How to Do Lying Hip Flexor Stretch: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

woman performing lying hip flexor stretch

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Also Known As: Floor knee-to-chest stretch

Targets: Hip flexor, glutes, lower back

Equipment Needed: Yoga mat

Level: Beginner

Lower back pain can be attributed to tight hip and glute muscles. Many times, this pain originates from prolonged periods of sitting, a sedentary lifestyle, overuse, trauma, age, or underlying health condition.

Stretching out the lower body can alleviate this tension you feel in the low back. In fact, the lying hip flexor stretch, also known as the floor knee-to-chest stretch is often recommended for tight hips, glutes, and lower back.

It targets the hips and glutes but also relieves pressure in the lower back, so it’s often recommended for people with sciatica, piriformis, and other causes of back pain. To get started, you just need a comfortable surface to lie down on, such as a yoga or exercise mat.

How to Do Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

The lying hip flexor stretch is a beginner-friendly movement that can be performed on the floor and does not require any special equipment. It can be incorporated into your regular stretching routine for the lower body or you can incorporate it before and after exercise.

To perform the lying hip flexor stretch, you will need ample space and a yoga mat or exercise mat. Here is how to do the lying hip flexor stretch:

  1. Begin by lying in a neutral spine position with your legs extended and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your left leg at the knee and bring it to your chest.
  3. Interlace your fingers and wrap your hands around your left knee as you gently pull it closer to your chest.
  4. Relax your lower back, being careful not to curve your back.
  5. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Release the stretch by unlacing your fingers and returning your left leg to the floor.
  7. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Perform this stretch on each side, 2 to 3 times each.

Benefits of Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

This simple, beginner-friendly stretch offers a number of benefits and only takes a few minutes to perform. Here are some ways that the lying hip flexor stretch can benefit you when added to your exercise regimen.

Relieves Low Back Pain

Tight hips are often accompanied by lower back pain. Inactivity and sitting for long periods of time can lead to a posterior pelvic tilt. This creates an arch in the lower back, forcing the spine to curve. Ultimately, this can lead to lower back pain.

Hip flexor stretches can provide relief for low back pain due to a tilted pelvis. Research also suggests that pain due to piriformis syndrome—which is often mistaken for sciatica—can be managed with hip flexor stretching.

Relieves Hip Pain

Approximately half of all older adults report some kind of knee or hip pain, according to research published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Inactivity can worsen hip pain, so small improvements in exercise are recommended.

Hip flexor stretches are recommended to alleviate hip pain. Stretching can be done twice a week for 20 to 30 seconds per stretch and repeated 2 to 3 times each or as a warm-up before exercise. Work up to stretching daily for best results.

Improves Athletic Performance

Tight hips can inhibit your performance during training and exercise. Stretching the hip flexor for up to 120 seconds before exercise can positively impact balance and performance in athletes, according to a 2021 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Increases Flexibility and Mobility

Painful hip joints and limited hip mobility go hand-in-hand. Researchers recommended hip flexor stretches to increase flexibility and mobility in the hips, which can lead to improvements in other joints.

Other Variations of Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

Although the lying hip flexor stretch is a pretty straightforward move, there are modifications for those who want to add some variety or make the move more challenging. Here are some other variations you can try.

Need a Modification?

You can also perform this stretch with both knees at once instead of a single-leg stretch. This requires less flexibility in the psoas muscles.

To lead up to this stretch, try doing knee folds. This will help you get used to the motion of bringing your knee up and toward you. It will also help improve your balance and stability.

Up for a Challenge?

The lying hip flexor stretch is beginner-friendly, so people who are more advanced may be looking for a more challenging movement. The reclined hip stretch in pilates targets the hips and glutes like this stretch, though it requires more flexibility and stability.

Common Mistakes

While this stretch is simple and easy to do, there is still a risk of injury or pain. Try to avoid these common mistakes to make sure you get the most out of the stretch.

Curving Your Back

When exercising or stretching, it is important to keep your back straight. Do not curve your back when performing this stretch as that could exacerbate any lower back pain. Likewise, curving your back could also result in less of a stretch in your low back. 

Pulling Your Knee too Lightly

Stretching is beginner-friendly, but you should feel the stretch. If you aren’t feeling the stretch, you might pull a little stronger on your knee. While you should not feel any pain in your chest when pulling your knee, you should feel the stretch in your hips and glutes. This slight pulling sensation is a sign that the muscles are being stretched.

Safety and Precautions

Lower back and hip pain may be a sign of an underlying condition. If tight hips interfere with your daily life, consider seeing a doctor or physical therapist, who may recommend hip flexor stretches.

You also should not perform this stretch if you recently had a hip or back surgery and have not been cleared by your doctor for exercise.

When performing this stretch, you should feel a stretch in the hips, glutes, and low back. If you feel any pain while performing this stretch, slowly release the stretch and do not attempt it again. Talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.

Try it Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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  2. Peterson NE, Osterloh KD, Graff MN. Exercises for older adults with knee and hip painThe Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2019;15(4):263-267.e3. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2018.12.029

  3. Konrad A, Močnik R, Titze S, Nakamura M, Tilp M. The influence of stretching the hip flexor muscles on performance parameters. A systematic review with meta-analysisInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(4):1936. doi:10.3390/ijerph18041936

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