4 Best Exercises for Hip Flexors (Strengthening Routine)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 8, 2023
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Since hips are essential for everyday movements like walking, running, and climbing stairs, weak and tight hip flexors can significantly deteriorate your quality of life.

As a certified personal trainer, I’ve noticed that weak hips are a common setback for many of them.

However, the good news is that weak hips aren’t irreversible, as the right exercises can fix them. In this article, we’ll take you through six of those exercises that have worked the best for my clients.

Let’s begin.

Quick Summary

  • To strengthen and improve the flexibility of hip flexors, incorporate exercises like bridges, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and seated straight leg raises into your fitness routine.
  • The article emphasizes the importance of combining both strengthening and stretching exercises for optimal hip flexor health rather than focusing solely on stretching.
  • A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website demonstrates that specific exercises like the modified single-leg bridge and lunges significantly improve muscle strength and balance in the lower limbs, highlighting their effectiveness for hip flexor conditioning.
  • My experience has shown that a consistent routine of targeted hip flexor workouts leads to noticeable improvements in my clients' hip strength and mobility.

Best Hip Flexor Exercises

A woman doing hip flexor exercises

Here are our top four hip-strengthening exercises.

1. Bridges

Bridges primarily target your glute muscles, but you can modify them to work on your hips.

According to one of the studies found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, a modified single-leg bridge with 135° of knee flexion on the dominant side may allow more optimal training of the glutes than the traditional position since the biceps femoris is less likely to be the limiting muscle of the exercise [1].

In my experience as a personal trainer, bridges have been incredibly effective for strengthening not just the glutes but also the hip flexors. I've seen clients improve their hip mobility and strength significantly by incorporating this exercise into their routines.

Here’s how:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms straight and by your sides, palms facing down.
  2. Lift your hips off the ground while engaging your core muscles and squeezing the glutes until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds while focusing on pulling your knees towards your chest (this will activate your hip muscles).
  4. Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position, and repeat for reps.

2. Lunges

Lunges are an excellent lower-body exercise that also emphasizes a hip flexor stretch. Another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website demonstrated that the lunge effectively improves muscle strength and balance in the lower limbs [2].

Lunges have been a staple in my training programs, especially for clients looking to strengthen their hip flexors.

The forward motion and the stretch it provides have helped many of my clients improve their hip flexibility and overall lower body strength.

Here’s how to get your hip flexors really involved with the lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Take a big step forward with your left foot, and lower yourself till your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee directly above your ankles.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds while squeezing the right glute and pulling your right hip forward (this will engage the hips).
  4. Push off with your left foot back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for reps and switch to the right leg.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat

A woman doing Bulgarian Split Squats in the gym

The Bulgarian split squat might be a little challenging for beginners, so we recommend this exercise for intermediate and advanced lifters. I often recommend the Bulgarian split squat to my more advanced clients.

It's a challenging exercise that really targets the hip flexors and provides a deep stretch, which is great for improving hip mobility.

Steps:

  1. Stand facing away from a bench with your feet about hip-width apart and your knees bent.
  2. Extend your right leg behind you and place the top of your right foot flat on the bench, with the right knee slightly bent.
  3. Step forward with your left foot, and lower your body down by bending the left knee, keeping your right leg extended behind you and firm on the bench.
  4. As you lower yourself, squeeze your left glute and pull your left hip forward to engage the left hip.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds while focusing on your hip flexor.
  6. Push off with your left leg and return to the top. Repeat for reps.
  7. Switch legs, and do the same.

Also Read: Best Adductor Exercises

4. Seat Straight Leg Raises

The seat straight leg raise is perfect for beginners because it’s friendly on the knees. Seat straight leg raises are a great starting point for beginners in my training sessions.

They're gentle on the knees and effectively engage the hip flexors, which is perfect for those just starting their fitness journey.

