Workouts can offer you impressive benefits but what are some strength exercises you can do for stronger hip flexor muscles?
Your hip flexors are a group of muscles that brings your thighs forward and upward toward your upper body. Like with most muscles having weak hip flexors can lead to a wide variety of negative consequences.
You can do some of these exercises with body weight alone but if you are somewhat serious about training your hip flexors it is likely worth it to invest in ankle weights or resistance bands.
Ankle weights are weighted straps you can put around your ankles. A resistance band is an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that is basically an elastic cord.
Both of these pieces of fitness equipment allow you to make many of the hip flexor exercises below more challenging. In turn, this can lead to more and faster hip flexor muscle strength increases.
Keep in mind that even though there are many benefits, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance.
You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
1. Straight leg raises
For this first hip flexor exercise, you preferably want a soft surface like a yoga mat to do the exercise on. To do a straight leg raise with one leg take the following steps:
- Lie down on your back with the foot of one leg flat on the ground and that leg at about a 90-degree angle or smaller at the knee. The other leg is stretched and lies on the ground.
- Slowly raise the stretched leg upward until its upper leg is in about the same position as the upper leg of the folded leg.
- Lower the stretched leg back into starting position in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.
One benefit of doing one side at a time is that you can really focus on getting the movement right. One side at a time can also help you resolve any muscle imbalances.
2. Slow resisted high knees
In the high knee exercise, you basically run in place while lifting your knees high with each step.
To focus more on the hip flexor strengthening and less on the cardio aspect you want to do a slow version, preferably with extra resistance.
Initially, bodyweight high knees may be challenging enough. That being said you will likely soon need ankle weights or resistance bands to make the high knee exercise challenging enough for more hip flexor strengthening.
With ankle weights, you simply do the standing-up version with this piece of equipment strapped on.
With resistance bands, you can also do high knees while lying on the ground if you can anchor your resistance bands somewhere low and around your ankles.
3. Mountain climbers
To do two mountain climbers take the following steps:
- Start with your face facing the floor on your hands and knees.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. This means that your knees will be off the ground and that you are resting on your hands and feet.
- Move the knee of one leg forward to your chest as far as you comfortably can. Keep your back straight throughout the movement.
- Return that leg to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same movement with your other leg.
Similar to the high knees exercise you can do mountain climbers slow and resisted to focus more on strengthening your hip flexors.
Again ankle weights and resistance bands are the best tools to make this exercise harder for your hip flexors.
Compared to bodyweight high knees, bodyweight mountain climbers are easier for your hip flexors and harder for your core muscles. Depending on your training goals this can be an advantage or disadvantage.
4. Hip flexion
Hip flexion is basically the movement of bringing your thigh forward and upward to your upper body.
By doing this movement more and against more resistance with for example a cable machine you can strengthen your hip flexors.
You can do hip flexions lying, seated, and standing. Simply move your thighs forward and upward toward your body. Due to the laws of physics doing hip flexions with straight legs will be harder than with bent legs.
Which option is the best depends on your personal situation and training goals.
Ankle weights will mainly be helpful for the standing and seated variations. Good resistance bands can make all three variations more challenging.
For step-ups you will need a stable object strong enough to stand on. A plyo box, a stepper, and even some weight benches are examples of suited objects for step-ups.
If you have one, take the following steps to do a step-up:
- Stand upright in front of the object facing toward it with your feet at shoulder-width.
- Raise one foot and put it on the surface of the object. Make sure your sole is entirely on the surface.
- Raise your body by exerting pressure with the leg of the foot that is on the object.
- Put your second foot next to the other one.
- Step down with the first foot.
- Step down with the second foot.
- Do a repetition with the other foot first.
The main part of the exercise that focuses on your hip flexors is bringing your leg up. Basically the only way to make this part more challenging for your hip flexors is to wear ankle weights.
One of the benefits of step-ups is that they are also a great exercise for strengthening a wide variety of leg muscles. On top of that, they also help you train your balance.
If you only want to focus on your hip flexors, some of the other options on this list are likely a better idea.
Walking lunges are a great bodyweight leg compound exercise. The upward movement of your legs in each step also targets your hip flexors a nice amount. To do two walking lunges take the following steps:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Take a big step forward so that you get into a position where both of your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Your front foot should be flat on the ground and your back foot should only touch the ground with the ball of the foot (front).
- Move your back foot forward and get into the same position as step 2 but with your other foot in the front.
Similar to step-ups, lunges will target other leg muscles a lot too. To focus more on hip flexors you want to really pay attention to raising your upper leg a lot in each step.
Again ankle weights are the ideal way to make this exercise more challenging for your hip flexors.
7. Raised knee hold
The raised knee hold is just that, you raise your knee and hold it in that position for an extended amount of time. You may benefit from having a sturdy object to hold on to for balance.
This raised knee hold is an isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot.
On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.
Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that the other isotonic exercises on this list are likely better exercises for strengthening your hip flexors a lot.
One benefit the raised knee hold has over some of the other options is that you can use a wide variety of free weights to make this exercise more challenging.
For example, you can raise your knee and hold a dumbbell on your upper leg with your other hand.