Jenny Borda PT, DPT

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that people often complain about feeling tight or maybe pinching when squatting!  There are a handful of muscles that can flex the hip, but for the purpose of this discussion we will mostly be talking about the iliacus and psoas, jointly called the iliopsoas.   The iliacus actually starts on our lumbar vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs then joins with the psoas major muscle (which originates in the iliac fossa- so the inside of the back of your pelvis) to form the iliopsoas tendon attaching to your femur…which is how it flexes the hip! 

If you are someone who feels this is a problem here are a few steps you can take to help remedy the problem! 

  1.  Self Myofascial Release
    • Take an object, like a softball (a lacrosse ball might be too small), and work on digging into that lower abdominal area.  Remember that the muscle belly we are trying to work on lays inside the back part of our pelvis and even attaches to our spine- so rolling it out right on that tendon that we feel in the front of our hip is probably not as beneficial, you want to be more inside that little bone you feel in the front of your hip, so pressing more into your lower abs!   You can also use an object like a kettlebell (like in the video) to dig into that area. There is no magical time to do this, just work on spending a little extra time in the sore spots & relaxing as much as possible!
  1.  Stretching
    • Everyone knows about stretching, right?  Well, when you are stretching do you always think about being in proper alignment  to ensure you are stretching what you want to be stretching? This is especially true when trying to stretch your hip flexor!  When getting into a lunge stretch (or even a quad stretch!) you should be thinking about doing a small posterior pelvic tilt, so rolling your hips backwards, to get the most out of this stretch.  It’s extremely common to want to get your chest up as straight as possible, but this often causes an arch in the lower back and therefore leads to not actually stretching like you think you are! 
  1.   What if your hip flexor is tight but doesn’t really need rolling or stretching?
  • Ok, so there is a chance that your hip flexor is tight because it needs to be!  If you roll out and stretch and do all the right “make my hip flexor less tight” things, but still feel that tightness, more than likely your hip flexor is tight because it needs to be.  Sometimes that tightness is a result of having some weakness in other places in your hip/core area, so those hip flexors feel like they need to work extra hard! 

For many people, that muscle tightens to help provide improved stability to the lumbar spine (remember where I said those muscles start?)  If your brain feels like your back is in danger, it is going to send messages to all the muscles that can tighten to keep it stable and say “hey guys, we need to work harder!” causing that tightness, that doesn’t just go away with rolling.  Is rolling out bad for it…not really! It just won’t fix your problem! What will? Unfortunately that can not be answered globally in this blog post, because we are all different! BUT I can give you a few ideas! A good place to start is looking at your breathing and bracing patterns along with movement patterns to ensure that you are stabilizing with all the right things! If you want more info on that, click here!  https://friendshipfitness.com/how-to-be-stronger-protect-your-back-breathing-and-bracing/ You also could probably use a few specific exercises (depending on your specific impairments) to help strengthen areas of weakness and teach our body how to kick on other muscles.  

My best recommendation is to 

  1.  If you sit all day for work (or even not for work), stop!  Get up and move during your day! 
  2. Try the rolling and stretching!  That might be all you need! But if it does not improve in a week or so…it probably isn’t.  (and if you need more that does not mean that you should never roll and stretch, that can still be beneficial!)
  3. Read the blog article on breathing and bracing to get a few ideas and start practicing your good breathing!
  4. Find a movement specialist (PT, chiro, coach, etc) that understands the activities you do and can give you some specific exercises to help you!  

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to help out with your hip flexor tightness!  If you have any further questions or comments please leave them below or contact me at [email protected]