Hip Flexor Stretches for Seniors

Hip flexor stretches are an overlooked area in senior fitness. Our hips provide a lot of stability to the upper and lower body during activity. They are really the main source of power to stand, walk, run, or any other quick or strength movement.

You will notice tight hip flexors when you kneel or lie on your belly in the prone position. It will be hard to fully extend your hip in these positions. In other words, your hip will stay partially flexed even after lying on your belly or kneeling.

  1. Quadriceps stretch.
  2. Hip flexor stretch (Thomas test position)
  3. Supine Bridge.
  4. Prone Press Up.
Watch my instructional video

The hip flexor muscles include the Iliopsoas ( psoas major and iliacus) which originates in the last thoracic and lumbar vertebral bodies, the iliac fossa, and inserts into the lesser trochanter of the femur. The Rectus Femoris also flexes the hip and originates at the anterior-inforior iliac spin of the ilium and inserts at the top of the patella and patellar ligament to the tibial tuberosity.

Exercise 1

Quad Stretch, Begin in a chair, sitting on the front edge. Turn to one side and bring your front knee to the floor. Slowly bring your toes back to the rear as far as possible. Sit tall in the chair, chest raised, chin up, breathe deeply. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then turn the opposite way and repeat with the other leg.

Exercise 2

Hip flexor stretch (Thomas test position). Begin on your bed or on a mat. Lie on your back at end of the bed. Pull your unaffected knee in towards your chest. The leg to be stretched should hang over the edge of the bed. Be sure your back is flat down on the bed in a posterior pelvic tilt.

Exercise 3

Supine Bridge. Begin on your back with feet flat on the floor, your pelvis in posterior tilt pressing against the mat or bed. Slowly raise your hips off the bed or mat to a position that has your hips fully extended. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 4

Prone Press Ups. Begin on your bed or on a mat. Start on your hands and knees position then proceed further to lying on  your belly. Bring your hands palm down to the level of your face. If it is uncomfortable for your neck, place a towel roll beneath your forehead. Take a deep breath in through your nose, then lift your head off the floor and begin to arch your back. Keeping your pelvis on the floor, look at the far wall. This should not be painful. If the movement is painful, use a smaller range of motion. Repeat 10 times.

Our hip joint is really the central pivot point for the body with it’s ball-and-socket joint which allows triplanar movements of the femur. When we lift our foot off the ground while the other leg is planted, requires good strength and flexibility to perform well. If our hip flexors are tight this can disrupt the efficiency and function of the hip. It may also create uneven pull on the hip by the musculature which can lead to increased chance of arthritis in the joints.

We need to be able to fully extend our hip to participate well in our daily activities of living. Tight hips can make it hard to stand up straight when standing at the sink washing dishes or ironing clothes. Tight hips can increase the difficulty of picking up a grocery bag and bringing it close to your body resulting in pulling your torso forward.

Standing up is important in other areas too including taking a shower, opening up a window, and reaching to a top shelf. If we are unable to stand to our full height, many daily activities become more difficult

Posture may be one of the most obvious effects of tight hamstrings. We tend to take on the posture of a tennis player waiting for a serve when hips are tight. Our knees are bent and our hips are flexed. This position also uses a wide stance and bent over posture. Get ready to take out your walker because without improving this posture you will be more comfortable using a walker to reduce the amount of work our postural muscles must perform.

So begin today to improve your posture, make standing more pleasurable, and your daily tasks easier. Take a few minutes today to try these hip stretches to add a few more degrees of motion to your hip when you walk, stand and perform your daily tasks.

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.