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Stretching Exercises for the Iliopsoas
The iliopsoas -- commonly referred to as the hip flexor -- is cited by Humankinectics.com as being one of the most neglected muscles during stretching. Located in front of your pelvic region, the iliopsoas connects the inside of your vertebral column of the lower back to your upper leg bone -- known as the femur. An inflexible iliopsoas pulls the small of the back forward and down, causing swayback and pressure on the vertebral column, resulting in chronic back pain. With your doctor's approval, you can safely perform specific stretches that will lengthen your hip flexors, improve your flexibility, and reduce pain.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Using a padded mat, lunge forward with your right leg while keeping your left knee bent and placed on the floor. Be sure to position your right foot slightly in front of your knee. Placing your hands on your right knee, straighten the hip of your left leg by pushing forward toward your right leg. Stretch until you feel mild tension -- but not pain -- in your left hip. Hold this stretch for about 15 seconds before you switch to the opposite leg and repeat. Repeat five times per leg.
Supine Hip Extension
While lying flat on a padded mat in the supine position -- facing upward -- contract your abdominal muscles as you push your back toward the mat. Try to keep your thighs pressed to the floor while you keep your back flat, and hold for 10 to 12 seconds. This stretch is also commonly used by fitness professionals as an evaluation to measure the lengthening ability of the hip flexors. Remember to only stretch until you feel mild tension in your muscles and discontinue if you feel pain.
Supine Knee Hug
While lying flat on your back, pull your right knee to your chest and hug it toward your body as you keep your left leg and the small of your back pressing toward the floor. Though you are hugging your right knee, place your focus on your left leg as it works to lengthen the left hip flexor. Stretch until you feel mild tension in your left hip and hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat five times before switching legs. Humankinetics.com recommends performing this stretch at least twice per day to improve your flexibility.
The Fencer's Stretch
While standing, take a long step forward with your right leg as if you were going to lunge. Flex your right knee until it's stacked above your right foot while your left leg stays straight. Gently roll your hips forward and downward until you feel mild tension in your left hip while you continue to keep your left leg straight -- your left heel will come off the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds before you switch legs and repeat the same steps. Perform this exercise at least twice a day for the best results.
- Humankinetics.com: Lengthening of the Iliopsoas, and Toe Touching
- Exercise Directory: Iliopsoas
- Exercise Directory: Hip Flexor Inflexibility
- Arthritis Foundation. Benefits of exercise for arthritis.
- Dixit S, Difiori JP. Management of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Amer Fam Phy. 2007;75(2):194-202.
- Hurley M, Dickson K, Hallett R, et al. Exercise interventions and patient beliefs for people with hip, knee or hip and knee osteoarthritis: a mixed methods review. Cochrane Library. 2018. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010842.pub2
- Suzuki Y, Iijima H, Tashiro Y, et al. Home exercise therapy to improve muscle strength and joint flexibility effectively treats pre-radiographic knee OA in community-dwelling elderly: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rheumatol. 2019. 38(1):133-141. doi: 10.1007/s10067-018-4263-3
Based in Okinawa, Japan, Adrienne Michalek began her health and fitness career in 1996 at Appalachian State University where she received an award for “Fitness Instructor of the Year." She holds an undergraduate degree in health promotion and a Master’s degree in public health.