When I started running again after my fourth baby was born, my hips would feel strained during the run and very sore after the run. I felt like they were so weak and needed some strengthening. I found that the right stretches along with targeted hip workouts, specifically for strengthening hip flexors, were all I needed.
What are hip flexors?
Many people have never thought of their hip flexors as being muscles they need to work out and strengthen. Hip Flexors are the group of muscles near the hip joint. They are responsible for creating motion in the hip or the flexed movement when you bring your leg and knee up towards your torso. They help you perform many different movements that are made every day, like bending over to pick something up or standing up from a sitting position.
Your hip flexors are constantly working. They work along with other muscles in the body (like neck, shoulder, core, and lower legs) to help maintain stability and good standing posture. There are four main category’s of hip flexor muscles depending on where they are located around the hip joint — adductor, gluteal, lateral rotator, and iliopsoas.
These muscles can be weakened by a variety of things including living a sedentary lifestyle, injury, trauma (even pregnancy and childbirth), or sitting for long periods of time (thanks COVID). It’s important to keep them flexible and strong.
How do I strengthen my hip flexors?
Because of the many movements our body makes in a normal day, it’s so important for our hip flexors to stay strong, loose, and flexible. These hip muscles can become weak or tight from being in a seated position for a prolonged period of time. They may become stiff after working out and not warming up properly. Sometimes a fall, injury, or even pregnancy and childbirth can cause problems with the hip flexors feeling strained or unstable.
There are multiple ways to stretch or strengthen your hip flexors. It is possible to restore the flexibility and strength in your hip flexors. Just like any other muscle, it needs to be stretched regularly and worked out regularly to be strengthened. Incorporating these stretches or workouts into your regular routine will help your hip flexors stay strong to support you in an active lifestyle and throughout the rest of your life.
The Top 5 BEST workouts to strengthen and exercise the hip flexors
These hip flexors workouts are the BEST if you:
- Live an active lifestyle and want to add hip flexor workouts to your routine
- Are looking for workouts to strengthen your hip flexors
- Need to strengthen your hip flexors for running or another sport
HIP FLEXOR EXERCISES
Incorporate as many of these hip flexor workouts as you feel you can do. These will help improve your flexibility, strength, and warm up those muscles as well as reduce injuries.
1. Forward Lunges
Forward lunges are a simple and great exercise to strengthen the muscles around the hip which help the hip flexors stretch and lengthen so you can get more hip extension.
How to do the forward lunge:
- In a standing position, place your feet hip-width apart.
- With hands on your hips, take a big step forward with your right foot, making sure the heel makes contact with the floor first.
- Bend the knee forward to lower down into the lunge until the knee is over the ankle and the thigh is parallel with the ground. Keep your shoulders back and abs pulled in on your way down.
- Pushing off the floor with the right foot and using your hamstrings and glutes, step back into the stand position.
- Repeat with left foot and alternate sides doing 5-10 repetitions building up to more.
If you need the easier version or lighter stretch of the forward lunge exercise, CLICK HERE.
2. High knees
Practicing high knees regularly enhances muscular stamina and endurance in the hip flexors to help you maintain proper form for other activities such as running, biking, or hiking.
How to do high knees:
- While standing with your feet hip-width apart, raise your right knee to your chest or as high as you can.
- Bring your right foot down to the floor and repeat with your left leg raising your left knee to your chest.
- Continue alternating legs rapidly at running or sprinting pace for 30-60 seconds.
- Start with three repetitions and work up to more.
3. Controlled Mountain climbers
This exercise is called controlled mountain climbers because they are done at a slower and more controlled pace to purposefully open the hips. Mountain climbers are done in in the plank position and has the motion of rock climbing promoting greater stability in the back and hips.
How to do controlled mountain climbers:
- Begin in a push-up position or in a regular plank. Make sure feet and hands are set shoulder-width apart.
- With hands planted on the ground, pull your right knee toward your chest.
- Return to plank and do the same motion of pulling your left knee toward your chest.
- Start slowly at first paying attention to form. Don’t arch your back, keep it straight and hips aligned.
- Start slowly with 5 to 10 repetitions then work up to more at a quicker pace.
4. Clamshell Exercise
Clamming is a well-known Pilates exercise that improves strength in your hips, glutes, and thighs and builds strong hip rotation. It is a great exercise because after mastered, you may use a resistance band if a harder workout is desired.
How to do the clamshell exercise:
- Lay on your side with your legs on top of each other and knees bent slightly. Put a resistance band around lower thighs if desired.
- Rotate the top knee up as high as you can so that it points at the ceiling; pause for a second or two.
- Lower the top leg back down. Make sure to keep the feet on top of each other and not to roll back on the bottom hip.
- Start with 10 reps (up and downs) on each side and work up to more.
5. Donkey kicks
Doing donkey kicks as a regular exercise is an excellent way to strengthen and tone your hips and glutes. There are many variations, but the basic donkey kick is enough to strengthen the hips and muscles around the hips.
How to do donkey kicks:
- Get down on all fours comfortably by positioning your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart with knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Lift your right knee back and kick upward, keeping your knee bent and foot flexed as you kick up. The bottom of your foot should face toward the ceiling.
- Lower your knee back to starting position without touching the floor.
- Repeat the donkey kick about 10 times then switch legs. Work up to more reps.
A Few Last Tips:
Remember to start slow if there is an injury or strain. Don’t push too hard, but build up your flexibility and reps as you get stronger. Overtime, you WILL feel a difference. I know I felt much stronger in my running, especially when I started doing longer distances. My hips and legs felt more stable, I was able to recover faster, and reduce injuries.
It’s very important for our hip flexors to stay strong, loose, and flexible. Let me know how these stretches and workouts worked for you!
Are you looking for the top 5 BEST simple stretches for the hip flexors? CLICK HERE if you:
- Are a beginner
- Haven’t been regularly stretching
- Need to warm up your hip flexors before a workout
- Are looking to increase your flexibility
- Have a hip (or close muscle area) injury or strain and need to start slow
- Have just had a baby or another big physical event
HERE you will find the top 5 BEST in depth hip flexor stretches including lunge stretches, butterfly, simple yoga poses, and more!