The Lunge Hip Flexor Stretch

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You've probably seen the lunge exercise, but do you know to get the most out of it? Done properly, it provides an easy and effective stretch for the hip flexors — the muscles that bring the torso and leg closer together. Most of us need to stretch our hip flexors. We get tight hip flexors from sitting too much, and some of us do exercises like running and biking that tighten the hip flexors. 

Stretch Your Hip Flexors

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The standing lunge is an easy hip flexor stretch. And you can do it almost anywhere, anytime. It is a very good exercise to do as you are waiting for an exercise class to start (ever wonder what to do with yourself while waiting?). Read these directions for tips on doing the lunge in the way that brings the most benefit to your body.

How to Do the Standing Lunge

1. Stand with your legs parallel. Take a good posture with your tailbone pointing toward the floor, the top of your head reaching for the sky, and your shoulders relaxed.

2. Bend your right knee and step straight back onto the ball of your foot. Go as far as you are comfortable, but don't let your right knee bend past your toes.

  • Keep your hips even. Think of your hip bones as headlights that have to point forward.
  • Your chest is open, and your gaze is straight ahead.

3. Rest your hands above your right knee for stability.

4. Straighten your back leg, but don't lock your knee. Let the lift come from the hamstring (back of the leg).

5. Now, if you feel steady, increase the stretch. But don't do it by sagging into the left hip ( a common mistake).

  • The way to increase the stretch is to keep your lower ribs and hip bones in the same plane and pull up through the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to bring the pelvis up and back, opening the front of the hip joint. This is a small but powerful move where the torso shifts with the pelvis — not a backbend.
  • Use your abs in a way that feels like you are scooping your tailbone between your legs. This will help protect your lower back.
  • (A backbend is tempting for some at this point, don't go into it until you've got the most you can get out of shifting the hip bones up and back.)

6. Hold the stretch about 30 seconds as you breathe deeply. You might think of breathing "into the stretch".

7. Release the stretch by supporting some weight on your hands and stepping the back foot forward to parallel legs position.

8. Repeat on the other side.

Ready for more? Take this move into a yoga stretch.

Yoga and Pilates Is a Lunge With Arms Up

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Do the lunge as you did on ​previously. Once you get your hip stretch happening, increase the dynamic of the whole stretch by letting your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach your arms overhead. You might shift back a little more, but don't let your ribs pop forward. The focus of the stretch is still through the center and the front of the hip.

Be sure to keep your legs in parallel, and your hips and shoulders even. Enjoy!

This stretch is similar to Yoga Warrior 1 pose except the legs stay in parallel, whereas in Warrior 1 the back leg turns out and the heel goes down. As usual, I suggest you try both!

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