A swimmer’s guide to stretching the hip flexors

After a long workout in the pool, you may find that the front of your hip feels unusually tight. In most cases, this will indicate stiff hip flexors. The hip flexors are made up of several important muscles in the upper leg and lower torso. These include the sartorious, illiopsoas and rectus femoras, among others. With a repetitive motion that only covers a short range, the flutter kick is not especially conducive to flexibility in the hip flexors. As such, most swimmers experience tightness in the hip flexors from time to time. Not only can this be uncomfortable, it can ultimately lead to lower back injuries. However, by adding just a few stretches into your dry-land routine, you can alleviate tight hip flexors and prevent future injuries.

Fencepost lunge

The fencepost lunge is a stretch commonly used by runners, who also tend to experience tight hip flexors. Unless you are swimming in a long course pool surrounded by a rustic fence, you are going to have to improvise in order to execute this stretch. Any knee-high object will work, be it a bleacher step or a chair. Place one foot on the elevated object and move the other foot back until you feel a stretch at the top of your hips. Keep your torso upright and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Butterfly stretch

You've probably encountered the butterfly stretch at some point in your swimming career, but may have shrugged it off as pointless. The butterfly stretch is great for the hip flexors, and can also loosen up the groin and gluteal muscles. Sit upright with the soles of your feet resting flat against each other. Try to draw the knees down until they touch the ground. Hold for 20 seconds; take a 10 second break and then repeat for another 20 seconds.

Overhead lunge

This is similar to the traditional lunge stretch, except that you will rest your knee on the ground and raise your hands above your head. Press your hip down towards the floor and look up towards your outstretched hands. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. A lot of people do this stretch while holding medicine balls, but if those aren't available, you can always hold a kickboard or a pull bouy.

S. Gustafson has several years of experience in competitive swimming and water safety instruction.

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Updated Friday, Sep 30, 2011