Say Goodbye To Weak Hip Flexors With These 5 Movements | livestrong.com

Weak hip flexors can be just as harmful as tight ones.

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Many of us, especially if we sit all day, have tight hip flexors, the muscles on the front of the hips that pull the knee toward the chest. Stretching them can help, but it’s also very common for the hip flexors to be weak. And the only way to help them is to strengthen them.

We explain how to distinguish and share our favorite exercises to strengthen these important muscles.

What are the hip flexors?

The five hip flexor muscles are the iliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius. These muscles are responsible for hip flexion, which occurs when you lift your leg in front of your body (such as when walking or kicking) or pull your knee toward your chest.

The hip flexors are long muscles that connect the spine, pelvis and femur. This means they have a big impact on posture and performance. It’s important to identify tight and/or weak hip flexors and take steps to address these issues if you want to move well and feel good.

How to know if your hip flexors are tight or weak

Many people have tight hip flexors from many, many sittings. When we sit all day, our hip flexors are constantly flexed and can shorten. Chronically tight hip flexors are a piece of anterior pelvic tilt, a postural problem in which the pelvis is constantly tilted forward.

It is also very common for our hip flexors to be weak. This usually happens because we haven’t spent enough time developing leg, core and hip strength in a full range of motion.

Not everyone has both close AND weak hip flexors. It’s important to test your hips to determine whether they need to be stretched, strengthened, or both.

A simple test called the Thomas Test can identify tight hip flexors. You’ll need a massage table or bed high enough for your legs to hang down without touching the floor. It’s also helpful to sign up (or work with a friend) so you have a clear view of what’s happening to your hips.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your lower legs hanging over the edge of a massage table or bed.
  2. Grab one knee with both hands and pull it towards your chest.
  3. If the opposite leg lifts off the table, the hip flexors are tense.

You can use a similar test to assess your hip flexor strength.

  1. Stand upright with both feet on the floor.
  2. Grab one knee with your hands and pull it towards your chest.
  3. Release your hands and try to hold your knee in the same position for 10 seconds.
  4. If you can’t keep your knee still, your hip flexors are weak.

If you struggle with balance, you can hold onto something or perform the same test while lying on a massage table or bed.

5 exercises to strengthen the hip flexors

What should you do if you have determined that your hip flexors are weak? We’ve got you covered with the five exercises below, try incorporating them into your lower body workouts.

Many of these exercises use a mini band to work the hip flexors more. It’s best to stick to lighter mini bands instead of trying to go as heavy as possible.

It’s important to note that the hip flexor muscles never work in isolation. So, to truly maximize hip flexor gains, it’s important to perform exercises where the hip flexors work in tandem with your core and/or lower body muscles.

This means you can also strengthen your hip flexors using a full range of motion on lower body exercises like squats, Romanian deadlifts, split squats and lunges. Focus on bending your hips as much as possible without rotating your pelvis or rounding your spine.

The dead bug is a basic exercise performed on the back. You use your hip flexors to keep one knee bent 90 degrees as you extend the other leg away from your body. The hip flexors also help stabilize the pelvis to prevent extension of the lower back.

There are many different ways to do dead bugs using different exercise equipment. Placing a mini band around your feet can make any variation more challenging on your hip flexors.

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  1. Wrap a mini band around the tops of your feet.
  2. Lie on your back with your arms extended over your chest, legs rolled off the floor, and knees bent at 90-degree angles. Your hips should be leaning back and you should be pressing your entire back into the floor. Point your toes straight up.
  3. Take a deep breath, then exhale and slowly extend one leg away from your body. Keep the opposite leg as still as possible, resisting the pull of the mini band. Do not allow your lower back to arch or lift off the floor as you extend your leg.
  4. Finish the repetition by inhaling and slowly returning to the starting position. Alternate sides and repeat until you complete 6-12 reps on each side.

Mountain climbers are another combined core and hip flexor exercise. Flex your hips and pull your knee toward your chest while maintaining a strong plank stance. Place a mini band around your feet or use sliders to increase the strain on your hip flexors.

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  1. Wrap a mini band around your feet or place a pair of sliders under your toes.
  2. Start in a push-up plank position with your arms fully extended and your legs behind you. Point the belt buckle towards your chin and reach your hands across the floor to establish a stable central position.
  3. Begin the movement by pulling one knee towards your chest. If you’re using a mini band, you’ll lift this foot off the floor. If you’re using a slider, push your toes into the ground as you lift your knee. Resist hip rotation and don’t round your lower back.
  4. Finish the repetition by slowly extending the leg behind you. Alternate sides and repeat until you complete 6-12 reps on each side.

The march helps strengthen the hip flexors while also working on balance and core strength.

There are many different gear variations. You can do a bodyweight walk or hold weights in your hands or on your chest. You can move forward or stay still. And you can choose to emphasize your hip flexors by placing a mini band around the tops of your feet, or leave it on for a more natural feel.

Whichever variation you choose, focus on lifting your knee as high as possible without rounding your back or tilting your hips from side to side.

  1. Wrap a mini band around the tops of your feet.
  2. Start standing with both feet flat on the floor. Punch with both hands to create core tension if you’re not holding weights.
  3. Begin the movement by lifting one foot off the floor. He brings that knee to his chest. Don’t allow your leg to swing back or your hips to move from side to side.
  4. Keep the bottom side leg extended and actively grip the floor with your toes to help with balance.
  5. Finish the repetition by lowering your foot to the floor in a controlled manner.
  6. You can alternate sides or do all reps on one leg before switching. Perform 6-12 reps on each side.

This is a challenging exercise for people looking to build serious hip flexor and quadruple strength. It requires you to use your hip flexors while keeping your legs as straight as possible.

Start by lifting one leg at a time and work your way up to both legs when you feel ready. Experienced trainees can up the ante by lifting their legs over an obstacle such as an upright dumbbell or kettlebell.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your arms extended so your hands are on the floor outside your thighs. Point your toes out in front of you.
  2. Lift one or both legs off the floor. Keep your toes pointed and legs as straight as possible.
  3. Finish the rep by returning your legs to the floor. Perform 6-12 total reps.

Tip

To make seated leg raises more challenging, place a dumbbell or kettlebell upright on the floor beside your legs. Lift straight legs up and over the hurdle, moving back and forth until you complete 6-12 reps on each side.

One last exercise that can smoke your hip flexors is the hanging leg raise. This exercise also requires a significant amount of grip, core and upper body strength, so it’s not recommended for beginners or people with shoulder injuries.

  1. Hang on a pull-up bar with your arms and legs fully extended.
  2. Enter an active block by pulling the shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Slowly pull your knees towards your stomach. It’s okay for your lower back to round up slightly at the top, but don’t use too much momentum or swing.
  4. Lower your legs to their fully extended position in a slow and controlled manner. Repeat until you have completed 6-12 repetitions.
  5. To make the exercise more challenging, straighten your legs until you’re able to lift your toes toward your head with your legs straight.

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