Stop Stretching Your Hip Flexors! (HERE’S WHY)

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, Today we’re going to talk all about the
hip flexors. More importantly, whether or not you should
be stretching yours, or leaving them alone. As a matter of fact, you might want to be
doing the exact opposite. That is, strengthening them. I’m going to show you today how to test
whether yours are tight, or weak, and figure out what is a better route for you to go if
you want to get rid of the issues that are being caused by your hip flexors right now. All right, the first thing that needs to be
cleared up is a little bit of anatomy. Not to bore you, but it’s really important
here. When we talk about the hip flexors it’s
not a single muscle group. There are actually five muscles that are responsible
for flexing the hip. Three of them – the TFL, the Rectus Femoris,
which is one of the quad muscles, and the Sartorius, which is more of a groin muscle
– they all attach at the level of the hip to the iliac crest. So, they can only really flex the hip up to
the level of the hip. But the two that we’re really concerned
about are the ones that bring it up higher than that. Which is the Soas and the Iliacus. Those are the two where, when we talk about
“Oh, my hip flexors feel tight”, those are the ones we’re really talking about
because when they’re tight you usually get a lot of back pain. You can see why. The muscles of the Soas here attach to all
the lumbar vertebrae. They literally go through the body and attach
the lumbar vertebrae. So, when these are tight they could actually
be pulling on your lumbar spine and causing all kinds of issues. So, we need to get to the bother of whether
or not it’s a tightness that’s causing the issues here in your back, or whether or
not it’s a weakness. Again, the recommendations are going to be
drastically different, depending upon which of those two it is. So, let’s start off by testing the flexibility
in the hip. We want to make sure there is a tightness
here before you start stretching it. A lot of times what we’re really hiding
is more of a weakness, instead of a tightness. But we can do that very easily with a quick
test. You sit at the edge of a bench here – about
mid-thigh – then you’re going to lay back, pull both knees up, and then drop one down. You want to make sure right off the bat that
your low back flat here because what you’re looking for is to see whether or not this
leg, the one that’s down, is in contact with the surface you’re on, or whether it’s
flailing up in the air like this. The second thing you want to look for is whether
or not the knee itself is capable of bending. Really, ideally, down to about 80, or 90 degrees. Or is it more extended, like this? Or it could be combination of both because
what we want to determine now is, if we are in some position here where it’s off the
surface here, and we have the inability to get our knee fully bent, we know we have some
tightness. But is it a quad tightness? The Rectus Femoris that we talked about? Or is it more of an actual hip flexor? What you would do is, with the knee floating
in this position you would ask the person – or you would do it yourself – you’d
just straighten out the knee. If, by straightening the knee the leg goes
down fully in contact with the surface here, that means you have more of a quad tightness,
or a rectus tightness. When you took the quad off the stretch and
relieved it, then I was able to go down, then everything else was loose enough to get down. If, on the other hand, when you do this and
nothing changes, or certainly doesn’t get down to the level of the bench, now you’ve
got a true hip flexor tightness. In which case, that’s when you want to actually
start using your hip flexor stretches to attack that. But a lot of times when you see this yourself
you may realize, “You know what? I really don’t have a tightness.” And that’s when it starts to come back,
where I said in the beginning, your manifesting something far different. You’re probably manifesting a weak hip. I’m going to show you how to test for that
now, too. So, let’s say you didn’t have a tightness,
but you still feel that there’s something off in your hip. It’s what’s causing you to really always
want to stretch it. By the way, when you stretch it, if you tend
to get a little bit of temporary relief, but then an hour later things are actually worse
than they were before; you’re likely dealing even more with what we’re going to talk
about right now. That is a weak hip flexor. Then all you’re doing is stretching it and
making it worse. So what you want to do is have a way to test
that on you. We can do that very simply. Take a box – any surface that allows your
knee to be higher than your hip when you put your foot on it. Then what we want to do from here is lift
off that surface. So, stand upright. Put your hands behind your head so you can’t
cheat. We don’t want to lean toward it. We don’t want to bring our chest to the
knee. We want to be able to bring our knee up to
our chest. See if you can hold it up here for 15 seconds. So, lift off that surface so your hip is as
high as you can flex it actively, and then from here, see if you can hold it. If you start to get a cramp in the outside
of your hip – which would be in the tenser area, here – that’s a good indication
that you have a weakness in this muscle group here. It’s asking for help from another muscle
down below that isn’t really equipped to do what you’re asking it to do. Which is, flex above 90 degrees. If you remember back to the anatomy we showed
earlier the ones that attached at the level of the hip are good at flexing you to that
level. But they’re not so good at flexing you above. So, by putting ourselves in this position
here, where our knee is already above 90 degrees, now the only thing we can do is either use
that Iliacus, or the Soas to try to get us up here. That’s where you’re going to find a good
weakness if it exists. The other thing we can do is, we don’t have
to use this at all. We could just stand right here and pull the
leg as high as we can, and then dynamically let it go. When we let it go, if I can’t keep it here
in this position, like that, if it drops and catches – guess where? At 90 degrees. Well, that’s the level at which it got a
little bit of assistance from those other three muscles that are helping on that level. But I don’t have the strength to be able
to take it up above the 90-position and hold it up above 90. So that would be a good indication. If you hold it here, and you drop it, and
you can’t hold it, you can’t stop the leg until it gets to the level of 90. So, let’s say that’s the case. What would you do? Well, that’s an instance where the test
becomes the exercise. You could actually go back into this position
here and do leg lifts right from here. So, I’m in this position, I’m above 90,
I want to strengthen the hip flexors, I put my arms up behind my head, and I do leg lifts
in that position. I try to do that, and hold that, either for
time, or for reps. I can also take it up a notch by taking a
band, anchoring it down to something low here, wrapping it around the foot this way, and
then I’ve got a resisted lift here, to adding more strength as our hip flexors begin to
start getting stronger. The key is this, guys: you want to find out
right off the bat. You’re going to test both sides. Do you actually have a hip flexor tightness? Because if you don’t and you stretch it,
you’re going to make your problems worse. If you’re having back pain during ab exercises
you’re going to make that back pain worse. If you’re just having tightness and a general
feeling of something that’s off in the hip, that’s going to get worse if you keep doing
that. On the other hand, if you have a weakness
and you don’t address it, nothing’s going to get better. So you want to find out which of the two you’re
dealing with. If it is a tightness then, yes, the stretches
are going to be appropriate. But if they’re not, you want to avoid them. If you have to, guys, I always say, “You’ve
got to own it”. Own this. If you have a hip flexor weakness then you’ve
got to own this, and you’ve got to start doing stuff about it. As a matter of fact, maybe you’re not doing
enough explosive training. That’s a good argument for getting outside
and doing some sprints to actually train, to start using those hip flexors above 90
degrees, in a more explosive way. If you’re looking for a training program
that puts it all out there and puts all together so we overlook nothing in our training, that’s
what ATHLEANX is all about. You can get our ATHLEANX training system over
at In the meantime, I hope you found the video
helpful. Make sure you leave your comments and thumbs
up below. Let me know what you want me to cover and
I’ll do my best to do that for you. As you can see, or hear, the voice is still
not back, but that does not stop me from bringing the goods here to you guys, each and every
week with our videos. So, pardon me for the voice, but I hope you
got some good information from this. All right, guys. I’ll see you soon.

