Tight or injured hip flexors can greatly impact our day-to-day lives.
Simple movements like walking, sitting, or jumping can become a chore. Further, tight hip flexors can lead to worse injuries when you don’t stretch or exercise them properly. If you suffer from tightness in your hip flexors or are recovering from an injury, you could benefit from the following hip flexor exercises and stretches.
What Are Hip Flexors
A hip flexor is a muscle located at the front of the thigh that helps extend the leg. It can become tight or strained if you don’t stretch regularly. Stretching exercises are recommended to prevent injury and improve flexibility.
The primary hip flexors are called the psoas major and the iliacus muscle. They are muscles located at the front of the hip joint. These muscles help us bend our knees, stand upright, walk, run, jump, squat, etc. If these muscles become weak or injured, they can cause pain and discomfort during everyday activities.
Causes Of Tight Hip Flexors
Tight or weak hip flexors are caused by poor posture or repetitive movements. They can also be caused by injuries such as sports-related strains or tears. If tightness or hip flexor pain persists, it may indicate other issues like arthritis or sciatica.
There are many reasons why tight hip flexors can occur. Some common ones include:
- Poor posture
- Sitting at work or school all day long
- Lack of exercise
If you have any of these issues, you should see a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine. They can help you with exercises and hip stretches that will loosen those muscles, so they don’t cause pain.
The Benefits of Training Your Hip Flexors
A strong hip flexor can help you perform better at sports or everyday activities like climbing stairs. It also helps prevent injuries such as pulled muscles and torn ligaments. Keeping your hip flexors strong is greatly beneficial to hip mobility and flexibility.
Improved Hip Mobility
A tight hip flexor often presents itself as a weak one. Sitting for long periods can keep your psoas muscles in a shortened position, which creates tight hip flexors. Strengthening the hip flexors will improve your hip mobility and strength, which will lead to better hypertrophy (muscle growth) potential.
Reduced Lower Back Issues
Hip flexors are responsible for connecting the lower and upper body. If they become tight and stiff, the hip flexor muscles can pull the lower back forward, which can cause anterior pelvic tilt, putting you at risk for lower back pain and injury.
How to Warmup Your Hip Flexors Before Your Work Out
If you want to get stronger, faster, or more flexible, then you have to warm up before doing any exercise. This means warming up with some light stretching and mobility exercises first. It also means warming up your muscles by gently moving them through their range of motion. This helps prevent injury and increases performance by increasing blood flow to your muscles.
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel down with one knee on the floor.
- Put the arm of the same side up straight and slightly back.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and then release.
- Do this stretch at least 3 times on both sides to stretch your hip flexors.
Hip Flexor Exercises
I’ve compiled a list of the best hip flexor exercises to strengthen and loosen your muscles. None of these workouts should cause severe pain. If they do, contact your physician. Discomfort is normal when working out, but don’t go overboard, as you may risk injury. Take each exercise at your own pace.
Having Babies Hip Exercise
Doing this exercise will help not only strengthen your hip flexors but it adds an extra workout to your core and tricep muscles!
- Put the elastic band above your knees and sit back on your elbows.
- Put your feet together.
- Raise your hips to whatever height you can and push the knees outward.
- Hold the position for two seconds.
- Return to your starting position.
- Repeat this movement 15 to 20 times.
One of the best exercises for stretching your hip flexors and pelvic muscles is the bridge exercise. This exercise is also great for toning the glutes.
- Lie down with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent.
- Put your arms by your sides and slowly lift your hips to make a ‘bridge.’
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, keeping your shoulder blades and neck on the ground and your glutes and abs engaged.
- Lower your hips back down.
- Repeat 15 to 20 times.
For an additional challenge, you can use place a resistance band above your knees.
Done effectively, a lunge is a very effective hip flexor stretch. They are an excellent stretch for elongating the muscle and improving mobility.
- Stand upright.
- Place your hands at your hips.
- Take a step forward using your right foot and put your foot flat on the floor.
- Lower your hips so that your left leg is parallel with the ground.
- Ensure your knee is above your ankle.
- Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle, so it is pointed toward the floor.
- Return to your original position.
- Perform a set of 10-20 reps on each leg.
Straight Leg Raise
Straight Leg Raises are a simple exercise you can do at home. It’s great for strengthening your hip flexors without putting too much strain on your muscles.
- Lie down flat on your back.
- Bend your knee and put your left foot flat on the ground.
- Extend your other leg straight out.
- Raise the leg to the level of your bent knee while keeping it straight.
- Repeat 10 times for each side.
This resistance band exercise works the gluteus medius effectively while engaging your hip flexors. This is an easy workout to perform at home.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms straight in front of you.
- With the band above the knee, raise both feet.
- Arch your back and begin opening and closing your legs.
- Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
Mountain Climber Exercise
You can perform this classic exercise at home or in the gym. It’s great for getting the blood pumping and working out your pelvic and abdominal muscles. Breathing is essential in this exercise. Make sure you’re not overdoing it.
- Begin in a push-up position.
- Bring your right knee to your chest. Try to lift it as high as you can while maintaining balance.
- Keep your back and neck aligned and straight.
- Switch to your left knee.
- Do 10-15 repetitions.
Squats are an amazing exercise that opens up your hips and tones your leg muscles. They’re a great workout for your hip muscles, knees, and core strength. Be sure to take it easy if you begin to feel pain.
- Stand upright.
- Bend your knees and lower your body toward the ground, so you’re in a seated position.
- Go back to the standing position.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times, depending on your physical ability.
Scissors are a common exercise used by personal trainers and physical therapists. They’re an excellent exercise that strengthens that core and works the hip flexors. Done effectively, you’ll definitely feel sore after this one!
- Lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides or under your glutes.
- Extend your legs out straight in front of you.
- Begin twisting your legs in and out above each other, keeping your core engaged.
- Keep your back flat on the mat.
- Do four sets of 30 seconds, depending on your physical ability.
Clam Shell Hip Exercise
The clamshell exercise can be performed using a resistance band if you need an extra challenge. This exercise effectively loosens and strengthens all of your thigh and hip muscles.
- Lay on your side.
- Bend your legs at a 45-degree angle.
- Rest your head on your lower arm.
- Engage your abs.
- With your feet still touching, raise your upper knee.
- Avoid lifting your lower leg off the floor.
- Hold this position for three seconds.
- Perform 20 reps for each side.
The scorpion exercise tones your gluteal muscles and improves hip mobility. This exercise is effective with or without a resistance band.
- Start in a plank position with your resistance band over the knees and your back arched upward.
- Push each leg up one at a time back and up, engaging your glutes.
- Do 10 to 15 reps on each side.
If you have ever had hip flexor pain, then you know how uncomfortable it can be. The hip muscles are one of the largest in our body. It is very common for people to ignore this muscle group because they think it doesn’t matter. However, working out your hip flexor is essential if you want to keep your back healthy and avoid injuries.
As a sports medicine doctor, I can vouch for these hip flexor stretches and exercises. Done correctly and consistently, your hip flexors will be thanking you in no time!