The hip flexors often do not get much attention but strengthening could align with your training goals. Find out what cable machine exercises can help with this.
This list of movements is somewhat small because the hip flexion movement the hip flexors are responsible for can only be done in so many ways.
That being said, by doing these exercises consistently and with the right repetitions, resistance, nutrition, and rest, you can see great results in hip flexor size, strength, and endurance.
1. Lying cable hip flexion
Three of these four cable machine hip flexor exercises require an ankle strap attachment. The lying cable hip flexion is one of these. Take the following steps to do this movement:
- Set the cable pulley close to the ground, select the desired amount of weight, attach the ankle strap, and preferably put a soft surface like a yoga mat in front of the machine.
- Put the strap around one ankle and lie down with your legs toward the cable machine at a distance where there is already some tension on the strap. You can put the other foot flat on the ground and your arms by your sides for balance.
- Slowly move the knee of the leg with the ankle strap toward your chest as far as comfortable.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg to avoid muscle imbalances.
If you really want to work your hip flexors and nothing else, the lying cable hip flexion is likely the right exercise for you.
By lying down on your back, you barely have to pay attention to balance and any other muscles. In turn, this can lead to a better workout and better mind-muscle connection with the hip flexors you work.
You do still get a tiny bit of inner and outer thigh muscle engagement to keep your upper leg vertical throughout the range of motion. However, this engagement is negligible.
2. Cable machine sit-ups
Cable machine sit-ups are the exception that does not require an ankle strap. Instead, you preferably have a double-rope handle or crunch harness.
Once you have the right equipment, take the following step to do the exercise:
- Set the pulley close to the ground, select the desired resistance, attach a double rope handle, and put a yoga mat in front of the pulley.
- Lie down in front of the cable machine with your head just a bit before the pulley. Put your feet flat on the ground. Reach behind you to grab the cable handle and hold the ropes against your upper chest or above your head.
- Slowly curl your upper body up and forward. Start with your shoulders, then the middle of your back, and finally your lower back until you reach your knees with your chest.
- Roll down your upper body by following the sequence of step 3 in reverse. Keep your movements controlled.
Similar to regular sit-ups, the cable machine version works your abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
One important thing to note is that bodyweight sit-ups will already be challenging for many people. The cable-resisted version will be for individuals more experienced with resistance training.
So if you are relatively strong, tired of the more standard hip flexor exercises, and want to work a few more muscles, you could consider cable machine sit-ups.
3. Standing cable hip flexion aka knee drives
Besides a cable machine and ankle strap, you want something stable to hold for balance to do this next exercise. In the gym, something like an incline bench could be perfect.
Once you have these things, take the following steps to do a standing cable hip flexion, also known as resistance knee drive:
- Set the cable pulley close to the ground, select the desired weight, attach the ankle attachment, and put a stable object a step or two away from the machine.
- Strap on the ankle attachment and take a step or two forward to hold the stable object. Turn your body away from the cable machine so you work the hip flexors in the next step.
- Let your leg follow the pull of the cable as far as comfortable. To get a bigger range of motion you can consider tilting your hips a bit forward if you don’t have any back issues.
- Slowly raise the knee of the leg with the ankle strap to your chest as far as comfortable.
- Return the leg back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.
Doing standing cable knee drives instead of the lying hip flexion could slightly increase the range of motion of your hip flexors. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
At the same time, this small extra positive effect will likely be undone by the extra attention to staying balanced.
If you want to combine some balance training with your hip flexor training or simply prefer the standing hip flexion, you can definitely do this version.
4. Cable-resisted hip flexion hold
Lastly, you can also consider doing the static hold versions of both the lying and standing cable hip flexions.
As the name implies, this comes down to holding the position at some point (that is not the starting position) during the movement.
Isometric, aka static, exercises like this can be helpful for individuals who find moving their thighs back and forth a lot painful.
The downside is that cable-resisted hip flexor holds will generally be less effective for growing and strengthening the hip flexor muscles.
At the same time, the isometric versions of the hip flexions can still be helpful for improving muscle endurance in your hip flexors.