How the Hip Flexor Predominantly Stretches the Calf

The Hip Flexor is Predominantly a Calf Stretching Exercise

You’ve probably heard before that the hip flexor can be strengthened by stretching the calf muscles, or you may have even heard someone ask which muscles are responsible for pulling the ankle toward the knee.

But have you ever stopped to think about why this happens? How can such completely different parts of the body (the calf and hip flexor) possibly be responsible for the same movements?
The answer lies in the function of both of these muscle groups as well as their origin points within your body.

The hip flexor is predominantly a calf stretching exercise. For example, the hip flexors are what people refer to when they speak of pulling the knees towards your chest in a sitting position. When someone is performing an exercise that stretches their calf muscles, such as lunges or toe touches,

he is mainly working his calf muscle with the help of his hip flexors and other surrounding muscles; otherwise, he could not be touching his toes because his calves would not be flexible enough to do so.

The hip flexor primarily extends the hip, which in turn extends the knee and allows for the ankle to flex. The most important function of the hip flexor, however, is to help us maintain an upright posture.

As you can see in the diagram above, if we didn’t have muscles such as the gluteus maximus and minimus and tensor fasciae latae helping to pull our femur downward and keep our hips in extension, we would collapse over time due to gravity pulling us down to earth.

The hip flexor muscle group, or iliopsoas, is located in the inner thigh area and it’s primarily responsible for flexing the hip joint.

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This means that when it contracts, it pulls the upper thigh towards the torso and the lower leg towards the buttocks, which contributes to activities such as walking, running, jumping, and climbing stairs.

Now that you know the hip flexor muscle predominantly stretches the calf, you may be wondering why this fact isn’t more widely recognized. There are some obvious answers and some not-so-obvious ones, so let’s take a look at them.

First, though, make sure you understand how this muscle works in both situations by reading How to Stretch the Hip Flexor. Then you can proceed to How to Stretch the Calf and then on to Why the hip flexor is predominantly a calf stretching exercise

How do you stretch your hip flexors actively?

Here is the Guide:

  • Stand facing a wall with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Place your hands on the wall at chest height,
  • then kick one leg back so that it’s parallel to the floor.
  • Bend at both knees and place your other leg as close to flat on the floor as possible.
  • You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors (the muscles along either side of your abdomen).
  • Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat 3 times on each side.

This is an easy way to remember how to do an active hip flexor stretch: just think of kicking yourself in front while standing against a wall.

Most people don’t realize that they’re actually stretching their calf when they’re doing a seated calf raise: Sit down on a bench or chair and position your legs underneath a loaded barbell, which rests atop your thighs.

Then lift up by straightening out through your hips until you are standing upright; make sure not to bend forward from your waist when you stand up!

As you perform the exercise, focus on pushing through your heels rather than lifting up with your toes—this will put more emphasis on the calf muscle instead of the hamstring.

How to Stretch your calves

Using a foam roller to stretch the calf is effective in relieving tightness, as is pulling your toes back toward you and pushing them down.

The lower leg’s plantar fascia—the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot—can also be stretched by pressing your foot into a wall and pointing your toes toward the ceiling.

Another option is to stand on one leg with a slightly bent knee and pull up on your toes; once you’ve stretched one calf, switch legs.

Or sit upright in a chair with both feet flat on the floor, then place one ankle over your other knee so that the sole of one foot faces upward while you gently pull up on it with both hands.

If you have access to a yoga mat, lie faceup with your knees bent and draw circles with the ball of each foot. The hip flexor is predominantly a calf stretching exercise.

Why you should stretch your hip flexors

The biggest problem with having tight hip flexors is that they can contribute to lower back pain. The hip flexors attach your legs to your spine, so when they get too tight they can pull on your lower back and put pressure on nerves.

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Another common issues are tight hamstrings, which are often caused by a combination of having inflexible hip flexors and not stretching enough. You can have really weak or sore quads if you sit all day and don’t stretch or strengthen your hips.

This can lead to serious knee problems down the road as well. As always, if you have pain in any of these areas please see a doctor for an evaluation! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Common mistakes when stretching

Do not rush your stretching. Rushing will only prevent you from achieving true flexibility in your muscles. The goal should be to get deeper into a stretch over time, not to just rush through it and do as many repetitions as possible.

If you want to increase flexibility, add some active movement into your stretches by making an upside-down U shape with your legs, and actively pushing one foot towards the other side of your body, keeping both knees straight for 1–2 seconds at a time.

This will help you gain more flexibility faster than simply holding static stretches. It is also important to note that each person has different goals when it comes to their workout routines and flexibility training.

Some people are trying to improve their athletic performance while others are trying to relieve muscle tension or pain they experience during certain movements or activities.

Also, Read The Best Beginner Ab Workout You Can Do at Home

So if you have a specific goal in mind when doing your stretches, make sure that you are focusing on those areas when performing them so that you can achieve what you set out for yourself in terms of increasing mobility or reducing pain levels.

