The Figure Four Stretch. How to do it RIGHT.

figure four stretch hip external rotation hip flexion stretching Aug 23, 2022
Figure Four Stretch

The Figure Four Stretch is a VERY popular exercise.  And for good reason.  Done right, this stretch is a great tool to lengthen the glutes and stabilize the hip flexors. 

I put "done right" in bold and italics for a reason.  Many people do this stretch wrong.  In this post, I'll demonstrate what the most common mistake looks like and how you can avoid it. 

I'll then demonstrate how to do this exercise correctly.  Enjoy!  

Common Mistake in Figure Four Stretch 

The figure four stretch is a hip rotation exercise, not a pelvis rotation exercise.  If we allow the pelvis to rotate during the exercise then we are losing the desired effect of this awesome stretch. 

The pelvis needs to stay neutral throughout the duration of the exercise.  Here are a few helpful images of the pelvis in a rotated position (bad) and in a neutral position (good). 

For some, this will click automatically and it will be easy to keep the pelvis in a neutral position.  For others however, especially those with hip  pain and movement imbalances, this will be difficult despite understanding the correct form. 

No worries! There is an easy way to modify this exercise to ensure your pelvis remains in a good position. 

Better Position in the Figure Four Stretch 

The easiest way to keep the pelvis in a neutral position in the figure four stretch is by simply placing a towel under the low back.  For most people, this will keep the pelvis in a good position throughout the duration of the exercise. 

Once again, here are some helpful images to illustrate the modification. 

And that's it!  Just keep in mind that the exercise might feel a little weird at first.  This is especially true if you are used to doing this stretch with a rotated pelvis. 

My advice is to take is slow and not try to get too much range of motion at first.  Instead of fighting for more range, try to get the pelvis as neutral as possible. 

For a follow along of this exercise, watch the YouTube video I linked at the top of the post.  

Closing Thoughts 

The principle in this post applies to all exercises targeting the hips.  Any time we are working on rotation of the hips, it is crucial that we pay attention to what the pelvis is doing. 

Some of you might discover that your pelvis is ALWAYS rotated.  During exercise or even during daily life.  This is how compensation and imbalance is showing up in your body. 

If you suffer form hip and low back pain or just experience general stiffness in these areas, this is an important discovery.  

What you do with this information is important.  There may be an urge to "fix" the pelvis right NOW.  But, it doesn't work that way.  The pelvis became rotated after years and years of how your body interacts with your environment. 

The solution?  Bring your body back into balance everyday.  With the figure four stretch but with many other exercises that bring balance and function back to the whole body. 

To get an idea of what a daily movement practice can look like, sign up for my Free Hip Starter Course.  It's a great way to start bringing balance and function back to the hips as well as the rest of the body.