Your hip flexors are the five muscles that connect your thigh bone (femur) to your pelvis. Hip flexors are responsible for lifting your knees and bending at the waist. The most familiar of these muscles, the rectus femoris runs from your hip to your kneecap and when contracted, flexes your hip or extends your leg.
Tightness in these muscles can limit your range of motion, it is important to stretch and strengthen them through their full range in order to prevent shortening and binding of the hip flexors. Here are five effective exercises to train your hip flexors.
1. Seated Butterfly Stretch
Stretches your inner thighs, hips, and lower back. Sit on the floor with your back straight and place the soles of your feet together in front of you. Relax your knees and let them bend naturally at your sides. Lean forward slightly and grab your toes and gently pull upward. As you pull your toes up, your knees should move down, closer to the floor. Inhale and hold for 30 seconds.
2. Hip Flex Stretch
Start on your back with your legs straight and flat on the floor. Grasp one knee with both hands and pull slowly and gently up and toward your chest. Continue to pull your knee close to your chest and hold for a count of 10. Relax and repeat with the opposite knee.
Start on your back with your arms at your sides, your knees bent and your feet on the floor close to your buttocks. Tighten your abs and core and press down into your heels as you lift your hips and butt off the floor and towards the ceiling. Hold briefly at the top as you squeeze your glutes (butt). Relax and lower your body back to the floor. Repeat 10-15 repetitions.
4. Skater Squats
Squats with an extra step to focus on the hips. Start with your feet wider than shoulder width and hands on your hips. Keep your back straight as you slowly squat down as though sitting in a low chair behind you, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and pause briefly at the lowest point. Now stand up but at the top, lift your left leg off the floor and out to the side and as you return the foot to the floor, squat again. This time raise your right foot and leg and alternate left, right, left. Imagine a sumo wrestler before a match shifting his weight left and right.
Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips and take a large step (lunge) forward with your left foot. Bend your left knee and transfer your weight onto that front left leg. Lower yourself into the lunge until your right knee is just above the floor. Your left knee should not go past your left ankle. Step back to your start position, and repeat with your right leg forward. Alternate left, right, left.