100 thoughts on “Stop Stretching Your Hip Flexors! (HERE’S WHY)

  1. Want to win an ATHLEAN-X program for free, no strings attached? Click the link below to find out how!

  2. As a bodywork therapist this was quite helpful. People need to see and hear about difference between tight and weak. So many don't believe me when I tell them their present exercise regimens are damaging. I will certainly send people your way. This gives me more credibility!

  3. Why in the hell would it be wrong to stretch a muscle. "Oh don't stretch there and I'll tell you why I came up with this video out of nowhere

  4. Great video! I found out one of my quads needs work and had both knees drop to the 90 degree point. I have been working on my hip abductuctors but will look into iliac/psoas stretches!

  5. I’ve had problems with back pain during sit ups and pain that radiates from lower back to lower abdominal area. A recent injury to leg made it worse. I’ve always stretched now I realized it has been making it worse. Thanks I figured after your explanation and the test confirmed they are most likely weak.

  6. Hey jeff! I tried both of the exercises and i was able to do both the flexibility and strength tests pretty well. I can’t tell what is wrong with my hip flexor, the strengthening exercises caused a bit of pain in the front of my hip, does that mean i need to strengthen it? I need to find a way to get rid of the pain in my hip flexor for hockey season.

  7. I'm trying to get my head round this. These stretches come up alot when trying to fix anterior pelvic tilt. I did both your tests without any problems so does this mean it's the other muscles in the same group I need to work on? Do you have any videos for that? Thanks

  8. this has got to be the SINGLE MOST RIDICULOUS video Ive ever seen. This video is not for athletes and certainly will not help you to improve your sprint times or else. Hip flexor flexibility in combination with strength will drastically improve your athleticism, Ive done it, Ive trained others do it, and every single time, their 40 yard dash has improved through basic hip improvement.

  9. I guess that's the reason why I didn't feel to get anything out of that stretch. They are not tight or even weak. Have anterior pelvic tilt though.

  10. Thanks so much!! The test revealed I have a tight quad. As soon as I straightened that leg, down went the leg. 🤯

  11. Hi Jeff, any idea whether my test results would be skewed by having fibromyalgia and benign joint hypermobility? I have persistent lower back instability (16 slipped disc type injuries, same disc), my bowen therapist releases tension in both those muscles to relieve pain & realign my spine to great effect, but I had very little trouble with both of your tests…should I simply focus on both strengthening & stretching? Cheers.

  12. So that was a very helpful video! Thank you so much! Now that I understand my problem I can fix it!!! What’s with your voice? Did you have that respiratory thing that’s going around? Took me 6 weeks to sound like myself again!😀

  13. That video was very helpful.
    I did your test and it's much more likely that I have a weakness because by straight leg drops on the surface during the first test (tightness is not there) and I also have trouble lifting the right knee as much as the left (weakness).
    Taking your word for it that stretching is not what I require.

