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The iliacus muscle is a crucial component in maintaining flexibility and movement in the hip area. This triangular-shaped muscle is located in the pelvic bone and is responsible for flexing and rotating the thigh bone. There are two iliacus muscles on each side of the pelvic bone, which work together to enable these movements. The iliacus muscle is part of the iliopsoas muscle group, which also includes the psoas major muscle and the psoas minor muscle.

When the iliacus muscle is underused or overused, it can lead to a variety of conditions collectively known as iliopsoas syndrome. These include iliopsoas tendinopathy and iliopsoas bursitis. To prevent these conditions and maintain optimal hip flexibility, it’s crucial to incorporate iliacus stretches into your exercise routine.

This article will discuss the benefits of iliacus stretches, provide instructions on how to do them effectively and suggest a few variations you can use.

Understanding Iliopsoas Syndrome

Iliopsoas syndrome is a term used to describe a group of conditions that can negatively impact the iliacus muscle, particularly when it is not used properly or overused. The two main conditions associated with iliopsoas syndrome are iliopsoas tendinopathy and iliopsoas bursitis.

Iliopsoas Bursitis

Iliopsoas bursitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the bursa, a cushioning sac located under the iliacus muscle that helps it glide smoothly over the pelvic bone. Inflammation in the bursa can cause pain, stiffness, and a reduction in the range of motion in the hip area. The condition can be caused by factors such as overuse, trauma, or infection.

Iliopsoas Tendinopathy

Iliopsoas tendinopathy is a condition that commonly affects dancers who repeatedly flex and hyperextend their hips. It manifests as hip and groin pain that worsens with kicking or rotation. The condition is caused by excessive strain on the iliopsoas tendon, which can lead to micro-tearing and inflammation.

The Importance of Iliacus Stretches

Incorporating iliacus stretches into your exercise routine can help prevent the onset of iliopsoas syndrome and maintain healthy hip flexibility. By regularly stretching the iliacus muscle, you can reduce the risk of injury, improve your range of motion, and alleviate any existing pain or discomfort.

Preparing for Iliacus Stretches

Before diving into iliacus stretches, it’s essential to warm up your muscles properly. Warming up helps release and flex tight muscles, reducing the risk of strains or pains during your stretching routine. Some effective ways to warm up include:

  • Light aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking or jogging.
  • Dynamic stretching, like leg swings or hip circles.
  • Foam rolling to release muscle tension.

Effective Iliacus Stretches

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Begin in a lunge position with your right foot forward and your left knee on the ground. Place your hands on your right thigh for balance.
  2. Gently push your hips forward, keeping your back straight and your left knee on the ground.
  3. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your left hip and the front of your left thigh.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose

  1. Begin in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bring your right knee forward, placing it behind your right wrist, and let your right shin rest on the ground.
  3. 3. Slide your left leg back, keeping it straight and resting the top of your foot on the ground.
  4. Keep your hips squared and facing forward. You should feel the stretch in your right hip and buttock area.
  5. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then gently release and repeat on the other side.

Butterfly Stretch

  1. Sit on the ground with your feet together and your knees bent out to the sides.
  2. Hold your feet with your hands and bring your heels as close to your body as possible.
  3. Gently press your knees down towards the ground using your elbows, feeling the stretch in your inner thighs and hips.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then release.

Seated Forward Fold

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you, feet together, and toes pointed upward.
  2. Reach your arms overhead, slowly lowering them forward, reaching towards your toes.
  3. Keep your back straight and bend at your hips, aiming to touch your toes or ankles.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings, lower back, and hips. Gently release.

Incorporating Yoga and Core Exercises

In addition to these targeted iliacus stretches, certain yoga poses and core exercises can also help to strengthen and rehabilitate the iliacus muscle. Some yoga poses that target the hip flexors and iliacus muscle include:

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Warrior I, or Virabhadrasana I, is one of the most popular yoga poses taught in classes. To start, stand at the edge of your mat and plant your left foot behind you while keeping your right foot grounded. Pointing outwards to a 45-degree angle, bend your right knee until it reaches 90 degrees with an extended straight leg trailing behind you. Inhale deeply as you reach both arms towards the sky while maintaining relaxed shoulders throughout this pose.

