It is the bane of runners everywhere: tight hips. But more than just causing stiffness—and making it hard to stand up after enjoying a post-run coffee—tight hip flexors are linked to a litany of other common ailments, such as lower back pain, knee pain, tight hamstrings, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and IT band syndrome.
Overused and under-stretched hip flexors throw off your body’s musculoskeletal alignment. The tighter your hip flexors are, the more your pelvis tilts back and the more likely you are to lean forward (arch your back and stick out your butt) when you run. Poor posture not only leads to injury, but it also severely reduces performance.
Weak glute (or buttocks) muscles also contribute to tight hip flexors. Unfortunately, it’s a self-perpetuating problem, since tight hip flexors can cause weak glutes. Strengthening the glute muscles—which often don’t get as much exercise as other key running muscles such as the hamstrings, quads, and calves—is an effective way to relieve stress on the hip flexors.
Incorporate these easy stretches and exercises into your daily running routine to help release the hip flexors and strengthen the glute muscles. You just may find yourself a better (and happier) runner.
So simple and effective. Do this stretch after every run.
Stand with your feet together. Step forward with your right leg and extend your left leg behind you, lower your left knee to the ground. Keep your front knee directly above your ankle. You will feel the stretch in your left hip flexor. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
This pose stretches both hips at the same time.
Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend both knees to bring your feet together, heel to heel and toes to toes. Using your hands, “open” your feet like you are opening a book. This will cause the knees to lower toward the floor. You can also use your arms to put gentle pressure on your knees to push them toward the floor and intensify the stretch. Keep your back straight and don’t huch forward. Breath deeply.
This yoga pose is especially popular with runners because it stretches both the hips and the hamstrings.
Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee so that the sole of your foot is against your left inner thigh. Keeping your back straight (and not rounded), reach your hands toward your left foot so that your torso is completely over your left leg. If you can’t reach your foot, rest your hands on your leg. Relax your shoulders and let them “drop” toward the floor. Repeat with the other leg.
This is an intense stretch for the outside of the hips and the buttocks muscle.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee so that your knee, shin, and foot are on the floor, parallel with your pelvis. Bend your right knee and place it on top of your left ankle so that your right knee is above your left ankle and your right ankle is above your left knee. To intensify the stretch, place your hands in front of your legs and very slowly walk them out as you lean forward. Stay relaxed and breathe. Repeat with the other leg.
Use weights for an added challenge to this glute-strengthening exercise.
Stand with your feet together. Lift your left leg behind you in the air. Keep your shoulders back and your back straight as you lean forward and reach your hands to the ground. Return to a standing position and repeat. Do this an equal number of times on each leg.
Start off with shallow squats and increase the knee bend as your glutes become stronger.
Stand with your feet together. Lift your right leg straight out in front of you. Keep your back straight and lower your body into a squat position, bending your left knee over your ankle. Extend your hands out in front of you for balance. Return to a standing position. Do this an equal number of times on each leg.