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Hip flexor exercises target the muscles that help to bend your hip joint and bring your knee toward your chest.
These exercises can help strengthen and improve the flexibility of the hip flexors, which play a crucial role in activities like walking, running, cycling, climbing stairs, and even sitting down.
Hip flexor exercises can help alleviate discomfort and tightness in this area, often caused by prolonged sitting or overuse. They are valuable in enhancing lower body stability and range of motion and can benefit athletes and individuals seeking to maintain healthy hip function.
What are the Hip Flexors?
The hip flexors are muscles in the front of the hip and upper thigh region. They help with the flexion of the hip joint, which means they help bend your hip and bring your thigh closer to your torso.
The primary hip flexor muscles include:
The Iliopsoas has two muscles: the psoas major and the iliacus.
The psoas major originates in the lower spine and attaches to the upper part of the femur or thigh bone.
The iliacus lies in the pelvic region and also attaches to the femur.
- Rectus Femoris
It is one of the four muscles in the quadriceps group at the front of the thigh.
In addition to extending the knee, the rectus femoris also plays a role in hip flexion.
It is a long, thin muscle that runs from the outer hip to the inner knee.
It assists in hip flexion and is involved in various leg movements.
- Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL):
The muscle is on the side of the hip.
It assists in hip flexion and abduction or moving the leg away from the body’s midline.
Best Hip Flexor Exercises for Hip and Pelvic Stability
Hip flexor exercises help to maintain hip and pelvic stability and provide the mobility needed for leg movements.
Below are some of the best hip flexor exercises to include in your training regimen.
The lunge is one of the best hip flexor exercises.
Lunges are excellent exercises for engaging and strengthening the hip flexor muscles.
The forward lunge, in particular, involves hip flexion of the front leg as you step forward and then return to the starting position. The action engages the hip flexor muscles, particularly the psoas major and iliacus muscles, to lift and control the movement of the leg.
Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is an effective exercise for targeting and engaging the hip flexor muscles, specifically the rectus femoris, one of the quad muscles that also function as a hip flexor.
You elevate your back leg on a bench or platform and lower your body into a lunge position when you perform a Bulgarian split squat. That requires the front hip to flex, activating the hip flexors.
It is worth pointing out that the Bulgarian split squat primarily targets the quads and gluteal muscles. However, the elevated position of the back leg places a significant demand on the hip flexors. Thus, it is one of the excellent hip flexor exercises for improving strength and stability.
Banded Hip March
The Banded Hip Marches involve placing a resistance band around your ankles or just above your knees and then lifting one knee at a time toward your chest while standing at the same place or marching forward.
This movement directly engages the hip flexor muscles as they work to lift the knee against the resistance of the band. Thus, the banded hip march is one of the excellent hip flexor exercises for strengthening the muscles and improving their mobility.
Aside from the hip flexors, the exercise can help strengthen your glutes and core muscles.
Required equipment: Resistance band, a sturdy anchor point, e.g., a pole or post or a door anchor for the band
Steps to follow
- Attach one end of the resistance band to a sturdy anchor point or use a door anchor to secure it at about waist height.
- Stand facing the anchor point and put the other end of the resistance band around your ankles or just above your knees.
- Stand with your feet at hip-width, keeping tension on the resistance band.
- Tighten your core muscles by pulling your navel toward your spine to stabilize your lower back.
- Lift one knee toward your chest while maintaining resistance in the band. The action engages your hip flexors.
- Keep your standing leg slightly bent and your back straight as you lift your knee.
- Hold your knee in the lifted position briefly to engage your hip flexors further.
- Lower the lifted leg back to the floor under control, but don’t let it touch the ground to maintain tension in the band.
- Repeat the movement with the other leg, lifting the opposite knee toward your chest while maintaining resistance in the band.
- Continue to alternate between legs in a controlled and deliberate manner.
- Aim for a specific number of repetitions or time duration, depending on your fitness level and goals.
- Release the band from your ankles or knees after completing the desired reps or time.
Resistance Band Leg Raises
Resistance Band Leg Raises can help target and strengthen the hip flexors. This exercise involves using a resistance band anchored to a stationary object or your foot to add resistance to the leg raise movement.
They are some of the best hip flexor exercises for targeting the psoas major and iliacus muscles.
