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

Woman performing the kneeling hip flexor stretch outside

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Also Known As: Lunging hip flexor stretch

Targets: Hip flexor muscles, knees, psoas

Equipment Needed: Yoga mat

Level: Beginner

Pain and tightness in the hips are common ailments that affect many people. These discomforts can be a result of age, sedentary lifestyle, overuse, trauma, or an underlying health condition. Depending on the cause of your hip pain or tightness, you may find relief with certain hip flexor stretches and exercises.

If you hinge at the waist a lot, such as during a set of heavy squats, you may want to consider adding this stretch to your routine. You also may find this stretch useful if you sit a lot throughout the day.

The kneeling hip flexor stretch is a beginner-friendly stretch that is best incorporated as part of a regular stretching routine before exercising. This stretch targets the hip flexor, and psoas muscles, and it can also be used to stretch the knees.

To make this stretch more comfortable on the knees, be sure to use a yoga mat, exercise mat, or another soft surface. No other equipment is necessary to perform this stretch.

How to Do the Kneeling Hip Flexor

To perform the kneeling hip flexor stretch, you will need ample space and a comfortable surface to prevent knee pain. Here is how to do the kneeling hip flexor stretch:

  1. Place a yoga mat or exercise mat on the floor in front of you. Start in a kneeling position on both of your knees. You should be seated on the heels of your feet, so the balls of your feet are pressed firmly against the mat.
  2. Press your palms into the mat in front of you. Bend your elbows slightly to prevent them from locking.
  3. Bring your left knee forward through the gap between your arms and place your left foot flat on the mat in front of you.
  4. Lift your hands off the mat and straighten your upper body. If you need additional support for balance, place both of your hands on your left knee in front of you.
  5. Extend your right leg behind you to deepen the stretch. Your right knee, shin, and top of your right foot should be pressed into the mat.
  6. Lean forward gently into the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  7. Release the stretch by leaning back and returning to a seated or kneeling position. Repeat on the other side. 

Benefits of Kneeling Hip Flexor

Stretching is commonly performed before exercise, but a regular stretching routine may be beneficial for those with a sedentary lifestyle as well. If you are experiencing pain or tightness in the hips, which extend through the lumbar spine, stretching the hips and surrounding muscles may provide some relief.

The hips bear the weight of the body and are involved in a variety of bodily movements and ranges of motion, including bending at the waist. The hip area also can be impacted by sitting for long periods of time, such as driving and working in a seated position.

Overall, the hips play a crucial role in activities like walking, running, lunging, and jumping. Maintaining proper posture and hip health enables you to perform these daily activities without any discomfort.

According to a 2021 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a single session of hip flexor stretching of up to 120 seconds can positively impact balance and performance in athletes. Stretching to loosen tight hip flexors can also alleviate pain and discomfort in the hips and lower back. 

It is especially important for athletes and people who exercise regularly to stretch before and after training. Having tight muscles can increase proneness to injury and negatively affect performance.

Other Variations of Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Everyone has a different experience level with exercise and stretching. If you are new or advanced, you may need to modify the stretch so it better fits your routine. Here are some ways you can modify or vary the stretch.

Need a Modification?

If you are a beginner, the standing lunge stretch is a good place to start before taking it to the mat. This stretch will help you improve your balance and begin opening up your hips and psoas.

The standing lunge stretch is similar to the kneeling hip flexor stretch. Performing this stretch will help you warm up and improve your form and balance.

Up For a Challenge?

The kneeling hip flexor stretch requires good balance. If you are up for a challenge, place your hands behind your back instead of on the knee in front of you.

This action will help you improve your balance even further while making the move slightly more challenging. You also can graduate to the lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) if you are more advanced.

Common Mistakes

The kneeling hip flexor stretch is beginner-friendly. But, avoiding these common mistakes will help you improve your form and get the most out of this stretch.

Lunging Too Shallow or Too Deep

The kneeling hip flexor stretch is sometimes called the lunging hip flexor stretch because the leading leg takes on the position of a lunge. Like lunges, this hip flexor stretch requires the right amount of distance from the leading foot and the kneeling knee.

If you lunge too shallow, you will not feel a deep stretch. If you lunge too deep, you may overexert yourself and run the risk of pulling a muscle or experiencing another type of injury.

Swaying From Side to Side

The kneeling hip flexor stretch can help improve posture and balance. However, it takes practice and time to become comfortable balancing on just your knee and foot. When performing this stretch, avoid swaying from side to side.

Leaning forward deepens the stretch, and moving in any other direction does not add to it. When you sway, you may throw off your balance and collapse to either side.

Leaning Back

Leaning back is a safe way to exit the stretch. If you are not done stretching, avoid leaning back. Instead, lean forward slightly to deepen the stretch in the hip flexor and psoas muscles.

Safety and Precautions

Any time you are sitting or kneeling on your knees, you may feel a bit of pressure. If you feel any discomfort in the knees, safely back out of this stretch or place a pillow under the knees.

You should feel a deep stretch in the hips and psoas. If you feel any pain as a result of performing this stretch, slowly release the stretch. You also may want to talk with a healthcare provider about your symptoms.

Try It Out

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

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  1. 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-analysisIJERPH. 2021;18(4):1936. doi:10.3390/ijerph18041936