Here’s how to perform it:

  1. Sit on a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your left leg straight out and keep the foot flexed.
  3. Hold your legs straight and extended in that position for a few seconds, and focus on the hip muscles.
  4. Lower your leg back down and repeat for reps.
  5. Do the same for the right leg.

Stretching Your Hips

A woman stretching her hips outside

In many cases, painful hips could be a result of muscle tightness. In such cases, I highly recommend hip flexor stretches.

Here’s how you do a proper hip flexor stretch:

  1. Kneel on the floor.
  2. Bring your left leg in front of you so your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee is bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Keeping the right knee on the floor, bend your weight forward until you feel a stretch on the front right thigh and groin area.
  4. For an even deeper stretch, raise your right arm overhead and turn to the left slightly. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Read More: Stretching Exercises for Beginners

Should I Stretch Weak Hip Flexors?

No, you should not stretch weak hip flexors.

In many cases, you can achieve good hip mobility through strengthening exercises.

In my experience with training clients, stretching a weak muscle only makes it weaker. That’s why strength training for both women and men is an integral part of mobility training.

“Hips play an important role in knee alignment, so strengthening your hips can also improve knee and leg pain.”

- Dr. Christopher R. Boone, Orthopedic Surgeon

Working Out Safely

A woman stretching out her hips safely

Like any other muscle, your hips need proper care and consideration to strengthen and become more mobile. So, here are some safety tips to make the most out of your hip workout:

  • Warm up properly: Warm up with a brisk walk and dynamic stretches to get your blood flowing for exercising.
  • Use proper form: You can easily damage a weak muscle by working out with the poor form. Working out with proper form means lower intensity and lighter weight till you get better with the movement.
  • Proper recovery: Ensure you recover your hip muscles with lots of rest, a healthy diet, and a good protein supplement.

FAQs

What Is the Best Exercise for Hip Flexor Pain?

The best exercise for hip flexor pain is a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises. If your hip pain is due to weakness, the psoas march will help. If the pain is due to soreness, perform a supine hip flexor stretch.

What Are the Symptoms of Tight Hip Flexors?

Symptoms of tight hip flexors include changes in gait and posture, knee pain, hip pain, and back pain. You may also experience difficulty with walking, bending, and standing.

Does Walking Strengthen Your Hip Flexors?

Yes, walking strengthens your hip flexors. But it’s not as effective as doing compound movements that strengthen the hip muscles.

Is Cycling Good for Hip Flexors?

Yes, cycling is good for hip flexors. Make sure your legs are fully extended at the bottom of the pedal for full hip engagement.

How Do Sedentary Lifestyles Affect Hip Flexor Health?

Sedentary lifestyles, particularly prolonged sitting, can lead to weakened and tightened hip flexors, contributing to issues like lower back pain and poor posture. Incorporating specific stretches and strengthening exercises can counteract these effects and improve hip flexibility and strength.

What Are the Best Hip Flexor Exercises for Athletes?

For athletes, exercises that enhance hip flexor strength and flexibility are crucial for improving performance and reducing the risk of injuries. Dynamic stretches and strength-building exercises like lunges and leg raises are particularly beneficial for athletes to maintain optimal hip flexor health.

How Can Yoga and Pilates Benefit Hip Flexors?

Yoga and Pilates are excellent for strengthening and stretching hip flexors, with specific poses and movements targeting these muscles. Poses like the pigeon pose in yoga and leg lifts in Pilates can significantly improve hip flexor flexibility and strength.

What Is the Role of Hip Flexors in Posture and Back Health?

Strong and flexible hip flexors are vital for maintaining good posture and overall back health, as they help stabilize the pelvis and lower spine. Regular exercises that target the hip flexors can prevent common issues like lower back pain and improve postural alignment.

How Should Hip Flexors Be Rehabilitated After an Injury?

Rehabilitating hip flexors after an injury should involve a gradual progression of exercises and stretches, focusing on gentle movements to avoid further strain. It's important to start with basic stretches and slowly incorporate strength exercises as the muscles heal and regain flexibility.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5534144/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9311947/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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