How to Stretch Deep in the Hip Flexors With Machines
Feb 22, 2012 | By Sarka-Jonae Miller
The hip flexors are muscles that pull the thighs forward. You use them to walk, climb stairs and sit up. The main hip flexor muscle is the iliopsoas. It consists of two muscles -- the iliacus and psoas -- that reside deep in the abdomen near the spine. Frequent sitting makes them tight. Stretching the hip flexors can relieve tension built up from prolonged sitting.
Your hips move into a flexed position when you sit. Over time, this causes the hip flexors to tighten and become shorter. Tight hip flexors can lead to back pain, according to "Yoga Journal." They may also make your pelvis tilt forward, which compresses your lower back. The tilted position may inhibit movement in your lower back. Stretching the hip flexors -- either with yoga poses, hip stretches or using machines -- increases flexibility and allows the hip flexors to return to their normal length. You may experience greater range of motion in the hips, improved posture and a pain-free back.
The Mayo Clinic recommends stretching for improving flexibility and range of motion, but only after a warmup. Spend five to 10 minutes performing a light aerobic exercise -- such as marching or running in place -- before you stretch. Alternatively, stretch after full workouts while your body is still warm. Always move slowly and gently while stretching. Never bounce in a stretch or go far enough to cause pain. The clinic advises holding stretches for approximately 30 seconds each.
Your gym may have a machine for stretching the hip flexors; the machine resembles an upright stationary bike with only the seat and handlebars, not the pedals or middle section. To use this machine, stand in front of the handlebars, grip them with both hands and bend your right leg. Place the top of your foot and your right shin on the pad behind you. Bend your left leg while keeping your back straight and use your right leg to push your hips forward; stop when you feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold and then switch legs.
Pilates is well known for improving flexibility and core strength. Modern Pilates includes machine exercises that can stretch your hip flexors. To stretch the hip flexors on a Pilates Reformer, kneel on the bench of the machine with your right knee and grip the handlebar with your arms straight. Position your left foot on the floor with your knee bent to 90 degrees and in line with the ankle. Keep your back straight and slide the bench back with your right knee until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. Hold and then switch sides.