Best Hip Flexor Exercises to Improve Strength and Flexibility
A generation ago, few people worried about tight hip flexors. Workers spent less time sitting at desks, fewer minutes behind a wheel, and screens consisted only of television and computers that were little more than video typewriters. But in today’s sedentary culture, where sitting takes up much of the workday and leisure time, tight hip flexors have become an epidemic. You need targeted hip flexor exercises.
When the hip flexors are tight, the body shuts down the glutes and makes the hamstrings less efficient. The glutes, which act in tandem with the hip flexors, deactivate from too much sitting. Tight hips lead to lower back pain and cause the knees to overcompensate, which leads to knee issues. Some knee and hip replacements have their origins in tight hip flexors. Fortunately, it’s easy to compensate for a sedentary, hip-tightening lifestyle with these 10 hip flexor exercises that strengthen, stretch, and stabilize.
1. Glute Bridge
Here’s one of the best moves to loosen the hip flexors and improve the activation patterns of the glutes. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent 90 degrees and feet on the floor. Squeeze your glutes and bridge your hips to the ceiling. Only your shoulders and feet remain on the ground. Hold for two seconds, then lower your hips toward the ground without touching. Repeat for a total of 10 reps.
2. World’s Greatest Stretch
Dubbed the “world’s greatest stretch” by prominent trainer Mark Verstegen 20 years ago, this full-body move hits everything, and is a good measure of how tight your hips are. Start by stepping forward into a lunge with your left foot. Place your right forearm to the ground and your left elbow to the inside of your left foot and hold the stretch for two seconds. Then, place your left hand out-side of your foot and push your hips up, pointing your front toes up. Return to a standing position and repeat by stepping out with your right foot. Continue alternating sides for a total of 10.
3. Knee Hug
From a standing position, lift your right knee to your chest and grab below the knee with your hands. Pull the right knee as close to your chest as possible while squeezing your left glute. Return to a standing position and repeat on the other side. Alternate for 10 reps per side. This move stretches your hip flexors, along with your glutes and hamstrings.
4. Mountain Climbers
Like a mountain climber working a wall, you’re using the hip flexors and abs to “climb.” Start in pushup position, with the balls of your feet on the ground. Alternate driving your knees forward to their corresponding arms for 30 seconds. Keep your hips down for the entire motion for a set of 30 seconds.
5. Romanian Deadlift
You can measure progress in the RDL by hip mobility. Without it, you won’t go far. But as you improve, you’ll gain a larger range of motion. Start with a light set of dumbbells, held with an overhand grip at thigh level. Keeping your spine straight and knees slightly bent, push your hips back and slowly lower the weights toward your feet. Then, press your hips forward to a standing position. Form is especially key to getting the full benefit from the RDL. Don’t think of the exercise as bending forward but rather as pushing back with your hips, then moving forward instead of staying upright.
6. Quadruped Rocking
This is an effective way to mobilize the hips while also working the lower back. Get down on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Pull the belly button in toward the spine while maintaining a natural curve in the low back. Move the hips backward until you start feeling the pelvis rotate. Return to the starting position and continue for 10 reps. You should be able to breathe normally. Try to hold the pelvis still throughout the range of motion.
7. Straight Leg Raise
This improves hip mobility and stability. Lie on your back on the ground with your legs straight and arms at your sides. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze the quads in your left leg and, while keeping it straight, lift it to a 45-degree angle. Hold for three seconds. Repeat the sets on one side and switch legs.
8. Pigeon Pose
This familiar yoga move is one of the best hip openers, though it takes some practice. From a plank position, bend your right knee. Lift your right foot and draw the right knee toward the right elbow, as if stepping between your arms. But instead of placing your foot on the ground, rotate your right knee out, resting it on the ground just outside your right hand. Hold for a five count, then switch legs.
9. Squat Holds
This strengthens the hip flexors while also testing your quads. Squat and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on your ability, for the prescribed number of reps. Think in terms of sitting your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. The back should be erect and straight, not hunched.
10. Sumo Squat to Hamstring Stretch
Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the waist, and grab your toes. Drop your hips to the ground, lift your chest, then pull your hips forward until your torso is vertical. While maintaining a flat back, push your hips up and back until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.