Required equipment: Resistance band, a sturdy anchor point (optional)
Steps to follow
- Attach one end of the resistance band to a sturdy anchor point or secure it around your foot.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs extended straight and your arms by your sides.
- Loop the other end of the resistance band around your foot or ankle on the same side as the band’s attachment point.
- Engage your core muscles.
- Lift the leg with the resistance band while keeping the opposite leg on the floor.
- Raise your leg as high as possible against the band’s resistance while maintaining control and stability.
- Lower the leg back to your starting position with control.
- Repeat the exercise for the desired repetitions, then switch to the other leg.
Pilates Leg Circles
Pilates Leg Circles engage the core muscles, improve hip mobility, and strengthen the lower abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and inner thighs.
The exercise requires you to lift one leg off the floor and perform controlled circular motions with that leg. You actively engage your hip flexors to help with the leg’s movement, helping to strengthen and improve their mobility,
Regularly performing Pilates Leg Circles can help improve hip flexor strength and flexibility, making them valuable hip flexor exercises to a Pilates regimen or a broader fitness program for enhancing hip function and core stability.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back with your legs extended straight and your arms by your sides. Keep your palms facing down and engage your core muscles.
- Raise one leg off the floor, keeping it straight. The other leg should remain on the mat.
- Begin to make small, controlled circles with the lifted leg. The movement can be clockwise or counterclockwise, but keep them precise and controlled.
- Focus on keeping your core engaged to stabilize your pelvis and lower back throughout the exercise.
- Coordinate your breath with the leg movement. Inhale as you start the circle, and exhale as you complete it.
- Reverse the leg’s direction to make circles in the opposite direction after a set number of movements.
- Lower the lifted leg to the floor and switch to the other leg, performing the same number of circles in both directions.
The Pigeon Pose is not primarily an exercise for strengthening the hip flexors but a yoga pose that focuses on stretching and opening the hip muscles, including the hip flexors.
It is an effective stretch for improving hip flexibility and can benefit people with tight hip flexors or hip discomfort due to prolonged sitting or physical activity.
While Pigeon Pose is more geared towards flexibility and mobility, it can indirectly help improve the health of the hip flexors by reducing tightness and promoting a better range of motion in the hips.
Steps to follow
- Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Lift your right knee off the floor and slide it toward your right wrist. Angle your right knee toward your right hand.
- Extend your left leg straight behind you, keeping your hips level. Extend your left leg behind you, with your toes pointing away from your body.
- Your right shin should ideally be parallel to the front edge of your mat, but this may vary depending on your flexibility.
- Square your hips as much as possible, ensuring your right hip is not lifting off the floor. You should feel a stretch in your right hip and buttock area.
- You can slowly walk your hands forward and lower your upper body toward the ground, bringing your forearms to the mat or resting your forehead on your hands if you are comfortable and want to deepen the stretch.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes, focusing on deep breaths and relaxation.
- Press into your hands, lift your upper body, and slide your right knee back, returning to the tabletop position to exit the pose.
- You can repeat the Pigeon Pose on the other side by switching your legs, bringing your left knee forward, and extending your right leg behind you.
Seated Leg Lifts
Seated Leg Lifts are excellent hip flexor exercises for targeting and strengthening the hip flexor muscles.
This exercise engages the hip flexors as you lift your legs off the floor while seated. They are one of the best hip flexor exercises for improving strength and endurance in the area.
Steps to follow
- Sit on a sturdy chair or bench with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on the sides of the chair or bench for support.
- Lift both legs off the floor by flexing your hip flexor muscles while keeping your knees together.
- Raise your legs as high as you comfortably can while maintaining control.
- Lower your legs back to your starting position with control but without allowing your feet to touch the floor.
- Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.
Bicycle Crunches target the hip flexors, the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscle, and the obliques on the sides of your abdomen.
Bicycle Crunches require hip flexion to bring the knee toward the chest, actively engaging the hip flexor muscles. That makes them excellent hip flexor exercises for your training regimen.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back with your hands placed lightly behind your head, elbows pointing outward.
- Bend your knees and lift your feet off the ground, creating a tabletop position with your legs.
- Simultaneously move your right elbow toward your left knee while straightening your right leg as if pedaling a bicycle.
- Engage your core and lift your upper back off the floor as you do this, bringing your left shoulder toward your right knee.
- Repeat the movement, alternating sides, as if pedaling a bicycle.
