Head to Toe: Cockpit Hip Flexor Stretch

Kayaking is a great workout for your lower body if you’re paddling effectively under the deck by rotating the hips and pushing hard on those foot pegs with every stroke. But while the lower posterior chain is actively engaged, some of the anterior muscles — most notably the hip flexors — are used far less and don’t endure their full range of motion. This stretch on shore is a great way to relieve the tightness and get some mobility back into those hips.

The hip flexors are a collection of muscles comprised of the inner hip, parts of the quadricep muscle group (thigh), and parts of the thigh related in function and structure to the gluteal muscles (butt). People with sitting jobs, like bus drivers and desk workers, are more likely to have tight hip flexors to start with. The consequences are compromised posture, tightness and discomfort in the front of the hips, and even problems with the lower back.

Stabilize yourself by holding onto the cockpit combing. Get your knee as far back in the seat at possible. Lean forward and stretch the hip.

The cockpit of your kayak offers a great platform to perform a variation of the “couch stretch”, which is a method for getting your leg into nearly full flexion and opening the hips.

  1. Stand next to your boat at the cockpit.
  2. Leaning forward and using a hand on the cockpit combing to stabilize yourself, kneel the leg closest to the boat as far back as you can on the seat.
  3. Keeping the outside leg vertical and squeezing the glute in your cockpit to stabilize your lower back, drive your hips forward and raise your upper body to stretch the quad and hip flexors.
  4. Gradually bring your upper body to a fully upright position if you can. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Repeat on the other side.

Bring your torso upright and really stretch out the hip.

You might feel a bit of discomfort from the stretch, particularly if the muscles are tight. Stop immediately if you feel sharp or burning nerve pain.

Employ this stretch every time you get out of your boat to undo the tightness that comes from hours of sitting. Unlike stretching on the beach or the shore, you won’t scuff up your drysuit or get yourself covered with sand.


  • Starrett, K., & Cordoza, G. (2015). Becoming a supple leopard: The ultimate guide to resolving pain, preventing injury, and optimizing athletic performance (2nd ed.). Las Vegas: Victory Belt Pub.

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