What it feels like when you do it right

Do you suffer from shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis? Do you run? If so, chances are good that you’ve been told to strengthen your hip flexors. Because they’re considered an important postural muscle group,

they’re thought to be a key cause of injury if not properly stretched and strengthened. But what many people don’t realize is that these muscles primarily stretch — and never fully shorten — when contracting.

What happens if you don’t stretch

You can also strengthen your muscles with higher reps of five or ten, keeping tension on your muscles for 15 to 20 seconds. This will help you build muscle and tone faster, but if you do too much of it, it can cause injury.

As always, be sure to keep a journal of how you feel after each exercise so that you know whether a tweak is needed. Incorporate all three variations into one set then move on to your next muscle group: quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

Variations for better results

If you feel any pinching or discomfort in your knee, stop what you’re doing and try a different variation. It could be that your form is off or maybe you simply have an injury. An example of one alternative stretch is to lie on your back with one foot up on a chair.

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Then pull that knee to your chest as far as possible before gently pushing it away from you using both hands (keeping it close to your body). You can also do hip flexors in combination with lunges for maximum effectiveness. Try adding these into your leg day routine for faster results!

Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises

Exercises that stretch these muscles can improve hip mobility and range of motion, which may reduce the risk of injuries. Consider pairing stretches with strength exercises (e.g., Lunge) to increase flexibility and prevent injury.

One simple move is bending forward while seated to touch your toes; hold for 10 seconds while contracting your abdominal muscles (as if bracing yourself against a punch), then relax for 10 seconds before repeating two more times.

Knee to chest stretch

Knee to chest stretch
Credit: (Getty Images)

To do Knee to Chest Stretch:

  • To do Knee to Chest Stretch:
  • Lie on your back with both legs out straight.
  • Cross one leg over and pull it up toward your chest, grabbing it just above or below your knee, depending on how flexible you are.
  • Keep your other leg stretched out on the floor.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles to hold yourself in place as you gently pull up on that leg until you feel a good stretch in that hip flexor area.
  • Hold for 15 seconds, then release and switch legs.
  • Do three sets of eight repetitions per day or every other day.

To do Pigeon Pose

The purpose of Pigeon Pose is to stretch your hip flexors, glutes, adductors, and outer quads. This will help to open up your hips so that you can achieve a deeper squat. If you feel the tension in your lower back while doing so, then add a couple of pillows or blankets behind your upper back to open up that area as well.

Finally, release any tension from your neck by placing a folded towel or pillow beneath it; maintain an upright posture but be sure not to overextend your back—bend at the hips rather than arching them. Keep for 15–30 seconds.

Psoas hold

To do Psoas Hold:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross one leg over to lie on top of the other, with your knee just above your ankle.
  • Pull gently at your knee with both hands to feel a slight stretch in your groin.
  • Tighten that muscle and hold for five seconds; relax and repeat 10 times.
  • Switch legs and repeat, first to one side and then to another.

Straight-leg raise

  • This move is a modified, seated version of a standard hip flexor stretch.
  • Kneel on one knee, keeping that foot and ankle flat on the floor.
  • Push your hips up to come up onto your toes.
  • Holding that position (without arching or leaning too far forward), bring your other foot up alongside you and point it straight ahead.
  • Hold for 15 seconds at a time, then slowly lower yourself back down to kneeling with both feet flat on the floor.

Repeat five times for each leg and feel free to increase repetitions as you get more comfortable with the move! The Straight-leg raise is also a great exercise to help strengthen your core muscles.
Keep your abs tight throughout and focus on breathing out through your nose.

This will help activate your core muscles, which will make sure that you don’t swing or sway during exercise.
Make sure that you are using proper form throughout—don’t arch or lean too far forward, keep both feet flat on the floor, and make sure that you keep your back straight (not rounded).

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If at any point in time it feels like too much of a stretch, lower yourself back down onto one knee instead of coming up onto both feet. You can also place a towel underneath your calf if it makes it easier to maintain proper form throughout.

Lunge

the hip flexor is predominantly a calf stretching exercise
                                                                  Credit: (Getty Images)

When most people think of lunges, they imagine a variation with their front foot up on a step. It’s true that that variation targets your hip flexors, but so do basic lunges done with both feet firmly planted on the ground.
To hit your calf muscles in addition to your hip flexors (and even more muscles) you’ll want to drop into a deep lunge instead of doing standard or walking lunges.

To do Lunge:

  • Stand with one foot forward and your other foot behind you.
  • Keeping your arms at your sides, take a big step forward with your front leg, lowering yourself until both knees are bent at least 90 degrees—but ideally more.
  • Push back up to starting position by pushing off of your front foot, keeping your arms at your sides.
  • Do 12 reps on each leg for 3 sets for optimal effect.

You will feel a significant stretch in your hip flexors at both ends of one side and down into your lower calf muscles as well. The extended time under tension from doing lunges slowly will also help activate muscle-building mechanisms as well.

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