Sunday 14 October 2018

Kneeling hip-flexor stretch

The kneeling hip-flexor stretch, also known as the kneeling iliopsoas stretch, is quite possibly the most common stretch you will find for the strongest of the hip-flexors, the iliopsoas. This muscle is important for leg flexion at the hip such as when walking, running, and climbing.

As many of us spend quite a lot of time sitting down or over-using these muscles, the illiopsoas become shorter and our gluteals longer, affecting the balance and relationship between them and altering the natural position of the pelvis. A short and tight iliopsoas can also present itself in the form of externally rotated legs and feet. It can cause pain in the lower back, as well as other in regions from the knees to middle back.

This stretch is good if you do have tight hip-flexors, however another cause of "tightness" in these muscles is actually excessive tone from them taking up the slack of a weak and under-developed inner core in stabilising the spine. In this case stretching them won't do much good without also strengthening the inner core and regaining a neutral pelvis as the iliopsoas will only take up the slack again otherwise.

Luckily when executed right, this stretch can help do all three. Not only does this stretch your iliopsoas, it involves moving the pelvis into a neutral or even posterior tilt. This is achieved by an isometric glute contraction, which will strengthen your glutes whilst allowing the iliopsoas to relax and stretch better. Concurrently it also includes an isometric inner core contraction to force it to do its job better in maintaining spinal stability helping take the pressure off the iliopsoas.

Hip-flexor muscles Iliopsoas Iliacus Psoas

How to perform

This stretch can be performed either unaided or if you need support by placing your hands against an object such as a wall or chair.

  • Assume a half-kneeling position, with one knee on the ground and the other leg bent roughly at a 90 degree angle.
  • Ensure you keep your body from the head to your grounded knee in alignment.
  • Engage your inner core by sucking your naval in towards your spine. Concurrently clench your glutes as hard as you can. This helps achieve a neutral or even a posterior tilt.
  • Keep your inner core and glutes contracted for the duration of the stretch.
  • If you don't feel much of a stretch then lean your body forward a few inches, keeping the head to knee alignment intact.
  • Another way to achieve a greater stretch is to raise the arm on the same side as your grounded knee overhead and lean your torso slightly towards to the other side. As the psoas connects to the spine, the leaning to the opposite side helps stretch it more.
  • Hold for desired length of time. To maintain current length: about 10-15 seconds; to elongate the muscle about 30+ seconds.
Kneeling hip-flexor iliopsoas iliacus psoas stretch
A kneeling hip-flexor stretch including an arms overhead psoas bias. Picture borrowed from Stack.

Common mistakes

Mistakes that commonly occur when performing this stretch include:

  • Focusing more on hip extension rather than trying to achieve a posterior pelvic tilt.
  • Focusing more on the rectus femoris muscle rather than the iliopsoas, such as leaning too far forward with your torso out of alignment.
  • Failure to engage the core and clench the glutes.


Only go as far as you find comfortable when feeling the stretch. Over-stretching the muscle can cause injury and pain is a pretty good indicator that you are stretching to much to quick.

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


  1. A person's hip flexors are engaged when they bring their knee up towards their torso. Activities such as dancing, martial arts, or running are where hip flexors are put under the most strain. If you need more information, click here.

    1. Indeed, just another form of leg flexion at the hip like walking and sitting down. All the more reason why people need to incorporate stretches for it into their daily routines.