- Continue this pedaling motion, moving your elbows and knees in opposite directions while maintaining core engagement.
Mountain Climbers are some of the best hip flexor exercises for engaging and strengthening the muscles.
The exercise involves bringing your knees toward your chest in a running-like motion while in a plank position. The repeated hip flexion action actively engages the hip flexors.
Aside from strengthening the hip flexors, mountain climbers can improve cardiovascular endurance and core stability.
Steps to follow
- Start in a push-up position with your hands on the ground, directly under your shoulders, and your legs extended straight behind you.
- Engage your core and keep your body, from head to heels, in a straight line.
- Lift your right knee toward your chest as if preparing to run.
- Quickly switch legs, bringing your right leg back to its starting position while bringing your left knee toward your chest.
- Continue alternating legs quickly and under control as if climbing a mountain or running in place.
The Bridge exercise primarily targets the gluteal muscles, lower back, and hamstrings. But it can also help to stretch and relax the hip flexors to some extent.
The Bridge movement is a hip extension, where you lift your hips off the floor by contracting your glutes and lower back muscles while keeping your hip flexors in a more extended position. That can provide some relief for individuals with tight hip flexors.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
The Standing Hip Flexor Stretch is a stretching exercise designed to increase flexibility and alleviate tightness in the hip flexors.
The stretch can help improve the range of motion in your hip area and reduce discomfort caused by tight hip flexor muscles.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright with your feet at hip-width.
- Step back about two to three feet with one foot, and keep that foot pointing forward.
- Bend your front knee and lower your hips toward the floor as if performing the lunge exercise.
- Keep your back straight and your chest up as you sink into the stretch.
- You should feel a stretch in the front of your hip and thigh of the back leg.
- Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat.
The Knee-to-Chest Stretch is one of the best hip flexor exercises for improving flexibility in the hip area and relieving tension in the hip flexor muscles.
It is primarily a stretching exercise that targets the hip flexor muscles by gently elongating and relaxing them.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back, on a comfortable yoga mat, or on the floor.
- Keep your legs straight and your arms by your sides.
- Slowly bend one knee and bring it toward your chest, keeping the other leg extended.
- Use your arms to gently pull the bent knee closer to your chest, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor.
- Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other leg.
- You can repeat this stretch a few times on each side to increase flexibility and relaxation in the hip flexors.
Benefits of hip flexor exercises
Hip flexor exercises offer several benefits for your health and well-being.
Improved Hip Flexibility
Hip flexor exercises can help increase the flexibility of the hip joint and surrounding muscles.
That can help enhance your range of motion and reduce the risk of stiffness or discomfort.
Enhanced Hip Strength
The exercise can help target the hip flexor muscles, making them stronger.
The increased strength can improve your performance in activities that involve hip flexion, such as walking, running, and cycling.
Many hip flexor exercises require engaging your core muscles to maintain proper form.
That can lead to better core strength and stability, essential for posture and balance.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Strengthening the hip flexors and surrounding muscles can help stabilize the hip joints.
That can help reduce the risk of injuries or strains, especially during physical activities.
Alleviation of Lower Back Pain
Some people experience lower back pain, especially in the lumbar spine, due to weak or tight hip flexors. (1)
Hip flexor exercises can help alleviate the discomfort by improving the functioning of the muscle.
Enhanced Athletic Performance
Improving hip flexion strength can help boost your sprint and agility performance. (2)
Thus, athletes and even untrained people can often benefit from hip flexor exercises. They can help in movements like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.
Better Functional Mobility
Improved hip flexor strength and flexibility can make everyday activities like bending, squatting, and getting in and out of a car more manageable.
Hip flexor exercises can be part of a rehabilitation program for individuals recovering from hip or lower body injuries.
They can help them regain strength and mobility.
Including hip flexor exercises in your fitness regimen can contribute to a well-rounded workout program. That can help promote balanced muscle development and general fitness.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Incorporating hip flexor exercises into your fitness regimen can help you build stronger hip joints. It can also help improve mobility, enhance posture, and reduce the risk of hip-related discomfort or injuries.
Whether you are a seasoned athlete aiming to boost your performance or someone looking to maintain hip health for daily activities, hip flexor exercises offer a path to better and improved well-being. They can lead to greater strength, mobility, and improvement in your life.