How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

standing lunge stretch
Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon  

Target: Hip flexors, including the psoas muscles

Level: Beginner

You can stretch your psoas muscles and other hip flexors using variations of the popular lunge exercise. This basic stretch will help you loosen up and counteract the effects of sitting too much or tight hips from sports such as cycling.

Benefits

One of the hip flexors is the psoas muscle; you have one on each side of your body, each working to lift your thigh to your torso.

Many people get tight hip flexors from sitting for long periods, as when at a desk, in a vehicle, or while watching television. Others may do so from sports such as cycling, which can result in tight hip muscles, or snowboarding and skiing, which require significant hip flexibility.

The standing lunge stretch helps to lengthen these muscles and provide better flexibility and range of motion.

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Watch Now: How to Stretch the Hip Flexors and Psoas Muscles

Step-by-Step Instructions

Prior to doing this, warm up to avoid overstretching a cold muscle. Great ways to warm up include jumping jacks, skipping, side-stepping, running in place, or any dynamic movements that mimic whatever sport you do. Given that this targets the lower half of your body, it's best to choose movements that will make the muscles in the groin and inner thigh areas warm and pliable.

  1. Stand in a split stance with your right front forward and your left foot straight back. Bend your right knee so that it is at about a 90-degree angle. This should put you into a forward lunge position. Place your hands on your forward knee. Keep your shoulders relaxed, your hips even, your chest open, and your gaze straight ahead.
  2. Press down with your hands and drive the hips forward until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip, groin, and thigh on your left side.
  3. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Release and repeat on the other leg.

Common Mistakes

Just as you can get injured doing sports and activities, you can also hurt yourself while stretching if certain precautions are not taken.

Knee Position

Be sure to keep your forward knee over or behind your ankle and not in front of it. You may also find your knees turning inward. This may be happening if you have weak hip or butt muscles.

Bouncing

This can tug on tendons and muscle insertion points instead of lengthening the muscle. In addition, bouncing can create small muscle tears that, as they heal, form scar tissue that can make the muscle stiffer and less flexible.

All of this can lead to hypermobile joints and muscle imbalances. Use slow, smooth movements when performing your stretch.

Pressing Down With Great Force

Just like bouncing, this can put unwanted pressure on the tendons, ligaments, and insertion points, making you more prone to overstretching and injury.

Holding Your Breath While Stretching

Your breath can help you stretch deeper. Inhale as you rest and exhale as you initially do the work.

Modifications and Variations

The advanced version uses the knee in a dropped position:

  1. Begin in a forward lunge position, as described in step 1 above, and drop your back knee to the floor.
  2. Place your hands on the forward leg. If you feel that your balance is steady, raise your arms and hands up over your head and look up.
  3. Press your hips forward and down toward the floor. You should be able to feel a stretch through your torso, hip, groin, and thigh.
  4. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the other leg.

This is very similar to the yoga pose Warrior I.

If you increase your stretch, be sure that you are not letting your back hip sag. Keep your hips centered and activate your pelvic floor and abdominals. This will also help protect your lower back.

Safety and Precautions

You should feel a good stretch, but if you feel any pain, gently back out of this position.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones in these popular workouts:

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