By Jenessa Connor
Try to move without using your hip flexor muscles, and you won't get very far. Located on the front of the hip, this group of muscles allows you to pull your thighs and torso toward each other.
This simple motion is the foundation of everyday activities, like walking, sitting up, squatting, and climbing stairs, as well as athletic pursuits, like cycling, running, and kicking. That's why hip flexor exercises and stretches are an essential part of your workout routine — especially if you spend a considerable portion of your day at a desk.
“If you sit for long periods of time, then your hip flexor muscles will shorten and stiffen up," says Josh Schlottman, CSCS. “Having too tight or stiff hip flexors will create a lot of tension in your lower spine and hips." This can cause muscle imbalances, movement compensations, and, eventually, injuries.
The following list contains both hip flexor stretches — which will improve mobility and counteract muscle imbalances — and hip flexor exercises for building strength. Incorporate them into your workouts to keep your hip flexors healthy.
From pre-workout push to post-workout repair, take your performance to the next level with LADDER supplements.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Done consistently, these hip flexor stretches will alleviate feelings of stiffness and help you achieve a full range of motion in the hips.
1. Leg Swing
- Holding onto a sturdy chair, pole, or countertop, shift your weight to your left foot and raise your right leg out to your right side.
- Keeping your chest lifted, core braced, and back flat, swing your right leg back and forth in front of your left as high as you comfortably can.
- Complete all reps on one side before switching legs.
2. Half-Kneeling Posterior Tilt
- Set up in a half-kneeling position with one foot firmly planted on the ground and the other knee on the ground, so your front and back legs are both bent 90 degrees.
- Engage your abs and squeeze the glutes of your rear leg to tilt your pelvis upward, making sure to keep your front knee bent 90 degrees. You should feel a deep stretch in the front of your hip.
- Hold for 10 seconds and release. Complete all reps before switching sides.
3. Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, using a sturdy chair or wall for balance if necessary.
- Bend your right knee and lift your foot behind you, grabbing the top of it with your right hand.
- Keeping the pelvis tucked, legs close together, and the right knee pointed toward the floor, use your arm to pull the heel toward the glutes until you feel tension in the quad muscles.
- Release your leg, and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
- Stand perpendicular to a bench or stable surface with your right foot planted on it. Your hip, knee, and ankle should all bent 90 degrees.
- Push your hips forward and hug your right knee into your chest until you feel a stretch in the hip flexors of your left leg.
- Bring your right foot back down to the floor and repeat on the other side.
5. Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back, arms down by your sides. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor, bringing the heels of your feet close to your butt.
- Pull in through your navel to brace your core muscles and then squeeze your glutes to press your hips up so your body forms a straight line — no arching — from knees to shoulders.
- Keep your head on the floor and your eyes focused on the ceiling.
- Hold the position for a beat, lower your hips, and repeat.
Hip Flexor Exercises
Build lower-body power, strength, endurance with these hip flexor exercises.
1. Prison Squat March
- Stand tall with your hands behind your head, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push through your heels to come back to standing, and then immediately lift your right foot and bring your right knee in toward your chest.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the entire sequence, alternating legs.
2. Single-Leg Hip Raise
- Lie face-up on the floor with your arms by your sides, with your knee bent and the bottom of your right foot on a bench (or another immovable object), and your left foot elevated straight in the air.
- Squeeze your glutes and push through your right foot, raising your hips until your body forms a straight line from your right knee to your shoulders.
- Pause, then return to the starting position. Complete all reps before switching legs.
3. Single-Leg Circle
- Lie flat on your back on a mat with your arms by your sides, palms on the floor.
- Engage your core and bring your left leg straight up, toes pointed up toward the ceiling, so that it forms a 90-degree angle with your body.
- Keeping your core engaged, draw a half-circle with your left leg, swinging it up toward your right shoulder then down over your right leg.
- Complete the circle by sweeping your left leg out to the left and back up to the starting position, extended up away from your body. Focus on keeping your pelvis and shoulders planted to the mat throughout this exercise.
- Complete all circles with your left leg before switching to your right.
4. Standing Leg Raise
- Stand tall with your hands on your hips and feet shoulder-width apart.
- With your weight on your right foot, slowly lift your left leg straight out in front of you, as high as you comfortably can. Keep your core tight and your left foot flexed; don't bend your knees, and avoid rotating your ankle outward.
- Lower your foot back down to starting position. That's one rep. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other.
5. Bulgarian Split Squat
- Stand facing away from a bench, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm's length by your sides. Place the toes of your left foot on the bench behind you.
- Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground (don't let your left knee touch it). You should be far enough away from the bench so that when you lower down, your right knee should be directly in line with the ankle.
- Pause, and then push back up to the starting position. Do equal reps on both legs.