5 Essential Iliopsoas Stretches

Woman stretching

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The iliopsoas muscle is responsible for flexing and externally rotating the thigh at the hip joint. It also helps flex and stabilize the trunk and assists with good posture. The iliopsoas is a combination of the iliacus, psoas major, and psoas minor muscles, which join together and make up the iliopsoas muscle. This muscle group connects the spine to the femur. 

Benefits of Stretching the Iliopsoas

Tight iliopsoas muscles are a common problem for many people, especially if you spend the majority of your day seated. That’s because when we sit, the iliopsoas muscle shortens and becomes inactive. But it’s not just too much sitting that can cause problems for your iliopsoas muscles. 

Regularly stretching the iliopsoas muscle may decrease the risk of injuries, stabilize the trunk, and improve posture. Plus, it can help you move from a seated position to standing. Stretching the iliopsoas muscle may also reduce hip pain and increase hip mobility. And if you have pain in your lower back, working the iliopsoas with appropriate stretches can help decrease this pain and prevent further injury.

Certain sports and activities like soccer, basketball, football, and running or having tight hamstrings and weak glute muscles can cause your iliopsoas muscles to be tight. For some people, tight or short iliopsoas muscles can lead to iliopsoas tendonitis, iliopsoas impingement, or iliopsoas syndrome, all conditions that require intervention to get better. 

The good news? Performing moves like the kneeling hip flexor stretch and the glute bridge may help you avoid these more serious conditions and allow you to perform daily tasks with ease.

It’s easy to add a few iliopsoases stretches to your workout or stretching routine—just make sure your body is warmed-up before getting into a stretch. 

Safety and Precautions

The iliopsoas stretches detailed below are considered static stretches, which require you to hold a position for a specified amount of time, such as 30 seconds. That’s why they are typically recommended for after workouts, once the muscle group is warm. Since the iliopsoas muscle is involved with the hips and trunk, it’s critical to perform stretches with precise form. Go slow when moving into a stretch, and don’t ever go to the point of discomfort. 

To get the most out of your stretching routine, experts recommend performing flexibility exercises for all of the major muscle and tendon groups at least two to three times a week. A good rule of thumb is to hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. 

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch 

The standing hip flexor stretch is an excellent option for people who cannot get into a kneeling position. You can control the intensity of the stretch by shortening or lengthening the distance between your front foot and back foot. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. 
  2. Step your right foot forward into a split or staggered stance.
  3. Engage your core and tuck your pelvis. You can place your hands on the right leg. 
  4. Keep your back leg straight and slowly lunge forward with the right leg until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip, groin, and thigh of your left side. 
  5. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. You should not feel any low back pain. If you do, ease off of the stretch. 
  6. Slowly return to the starting position and change sides.
  7. Perform the standing hip flexor stretch three times on each side. 

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

If kneeling is not an issue, you will find this move allows you to get a deep stretch in your iliopsoas muscle. Like the standing hip flexor stretch, you can control the depth of the stretch by lengthening or shortening your leg stride. 

  1. Get into a half-kneeling position with the right leg about two feet in front of the left leg. The right knee should form a 90-degree angle. You may want to use a mat for cushioning. 
  2. Place your hands on your right knee, maintain an upright posture, and lean slightly forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip, groin, and thigh of your left side. 
  3. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. You should not feel any low back pain. If you do, ease off of the stretch.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and change sides. 
  5. Perform the kneeling hip flexor stretch three times on each side. 

Glute Bridge

The bridge allows you to stretch the iliopsoas while also strengthening the glute muscles.

  1. Place a yoga or exercise mat on the floor.
  2. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Engage your glutes and lift your hips to create a bridge between your shoulders and knees. 
  4. Raise your hips until you feel a stretch in the iliopsoas muscle in both legs. If you feel lower back pain, lower your hips slightly, but keep your glutes tight. You may not always feel a stretch so don't keep pushing through back pain.
  5. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Lower your hips to the floor and repeat. 
  7. Perform the glute bridge 10 times. 

Hip Flexor Bed Stretch

The lying hip flexor bed stretch is often used in physical therapy settings for rehab purposes. Consider this stretch if balance or kneeling is an issue. 

  1. Lie flat on your back on your bed and position yourself with your right leg closest to the edge of the bed. 
  2. Slowly let your right leg hang down to the side of the bed. Your left leg can stay bent with your foot on the bed. You will feel a stretch in the hip flexor. Ideally, your foot will hover over the ground instead of touching. But it’s okay if it does touch. 
  3. Deepen the stretch by gently bending your knee. You should feel this across the thigh and front of the hip.
  4. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Return the right leg to the bed and rotate so your left side is closest to the edge of the bed.
  6. Perform the hip flexor bed stretch three times on each side. 

Table Psoas Stretch

For a deep stretch that really opens up the hips, try the table psoas stretch. Skip this move if you have lower back or knee pain.

  1. Find a table that is slightly lower than hip level.
  2. Stand with your right side next to the table and lift your right leg behind you and lay it onto the table with the knee facing down. This leg will be straight. You can place a folded towel under your knee to alleviate any pressure from the table. 
  3. Place your right hand on the table in front of you. Your standing (left) leg should be slightly bent. 
  4. Slowly move into the stretch by lifting the chest up tall and opening up the hip flexor area. Stop when you feel the stretch in your right hip. 
  5. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. 
  6. Release the stretch and repeat on the other side.
  7. Perform the table psoas stretch three times on each side. 
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Article Sources
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