Settle into this pose and take a few moments to bask in the stability it brings your body. Warrior I is an incredible asana that can help you develop resilience, tone your legs and core muscles, while also aiding mental clarity. The more often you practice this posture, the simpler it will become for you to sink deeper into the benefits of Warrior I.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Low Lunge, also known as Anjaneyasana, is a fundamental yoga pose with numerous physical and mental benefits. The pose is achieved by stepping one foot forward and bending the knee at a 90-degree angle while the back leg is extended behind the torso. The hips and quadriceps receive a deep stretch in this posture while the core and arms are engaged to maintain stability. Additionally, low lunge can help to improve balance, increase flexibility, and reduce stress and anxiety levels. As a formal, conversational pose, the low lunge is an excellent way to start or end a yoga practice and is accessible to practitioners of all levels.

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana Variation)

The Crescent Lunge, also known as Anjaneyasana Variation, is a yoga posture that strengthens your legs, hips, and core while stretching your thighs and hip flexors.

Begin with a low lunge position with your left foot forward and your right leg extended behind you with your toes untucked. Your left knee should be above your ankle, and your right heel should hover just above the floor. Take a deep breath and lift your arms straight up, reaching toward the sky, while keeping your shoulders relaxed down your back. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer, inhaling and lengthening your spine while exhaling and melting deeper into the stretch.

Repeat on the other side, and practice regularly to enhance flexibility and balance.

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

One of the most beneficial yoga poses that targets the legs and hips is the Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose or Supta Padangusthasana. This pose requires lying on one’s back with one leg extended upward while holding onto the big toe with the opposite hand. This stretch not only improves flexibility in the hamstrings and calves but also helps to relieve tension in the lower back. Additionally, consistent practice of this pose can strengthen the legs and improve balance.


  • Begin in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lower onto your forearms, ensuring your elbows are directly under your shoulders.
  • Engage your core and maintain a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining proper form, aiming for 30-60 seconds.

Side Planks

  • Start by lying on your right side, with your right forearm on the ground and your elbow directly under your shoulder.
  • Stack your left foot on top of your right foot, keeping your legs straight.
  • Engage your core and lift your hips off the ground, maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining proper form, aiming for 30-60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the left side.

Russian Twists

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, and lift your feet off the ground.
  • Hold a weight, medicine ball, or simply clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Twist your torso to the right, tapping the weight or your hands on the ground next to your right hip.
  • Twist to the left, tapping the weight or your hands on the ground next to your left hip.
  • Continue alternating sides for 30-60 seconds.

Dead Bugs

  • Relax on your back with your hands stretched above you and legs bent to create a ninety-degree angle, feet lifted off the ground.
  • Activate your core and press down into the ground with your lower back.
  • Inhale deeply and gently extend your right arm away from you while simultaneously exhaling and extending your left leg in the opposite direction. Ensure that as you do this, your lower back remains firmly pressed into the floor.
  • Once you’ve finished one rep, return to the initial position and repeat with your left arm as well as your right leg.
  • Continue alternating sides for 30-60 seconds.

Bicycle Crunches

  • Relax on your back, propping up your head with your hands clasped behind it and elbows pointing outward.
  • Raise your entire body off the ground, lifting your head and shoulders and raising your feet.
  • Twist your torso and bring your right knee up to meet the touch of your left elbow.
  • As you straighten your right leg, draw your left knee to your chest and rotate in the opposite direction, allowing you to clasp easily as your right elbow meets the outside of your left knee.
  • For 30-60 seconds, perform a continuous and fluid motion of alternating sides.


In summary, the iliacus muscle plays a vital role in hip flexion and rotation, making it an essential component of our overall mobility. Incorporating iliacus stretches and exercises into your routine can prevent iliopsoas syndrome, alleviate pain, and maintain a healthy range of motion in your hip area. Remember to always warm up properly before engaging in any exercise to reduce the risk of injury, and consult with a healthcare professional if you experience persistent pain or discomfort.

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