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Hip Flexors - Tight Or Weak?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Your hip flexors play an essential role in your day-to-day function. Some say your hip flexor muscles are the "seat of the soul." I am not sure I would go that far, but I will tell you that having an imbalance in your hip flexor can lead to many low back and hip dysfunctions, including bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, and all of the "itis" issues. These issues can be frustrating and debilitating. Most hip pain goes undiagnosed and untreated. We tend to "push through" until we can no longer. Unfortunately, "pushing through" only leads to significant postural imbalances and chronic pain/weakness. The hip flexors' primary role is bending and rotating at the trunk.

The hip flexor is a combination of 3 muscles. As a unit, they are called the iliopsoas (a combination of the illiacus, Psoas (silent P) major, and minor muscles). The iliopsoas connects your low back (lumbar spine) to your femur via your pelvis. This makes your hip flexors an essential muscle in stabilizing the back. When the iliopsoas is tight or weak, we have chronic muscle imbalances and pain in the back, hip, and groin. So how do you know if it is your hip flexor is the culprit of your pain? "Snappy" hips? Lateral knee pain? Achy low back? Groin pain? Bowel Problems? Hamstring strain? SI joint dysfunction? If you answered Yes, to any of these on!

There is one leading primary cause of weakened or tight hip flexors...

Sitting. In today's world, we are sitting more than ever. We spend long days at our computers, reading, watching TV, and driving. Sitting for long durations will create postural imbalances, such as shortened hamstrings, shortened hip flexors, and weak glutes. This can be a "pain in the butt," no pun intended. The good news is that with some consistent stretching and strengthening, this is a very treatable condition. Let's start by seeing if your iliopsoas weakness or tightness is the culprit for your hip or back discomfort.

Is your Hip flexor too tight?

1. Start by lying down on the edge of your bed. Pull your right knee toward your chest. Make sure your pelvis stays neutral.

2. Let your Left leg hang over the end of the bed while you squeeze your Right knee tight to your chest.

3. If the back of your Left leg is hovering the bed and not in contact, then your iliopsoas muscles are too tight and short

4. Repeat with the other side

Is your hip flexor weak?

1. Place your right foot on a chair or an elevated surface. Be sure that your knee is at least waist level.

**safety first, be sure to hold on to a wall or surface for balance

2. Now lift your leg off the chair up toward your chest.

3. Can you lift your leg without difficulties? Now try it on the other side.

The treatment you choose will vary based on hip tightness or hip weakness. We need to lengthen your hip flexor if it feels tight and strengthens your hip flexor if it is weak. If your hip flexor is tight, here are some great ways to improve mobility, decrease tightness, and avoid hip flexor injury.

Tight Hip Flexor

1. Move more. Get up frequently from your desk and move. You can purchase a standing desk for work. If you are driving for long durations, make sure to get out of the car and move every hour. Just be sure that you are moving regularly.

2. Dynamic warm-up before exercise. The purpose of the dynamic warm-up is to increase blood flow to the areas that will be working. This avoids muscle tears and strains. A dynamic warm-up includes walking at a slower pace, jumping jacks, high knees, leg swings, etc.

3. Stretch. There are many ways to stretch your hip flexor. Here is one of my favorites:

a. Kneel on your Right knee

b. Drive your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your right knee

c. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on another side

4. Massage therapy: Find a massage therapist that is familiar with doing iliopsoas work. There are multiple deep tissue techniques to release your hip flexors.

If you found that your iliopsoas is weak, here is a great exercise to strengthen your hip flexors.

1. Straight leg raises: Lie on your back and bend your left knee. Flex the right foot and lift the right leg straight up into the air. Lift ten times and repeat on the other side. If this becomes too easy, you can add ankle weights.

It can be frustrating to have hip or back pain and not know the source. Physical therapy is a great place to start. A physical therapist can run you through tests to determine where your hip or back pain is originating. At Wellness 360, we have a Physical therapist and medical massage therapist on staff to work toward your well-being. If you would like to learn more about Wellness 360 and the services we offer, check us out at


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