. Second, it allows you to be very specific.
Most people think of Iliopsoas as THE hip flexor. As well, hip flexor muscles include other muscles:
- Rectus Femoris
- Tensor Fascia Lata
- Gluteus minimus (anterior section)
- Gluteus medius (anterior section)
This stretch helps with chronic tightness in all of those muscles.
If you are not using ice, do 10-20 gentle reps. If you’re using Ice-and-Stretch, this usually releases nicely in 4-5 reps.
Kneel on one knee.
Some people use a pillow under the knee that touches the floor because they find this hurts the knee. It isn’t the pressure. I know you don’t believe that. It’s the trigger point in the rectus femoris muscle. You can use the pillow if you like. If you’d like some relief, rub a little ice or IcyHot on the middle of your thigh, just below the fold of the hip. You probably get relief in the knee.
Make sure your hip, pelvis, and knee are stacked in a straight line.
Stabilize your Shoulders
Use a stationary object, like the chair in this picture, to stabilize your shoulders. Extend your arm so that the elbow is straight. You can use this as a reminder to keep your shoulders back.
Ease into the Stretch
Ease your front thigh forward like a piston until you feel tension. Most people feel it in the thigh of the leg that is kneeling.
Pay attention to your shoulders. You need to keep your shoulders back so that the hip extends. Otherwise, you are just leaning forward, I’ve shown this stretch to people for more than 20 years, and almost everybody leans forward and has to be reminded to keep their shoulders back.
If you use ice-and-stretch, it will release more quickly and reduce discomfort, especially in the back. Stroke ice on the front of the abdomen on the side that is kneeling. You can also use a topical cream like IcyHot.
Most people feel the trigger point referral of iliopsoas as pain/tension extends down into the thigh. Some get pain in their back or other referral patterns in the back or thigh.
Return and Repeat
After holding for about 2 seconds. return to the upright position by moving your hips back under your shoulders.
Four or five reps will do if you’re using ice and stretch. If you’re not using ice-and-stretch, go for twenty gentle reps.
If you have sharp pain across the top of your pelvis, Use a more gentle psoas stretch like Upward Dog or Bridges.
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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.
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