What is a hip flexor exercise? You may be reading this because your physical therapist discusses these with you or possibly from your own online research. Either way, this article is written to give you the best hip flexor exercises for runners those wanting to relieve pain, or for active lifestyles and general conditioning,
Whether you need hip flexor exercises for strengthening, stretching, or for general performance, try these exercises a few times a week at a minimum. These simple movements will help to get short and long-term relief for your entire mid-section and connected body parts.
What are hip flexor exercises? Introduction to the best hip flexor stretching exercises
Tension around your hips might affect your whole body in a negative way and ruin your workout regardless of what you are training. The most common reason for tension building around that area is spending more time seated than your body can handle. Not only is this irritating but unfortunately, it also poses a great risk of injury.
The best way to deal with stiffness in the body is through carefully chosen exercises. Let’s dive into the best hip flexor stretching exercises and remove the pain once and for all. Hip flexors are a muscle group that resides in the upper part of your thighs. This muscle group includes the following four muscles:
- rectus femoris
- tensor fasciae latae
In most cases of tightness around the thighs, it is one of these muscles that’s causing the issue, and not all of them at once. Thus, most of the exercises shared below are developed to stress on all of these muscles and free them from tension.
Hip flexor exercises are simple bodyweight multi-lateral exercises that may look a lot like yoga to you. Some of them will require you to perform repetitions, while others to remain in a certain position for a given amount of time.
Other types of hip flexor exercises contain mostly stretching techniques and yoga poses.
What are the hip flexor exercise benefits?
From allowing your legs to move more efficiently with less joint friction to enabling other muscles in your body, hip flexor exercises are something almost all of us should perform, having in mind how most people spend the majority of their day sitting in front of a computer or on a desk.
The most common benefits of hip flexor exercises are:
- They enable a better running form. Your jogging will improve.
- Reduce the risk of injury in the lower back and help you build stronger legs.
- They greatly strengthen your hip mobility.
- Can relieve lower back pain, and thigh stiffness.
Equipment to perform hip flexor stretching exercises
Do you even need gym equipment for hip flexor exercises? The short answer is no. You can perform most of these stretches without equipment. However, but you can actually purchase some low exercise resistance bands and a foam roller to help you during your workouts.
Whether it’s back tension, or you are feeling like your thighs aren’t yours, a foam roller would greatly help you stretch as there is more than one exercise you could perform with it.
Best Hip Flexor Exercises
for Runners, Athletes, Strengthening, and Stretching
Here are some of the best hip flexor strengthening exercises to relieve thigh tension.
Standard Horizontal Squat Stretch
Get on your knees, put your hands forward on the ground and simply bend your knees while maintaining a straight back.
This can be performed with both elbows touching the ground and with only your hands in this position. Both options stretch your hips, thighs, and back.
Hold this pose for up to 60 seconds, depending on how you feel.
Hip Flexor Butterfly Stretch
This is an exercise even martial artists perform while they are warming-up, because it greatly stretches the upper joints of your legs, allowing for greater mobility and speed. This is a great hip pain stretching exercise.
Sit on the ground with your legs in the front, now pull them together so that your feet can touch each other, both knees facing opposite directions. Press your ankles together with your hands and allow your knees to go up and down a few times.
While in this position, also try to move your pelvis forward and backward, which would result in some lower back warming up. Do this for 30 seconds.
Foam roller hip flexor stretches
Put the foam roller on the ground and lie on top of it face-down, with it touching the upper portion of your thighs.
You can do this with one foot or two feet at the same time, depending on how big your foam roller is. If you can perform it with both thighs on the foam roller, that’s great. If not, simply slide one leg off the foam roller and take turns with both.
Place your feet on the ground as if you were to perform a push-up. Your elbows should also be touching the ground, much like they would during a plank. Now bend your knees until they touch the ground and repeat to stretch your legs.
While you do this, you would see exactly where it hurts and you would be able to pinpoint the next best exercise for your situation. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds per set. Repeat 3-5 sets.
Knee to chest stretch
This can be performed while you lie flat on your back on the ground or while you are standing on one foot. To begin, simply lift up your knee and press it against your chest. Hold like this for a prolonged period of time up to 90 seconds. Keep your other leg relaxed.
You can even perform some of these while working in the office or at home. For example, the sitting stretch requires nothing but a chair to perform.
In order to do so, simply place one of your feet on the ground with your knee forming a 90-degree angle with your foot’s shin, then put your other leg’s ankle on top of your knee and bend it sideways. If you lower your torso forward, you will feel the stretch.
Good Morning Exercises
This is one of the best hip flexor strengthening exercises. Sometimes you feel a stiffness all along your body, and you are not sure whether the reason is your legs or your back. Good mornings are a good way of relieving the stress from both at the same time. Moreover, they are a good stretching exercise for your hamstrings which can also be stiff from sitting too much.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart and lean your torso forward while also keeping the entirety of your back flat. While doing this slightly bend your knees. Lower yourself until your torso is parallel to the floor. Then go back up and repeat. Good Mornings can be done with or without weight.
