Many people today spend hours and hours sitting each day either at work, in the car, on the couch, or at a show. All this sitting can cause your hip flexors to become weak and tight. Many people default to doing lots of stretches to get rid of their tight hip flexors, when really many times this tightness is because they are weak. If you are one of those people who keeps stretching and foam rolling their hips and not noticing much of a difference then these exercises could be a game changer for you.
Hip Flexor Strength Test:
Stand tall, and pull one of your knees as far as you can to your chest with both hands, then slowly let go of your knee with both hands and try and hold this position for 10 seconds. Does your knee stay in the same exact spot after you let go? Or does it drop down a few inches? Or does it slowly get lower over the 10 seconds? If you knee dropped down at all, this could indicate weakness in your hip flexors. Don’t forget to try both sides!
Grab a small loop band and place it around both feet. Stand tall and keep your core engaged. Raise one leg up, like you are marching, without letting your torso move, then lower back down. Repeat on the other leg, alternating sides. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Marches in a Bridge:
You can do a similar exercise lying down. Place the band around your feet and place your feet up on a box or bench. Raise your hips off the ground so you are in a glute bridge, then slowly bring one knee towards your chest and back. Alternate legs. Do not leg your hips drop down towards the ground or let your back arch. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Isometric Hip Flexor Marches:
If the marches in a bridge were a little tough, try this isometric exercise for your hip flexors. Lie on the ground with the band around your feet. Lift legs off the ground into a 90 degree angle (90/90 position). While keeping one leg still, kick the other leg out straight, and then slowly come back to starting position. Alternate legs. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Bodyweight Glute Bridges:
Lie on the ground with feet flat, about hip width apart. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, then lift your hips off the ground. Try 3 sets of 15-20 reps. These are great to do as part of your warm-up before you workout.
Single Leg Glute Bridges:
Similar to regular glute bridges, but with one leg. Try grabbing one knee and pulling to towards your chest with your hands to keep your back flat, then with the bent leg, push through your foot and lift your hips off the ground as high as you can go without arching your back. Make sure to keep hips level. Try 3 sets of 10 reps on each side. Also great exercise to do as a warm-up before you workout.
Weighted Glute Bridges:
This exercise is a great way to build strength in the glutes to help open up your hips. Set up a barbell on your hips with your shoulders on a bench. Engage your core, then drive your hips off the ground, focusing on squeezing your glutes hard. Try this exercise a few times a week after your workouts and build up to a heavy weight. Just make sure not to compensate and arch your back at the top of the movement. You can either do a light to moderate weight with higher reps for building strength and endurance(3 sets of 10-20 reps) or a heavier weight with lower reps for strength building (5 sets of 5-10 reps).
Eccentric Hip Flexor Strengthening:
Eccentrics are a great way to not only build strength, but help lengthen tight muscles, and heal from hip flexor tendinosis. Lie on a box or bench with legs off the end. The height of the box/bench should be just enough so you get a small stretch in your hip flexor when you’re lying down. Bring one knee to your chest so your back stays flat on the bench. With the other leg, grab a light kettlebell (5-10 lbs) with your foot. Raise that knee up in the air to meet the bent leg, then SLOWLY (think at least 5 seconds) lower the kettlebell back down to the floor. Try 2-3 sets of 10 slow reps on each leg.
Front Foot Elevated Lunges:
Stand in a lunge position with your front foot on a plate or small step. Drop your back knee down slowly towards the floor until it touches (or until you feet a stretch in your back hip flexor). At the bottom of this movement both your front knee and your back knee should be at a 90-degree angle. Start with 10 reps on one leg, then switch and do 10 reps on the other side. Repeat 2-3 rounds on each leg. You can also add weight to the exercise by holding dumbbells in each hand.
Not all tight muscles need to be stretched. Many times a muscle is tight because it is protecting you against injury because it is weaker than it should be. Try these exercises consistently for a month and see if you notice a difference in how tight your hip flexors feel!
Lauryn Ginsburg, PT, DPT
Owner of SportsFit Physical Therapy