8 Strengthening Hip Flexor Exercises for Seniors

As we age, our bodies go through many changes. We may not be as flexible as we once were, and our muscles may not be as strong, leading to increased fall risk and injury potential, not to mention bone breakage. This is why hip flexor exercises for seniors and older adults are so important.

Hip flexor strain is one of the most common sports injuries, but you don’t have to be an athlete to deal with it. Seniors and people who spend a lot of time sitting down may also deal with it – if they allow their hips to become too tight.

hip flexor exercises for seniors

Importance of Hip Flexor Exercises for Seniors

The hip flexors are a muscle group that helps to lift your legs and bend your hips. These muscles can become weak and tight, which can lead to pain in the hips, knees, and lower back.

hip flexor strain anatomy image

Regular physical therapy targeted at the hip flexors helps stretch and strengthen the muscles, which can improve your mobility and reduce hip or back pain.

Ultimately, it becomes easier to perform all your daily activities since the hip joint is responsible for your range of motion and keeping your body stable while walking, using stairs, and standing.

Strong hip flexors are also important for maintaining good posture and core stability and help reverse the effects of sitting.

Before you strengthen your hip flexor muscles, it’s best to stretch them to ensure they’re relaxed.

Great Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises for Seniors

If you want to make sure you’re targeting the hips in your exercise regimen, try these excellent hip exercises. If you’re experiencing difficulty in balance, perform exercises in a seated position, or have a chair with feet resting nearby for support.

Clam Exercise

Clam Shell
  1. Lie on your side and bend your legs at the knee. Keep your hips and shoulders in line.
  2. Place your hand on your lower hip to help keep your pelvis stable.
  3. Keep your feet together, and slowly raise your top knee as high as possible while keeping your hips level.
  4. Maintain the stretch for at least 3 seconds. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides.

Hip Marches

hip marches illustration
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift a knee up as high as you can safely do so, making sure to keep your thigh parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold for a few seconds. Lower your leg back down.
  4. Repeat with the other leg.
  5. Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.

You can also perform this exercise sitting if you’re worried about balance.

Hip Flexor Stretch Edge of the Table

Hip flexor stretch edge of table
  1. Lie flat on your back on the edge of a table or other flat surface. Let your knees and legs hang off the edge of the table.
  2. Grab one of your legs at the knee and pull it toward your upper body while letting the other leg hang naturally until you feel a deep stretch in your leg and hip muscles.
  3. Maintain your position for roughly 15 to 30 seconds then release. Repeat up to four times.
  4. Switch sides.

Note: To make the exercise more challenging, try raising both legs at the same time or adding a resistance band as you raise both legs.

Hip Extensions

The hip extension exercise helps to open your hip joint so you get a bigger angle between your pelvis and thigh. Hip extensions use your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and adductor magnus posterior head.

Straight Leg Raises
  1. Lie on your back on the ground. Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat.
  2. Put your hands on the ground next to you.
  3. Extend your right leg straight up towards the ceiling. Keep your left knee bent with your left foot flat on the ground.
  4. Slowly lower your right leg back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times before switching to the opposite side.

Standing Hip Abductors

This exercise not only helps your hips but can improve your core strength and make it easier to walk.

standing hip abductor
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips.
  2. Keep your pelvis level and slowly lift your left leg out to the side.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat with the right side.

To modify this hip abduction exercise: Hold on to a chair or the wall, and lift your leg up behind you.

Half Bridges

14. Bridge
  1. Lie on your back. Bend both knees. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Put your hands on the ground beside you for support.
  3. Slowly raise your hips off the ground, contracting your core muscles, glutes, and hamstrings as you do so. Keep your shoulders on the ground.
  4. Hold this position for a second before slowly lowering your hips back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Note: To make the exercise more challenging, try adding a resistance band around your thighs.

Pigeon Pose

This is a yoga pose that stretches your hip flexors and lower back. If you have a knee injury, existing hip issues, or lower back pain, you may want this pose unless otherwise recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.

Pigeon Hip Stretch
  1. From a tabletop position, bring your right knee forward to rest just behind your right wrist, extending your left leg back.
  2. Lower your hips toward the floor, keeping your front shin perpendicular to the exercise mat.

Note: If you’re feeling it in your back hip muscles, place a block underneath your right hip.

Mini Squats

Mini Squats are a great place to start if a full squat is a challenging exercise. As you get used to the mini, you can progress to a full squat.

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your upper body and back straight, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground as if you were going into a seated position. Stop when your knees are at a 45-degree angle. Engage your core and glute muscles.
  3. Hold the position for a moment, then raise yourself back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times.

Note: For an added challenge, try holding some lightweight in your hands while you perform the mini squats. If you deal with poor balance, you can use a sturdy chair with feet to help keep yourself steady.

How Often Should You Exercise Your Hips?

Ideally, you’ll perform hip stretches for seniors at least once a day. If you’re feeling especially tight or spend a lot of time sitting, stretch your hips two to three times a day, and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. In addition to hip strengthening exercises, a senior exercise program should also include a variety of other moves to enhance core strength and balance.

This will ensure you maintain hip strength as you age, allowing you to live an active lifestyle for as long as possible.

Photo of author

Dr. Kristina DeMatas

Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Read bio.


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