    I wonder though, will strengthening my right hip, fix the semi permanent pain I have in the right hip flexor (ball/joint) that prevent my right leg from doing certain motions and sometimes even feeling pain in there while sitting on chairs?

    I've damaged my right hip due to soccer and skateboarding as a child. I remember feeling severe instant pain there when trying to strike with power or having to extend my right leg a lot explosively during a varial heelflip.

  14. Interesting video, but I'm going to have to claim that this does not apply to me. My dominant daily exercise is skateboarding which I have been doing for about 18 years. While doing tricks after jumping I have to lift my legs out of the way from the skateboard so it can do its maneuver In a leg tucking jump. Also the board itself resists this motion as I push against it to make it flip. As a result, my hip flexors are actually very strong. Holding my leg up with my arm and then releasing I am able to easily hold my knee 60 degrees above horizontal. I will keep hip flexor in my routine of stretches. Thank you for for the information but if I never stretched my hip flexors walking would become painful.

  15. Sit all day in my job yet also back gets distracting pain when I try to stand for more than 20 min. I have an anterior pelvic tilt, mild but chronic low back pain. been to pt, chiro, accupunture, done various stretches for past year and core strengthening but haven't found the answer. In the past I was told nothing was wrong with my bone structure. I do feel some low back pain go away when I do some psoas stretch putting one leg straight back on the bed the other on the floor (I've done it the past few days and it goes away at least for a few hours) but then returning. I did the tests in this video to try to determine if my psoas were tight or weak. I was able to perform both the stretch test and strength test successfully, though. does this mean this isn't my issue? or should I keep at the psoas stretches longer? thanks for any advice!

  16. Thanks for this, I need to open my hips for the muay thai round kick…now this is not relevant, what would work better? Thanks

  17. Jeff, what should we do if I have a leg length discrepancy and have back pain on my right side? I have been dealing with this my whole life. I do have a heel lift for wearing shoes. Are their stretching exercises I can do to assist in some relief?

  18. Jeff, I love you man. Really appreciate how you take the time to run through the details of troubleshooting the problem, I'm hoping this will help me solve it and move forward working on a better body.

  19. I am so confused. I thought I needed to strengthen my hip flexors but I actually can hold my knee well above the 90 degree angle & hold it pretty close to my chest. I still can’t do splits. I noticed when lying on my back I can only left a straight leg enough to do a 90 degree angle if the other leg is straight. There’s tightness in my calf & hamstrings. When I physically try to do a split it’s mainly my hamstrings that are tight until I get low enough & then my calves are tight & burning. Any advice? Maybe I should invest in a rope to stretch my legs more on my back?

  20. Well thank you! I have been stretching, going to physio and massage every week and not able to alleviate this lower back pain. I have had bi-lateral hip replacements and have been working on my endurance for the first "race" of my life. And now having excruciating pain I haven't been able to explain or alleviate. I believe you have nailed my problem. Because I cannot even do that test without using my hands to get my leg up. I can't even do this "test becomes the exercise" because I am THAT weak. Do you have any suggestions for ways I can strengthen my hips so that I can get stronger before trying these ones? I don't want to strain myself and make it worse. Thank you!

  21. My abs feel sore I have not worked them out. My lower back pain has taken a entire new level recently followed by abs feeling like they are sore now. Anyone know if my back is th culprit or is it my muscles. I am fit I workout at work I have a very physically demanding job.

  22. Two videos about the same issue saying something completely different.
    My recommendations, train and stretch your whole body, your weak muscles will improve faster than your already strong ones. If it doesn't get better, seek help from a physiologist. These videos are great, but don't follow the advices on an autopilot mode…there is always a possibility that you're the exception to the rule.

  23. What happpens if I have tightness, AND weakness? I couldn’t touch the surface and I couldn’t hold or lift my leg at all… please help

  24. You legend! I have been concentrating on flexibility and stretching for months only to get another back spasm. I actually have very weak flexors. THANK YOU!

  25. Does it mean anything specific if you hear a noise/feel something in the hips when putting the leg down on the first test, almost like something grinding or bumping on it’s way down?

  26. Doing these tests is appears that i have both issues. That was never addressed having weak and tight flexors. I guess ill do stretches and strengthening to see if I gain any relief from pain in and out of the gym.

  27. I did those exercises in the video and I felt tightness in my inside of my groin/hip flexor.. any idea of what that might be

  28. Doing this exercise made me realize how my body might be a little unbalanced. Right hip flexor felt weak and the other was tight.

  29. What if when doing the knee ups it hurts, what should i do? (When i release it i can’t keep it up and it hurts)

  30. I passed both of these tests so not tight and not weak. I get hip pain on and off. My doctor says it is "snapping hip" Any ideas? Thanks for the great videos!

  31. Once again, a great video!!! Have a karate student talking about pain in one of our exercises involving the leg. I was suspicious of a weak muscle in the hip area. Now I know how to test what she needs to concentrate on.

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