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The Best Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT November 11, 2020 0 Comments

woman hip exercise

The most common issues that lead to hip flexor strain involve overuse and muscle imbalances. Luckily, hip flexor strengthening exercises can help you achieve regular movement and optimal muscle balance. Knowing the right exercises to do is important to prevent aggravating your hip pain. Keep reading to learn about strength exercises for hip flexor strain.

Warm-Up Hip Exercises

Some gentle warm-up exercises for the hip can help you ease into your strengthening program with less stiffness. Other options for warming up the hips include walking, a seated pedal exerciser or recumbent bike.

Standing Hip Abduction

Use a chair or wall for balance. Then, shift your weight into your left leg so that your right leg is free to move. Keeping the toes and kneecap pointing forward, kick your right leg out to the side as far as you can go comfortably without leaning the trunk sideways. You should feel the group of muscles in the side of the hip working. To make it harder or clear your foot more easily, you can stand on the edge of a balance foam pad or step.

Complete 15-20 times for 2-3 sets, then switch to the opposite leg and repeat.

Standing Hip Extension

Grab a chair or wall for balance to complete this exercise. Again, shift your weight into your left leg so that your right leg is free to move. Keep the abs tight and extend the hip backwards as you squeeze your butt. Stay upright, don’t let your hips or trunk lean forward. Again, you can stand on a box or foam pad for an extra challenge. Switch to address both legs.

Complete 15-20 times for 2-3 sets on each leg.

Hip Rotation Stretch

Stand near a counter or chair for balance. Shift your weight to your left foot so that your right leg is free. Then, lift your knee up toward your chest until your thigh is parallel with the floor and the knee is bent to 90 degrees. Next, bring your knee outward as you rotate the hip as far as possible. Finally, return your foot to the ground. Keep the range of motion comfortable and repeat on the opposite leg when ready.

Repeat for 15-20 repetitions on each leg for 2-3 sets.

More Hip Stretches

Hip-Strengthening Exercises

When choosing hip-strengthening exercises for addressing hip flexor strain, it is most important to address the opposing muscle groups like the hip abductions and extensors. These exercises will help restore balance to the hip while also potentially stretching the hip flexors at the same time. You can make any of the warm-up exercises a strengthening exercise too by adding ankle weights or a resistance band around the ankles.

Try These Yoga Poses to Open Up Hips

Lateral Leg Raises

Lie on your side for this one. Make sure your hips are stacked directly on top of each other and the abs are tight to prevent excessive wobbling in the trunk. Keep the bottom knee bent for stability. Then, lift the top leg up toward the ceiling while keeping the toes and kneecap pointing forward (not up toward the ceiling). Go as high as is comfortable before returning to the starting position. You will feel this in the side of your hips.

Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets on each leg.

Bridges for Glutes

Lie on your back with the feet slightly wider than hip width to start. Tighten the abs and keep the back flat as you lift the butt up off the floor as high as you can comfortably go. Squeeze the butt as you lift and hold for 3-5 seconds at the top. Then, slowly return to the starting position. To stretch the hip flexors while doing this exercise, experiment with bringing the feet closer together until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip muscles as you lift and hold. The closer the feet are together the strong the stretch will be. To progress this exercise, you can place your feet on an exercise ball.

Repeat 15-20 times for 2-3 sets.

Straight Leg Raise

This exercise specifically addresses the hip flexor muscles and can feel a little sensitive at first with a strain so start slowly. Lie on your back with the leg you will be working out straight, bend the opposite knee for stability. Then, tighten the abs and top of the thigh as you lift your entire straight leg up toward the ceiling. Go as far as is comfortable, making a goal of being able to lift it parallel to your opposite thigh. Return to the starting position slowly. Consider adding ankle weights for added resistance when you feel ready.

Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets.

Side-Lying Hip Adduction

Lie on your side with the top knee bent and foot placed flat on the ground either behind or in front of the bottom thigh, whichever is most comfortable. Then, tighten your abs and bring your toes towards the shins as you lift the bottom leg up toward the ceiling. Hold for 2-5 seconds before returning slowly to the floor. You should feel this in the inner thigh. Add ankle weights as needed for further resistance.

Repeat 15+ times for 2-3 sets on each leg.

What Causes Tight Hips?

The hips can get out of balance easily when participating in the same activities over and over again. This is why sports like running and cycling can lead to tight hip flexors and imbalanced weak hips. Often, when the hip flexors are overused, opposing the group of muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, and abdominals can become weak. A balanced strength program can help combat this.

Learn more about tight hip flexors here.

The Benefits of Hip Strength

Hip strengthening provides many great benefits, these include:

  • Increased blood flow for healing
  • Improved endurance and power for daily activities or sport
  • Pain relief for the lower body, hips, lower back, quad muscles, hamgstrings, and lower leg
  • Reduced hip stiffness- particularly after long bouts of sitting
  • Great paired with a consistent hip stretching program or yoga program
  • Improved overall quality of life

Tips for Strengthening Hips Flexors

A good hip strengthening program comes down to addressing every muscle group efficiently in the hip muscles and trunk. Keep these tips in mind for maximizing your exercises.

  • Stretch before exercising (Try these hip stretches)
  • Use your symptoms to decide when you need to modify and when you can progress
  • Practice pain relief strategies to improve tolerance for your program with tools like the foam roller or self-massage.
  • Pay close attention to your posture when completing hip exercises
  • Try adding a core exercise program to your routine as tolerated to maximize results
  • As you feel more comfortable with these basic exercises, you can build to more coordinated movements like lunges and squats
  • Consult with a physical therapist if you aren’t making progress or need guidance as to where to start

How Often Should I Exercise?

  • Hip strengthening should be a regular part of your exercise routine. 
  • For moderate to severe pain, start slowly and exercise more frequently. 
  • With time, focus more on maintenance to ensure benefits of strengthening and exercising.
  • Making sure to keep up with a program at least 2 times per week
  • Consider physical therapy for guidance tailored to your needs.

Seeking Professional Guidance

If you’re experiencing severe or persistent pain in your hips we always recommend seeking medical or professional advice to prevent unnecessary pain and receive treatment specific to your needs.

Sources:

https://www.self.com/gallery/best-hip-strengthening-exercises

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=bo1616

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/fitness-hip-flexor-stretches

Hip Flexor Pain Products

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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