Glute Ham Raises
Sometimes our legs feel stiff due to performing too many weighted exercises. Glute ham raise exercises are a good way of building strength and muscle in your hamstrings and glutes without the use of weight.
To perform this exercise you will need to lay down on your stomach and put your calves under something heavy to hold them down. The easiest way would be to use your glute-ham partner to put some weight on the back of your calves. Then you will bring your body up from the knees to do the repetition.
These can also be done with a Back Extension Machine, almost every gym will have one of these. If you don’t have any of these, you can skip the exercise and perform a Romanian deadlift instead.
Hip flexor workout routines and hip flexor exercise examples
If you want to emphasize the flexibility of your thighs and glutes, then you could follow a flexor workout program as a secondary lower-body warm-up routine to your usual workout.
On the other hand, if you aren’t an athlete or you are not exercising regularly, then you can perform this as a separate workout, alternating rest days and workout days. It should look like this:
Table 1. Exemplary distribution of workouts and rest days
Incorporate these exercises into your warm-up routine, if you are an advanced athlete in the same way. Perform them with your warm-up every second day of the week. Feel free to skip, if you are resting on that day. These also work very well, when paired with an abs workout, since they warm up the blood in your lower abdomen and lower back.
The hip flexor stretching exercises workout should look like this:
|Exercise:||Sets / Time Elapsed per set|
|Foam roller hip flexor stretching||3 x 60 seconds (per leg)|
|Standard Horizontal Squat Stretch||3 x 60 seconds|
|Hip Flexor Butterfly Stretch||2 x 30 seconds|
|Laid Knee Chest stretch||1 x 30 seconds (per leg)|
|Good Mornings||4 x 20 reps|
|Glute Ham Raises||3 x 15 reps|
Table 2. Exemplary workout day (can also be used as a warm-up)
Advanced athletes can lower the sets to their liking and use this sequence of stretching exercises as a warm-up routine for their lower body.
Hip Flexor Exercise Form
All exercises should be performed up to an intensity where you feel a stretch or just a little pain. Don’t force yourselves if you feel a greater discomfort or ache from any of the movements. If one of these makes your lower back hurt more then you feel like it should skip the exercise.
Important note, after some of the exercises you might feel a stretch in your lower back. That doesn’t count. Don’t perform the exercises only if you feel pain during them.
Rest time between exercises
Don’t rest between sets more than you have actually been performing the exercise.
For example, if the active part was 60 seconds, don’t rest more than 60 seconds. A good balance here would be 60 seconds of exercise and 30 or 40 seconds of rest. Since this isn’t a cardiovascular exercise that requires a great amount of pump and oxygen, you can rest very little before the next set.
For the last two exercises, rest 60 seconds between sets and 90 seconds between the exercises.
Hip flexor exercises for stretching and strength
Runners need to take care of strong thighs and hamstrings, while also maintaining all minor muscles that play along as synergists with every step. There are a few exercises that simultaneously work on gaining muscle strength and increase the mobility of your hip flexor muscles.
The “good morning exercise” and the back extension, “glute ham raises” from the 6 movements above are also considered hip flexor exercises for strength.
Hip Flexor Side Steps
Side steps are a good start. To start performing the exercise, put a resistance band, with both ends at your ankles, so that your legs are placed within the resistance band. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and start stretching the band with one of your legs until you can step on the ground. Perform in one direction, then the other by alternating the stressed leg.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This is an easy hip flexor strengthening exercise for seniors but is beneficial for trying to loosen hip flexor tightness.
In order to perform this stretching exercise, you would need a bench, a chair, or a box. Kneel down on one of your legs and put the other behind you, aligning it to the box as if you were going to perform a Bulgarian Split squat. Lower your back leg, while your front quadriceps should remain parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Change legs.
Glute bridge exercises are a great way of stretching your hips and lower back while also stressing your muscles enough that they build some strength. Lie flat on your back, keep your feet on the floor and bend your knees so that your heels can touch your glutes. You should also be able to touch your heels with your fingers.
Now raise your hips toward the ceiling and squeeze your glutes while doing so. Keep your shoulders down on the ground. Squeeze and hold the position before you repeat.
Best Hip Flexor Exercises for Runners Wrap Up
These are the best hip flexor exercises for beginners through to advanced. Hip stretching and strengthening can be beneficial to everyone from those in pain to regular body fitness maintenance.
The Hip Flexor workouts above can be modified any way that you like. Feel free to adjust the order of exercises, take some out and add some in. The number of sets and times in this article are merely recommendations, but we all have different situations and fitness goals.
If you have any questions or comments on the best hip flexor exercises for back pain or anything else, please leave a message below and I will respond.