Your hip flexors are an often-overlooked yet overused muscle group that plays a pivotal role in your endurance training and strength training performance. Paying more attention to secondary muscle groups such as your hip flexors, can impact your training in a big way. We’re going to talk more about the hip flexors, how to develop more strength, and the impact they can provide on your training performance.
What Are Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are a small group of muscles that attach from your anterior or front of your pelvis, to your femur and are responsible for keeping your pelvis properly aligned and flexing the hip. The hip flexors are needed for full hip extension during strength training movements such as the squat or deadlift. The hip flexors are also needed for every basic human movement or functional movement in your lower body.
Sitting all day and being sedentary can lead to tight hip flexors and weakness in the hip muscles, which can lead to muscle imbalances and injury. Strengthening and stretching your hip flexors can bring several benefits to your functional strength training as well as improve overall quality of life. Believe it not, pain in your Achilles, hamstrings, knees, or even pain in your iliotibial band may be the culprit and originate in your hip flexors.
Hip Flexor Muscles
The hip flexors consist of 5 key muscles that contribute to hip flexion: psoas major/minor, psoas, iliacus, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius. The psoas major and minor are long and thick, spindle or tapering shaped muscles that originates at the side of the spine and inserts at the femur. The psoas muscle contracts when the hip is flexed. The iliacus is a triangular shaped sheath that connects the ilium bone to the lesser trochanter.
Hip Flexor Pain
Sitting or being sedentary can contribute to tight hip flexors. This is a very common issue experience by those that sit for long hours at work.
Athletes can also experience hip pain from overuse and overtraining. Runners often exhibit pain in the knees, hips, and iliotibial band, that originates from having tight hip flexors and poor posture.
Exercises For Hip Flexors
We’ve listed some of the best hip flexor exercises, to help strengthen your hips and provide better mobility.
Reverse Lunge To High Knee Lift
- From a standing position, look straight ahead and take a generous step backward with your right foot. Keep your trunk upright throughout the movement.
- Bend your extended knee and transfer your weight onto your right leg. Continue to lower yourself slowly into the lunge until your left knee hovers just above, or softly touches, the floor. Your right knee should be directly above your right ankle.
- Step back into a standing position and move past the original starting pointing bringing your knee up to a 90 degree angle. Pause, then repeat with your left leg in front after a set of 10-12.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent in at a right angle and a neutral spine.
- Wrap a tension band around your feet, keeping tension throughout the exercise.
- Extend one leg and slowly bring the leg back, then repeat on the other side.
- Complete 1-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian-split squat is a single-leg squat variation. Compared to a traditional barbell squat, it removes all the pressure and load from your lower back, and places it directly into your legs. The stabilizing leg of the Bulgarian split-squat is elevated behind you, which allows greater range of motion and depth, to achieve greater muscle hypertrophy, and strength gains in your glutes and quadriceps. Bulgarian split squats are key for not only building a bigger barbell back squat, but for building quadriceps and glutes, midline stability, and it offers an awesome range of motion movement for the hip flexors.
- Start with your feet hip-width apart. with the right foot forward and the left foot placed back behind the body on a bench or box that is about knee-height, or just below knee height.
- Keeping your shoulders stacked directly above your forward-facing hips, begin to descend into a lunging position. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands in a vertical position hanging on each side of your body.
- Keep your back straight while lowering your left knee towards the floor
- Go as low as you can while still ensuring your chest is staying open and the front knee is not protruding out in front of your toes.
- When your left knee lowers, press your right foot into the ground, pull back on the right knee, and push the top of the left foot into the box to return to standing.
- Lie on the floor with your legs straight and arms by your sides.
- Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle. Plant your right foot on the floor.
- Engage the quadriceps muscles in your left leg, inhale, and lift the left leg to about a 45-degree angle, keeping the leg straight.
- Hold for three to five seconds.
- Exhale and slowly lower the left leg to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times before switching legs.
Mountain climbers are an extremely effective ab exercise. Held in a plank position, mountain climbers are essentially planks with a cardio element combined into one movement. Mountain climbers benefit weight loss, burning more body fat, increasing strength, and improve core stabilization.
- Start in a push-up or high plank position, engage your core, glutes, and quads. Drive your left knee in towards your chest on the outside the arm, quickly jump or step it back, alternating legs, driving your right knee towards your chest outside the arm.
- Continue alternating for thirty seconds.
- Make sure to keep your shoulders in line with your wrists and effectively contract your core. Perform this movement for thirty seconds and complete a set of 5-6 sets.
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