Are you suffering from pain in your knee, hamstring, Achilles, or IT band when running?
The answer to pain relief prayers may lay with your hip flexors.
When assessing the muscles involved in the running motion, most runners think of the glutes and quadriceps.
Although these are key running muscles, your hip flexors also deserve some attention. That’s because these muscles play a critical role in fluid running, and a set of dysfunctional ones can interfere with your mechanics and performance.
One thing you can to ensure that your hip flexors are working optimally is strength train them on a regular basis. But first things first, let’s explain what the hip flexor are and how they help us run.
The Hip Flexors Explained
The hip flexors refer to a group of five muscles located in the pelvic region, surrounding the ball and socket joint that attaches your legs to your upper body. These five muscles are in charge of flexing your hips, consisting of the rectus femoris, TFL, iliacus, psoas, and Sartorius.
Your hip flexors are key for movement in the lower body, especially when running. These muscles help drive up the knees as well as keep the pelvis and legs aligned when running. They also allow you to lift your knee above your hip.
For these reasons, dysfunction may contribute to limited athletic performance, slower times, lousy technique, and a host of overuse running injuries.
For instance, the muscles around your hips regulate the mechanics of your knee, so if you have weak hip flexors, you run a high risk for runners’ knee and iliotibial band syndrome.
If you’re just like the rest of us, as in, you sit for extended periods, you’re at high risk of developing tight and underperforming hip flexors. This lack of mobility may contribute to lower back and hips issues.
Here’s the good news. Many exercises strengthen the hip flexors. Once strength is improved, you’ll be less likely to experience pain or injury.
Here are seven awesome hip flexors exercise to keep your hip area secure and flexible. Perform the exercises two to three times a week to build and maintain strong flexors.
Seated hip Flexion
This simple move activates the hip flexor past a 90 degrees angle to condition the muscles throughout their range of motion.
Begin by sitting on a chair with good posture. Make sure your feet flat on the floor, core engaged, and back flat.
Next, while bending your right knee to about a 90 degrees angle, raise it toward your chest without letting your thigh roll in or out nor leaning back, pause, then slowly lower it to start position.
Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side. Add weights for more challenge.
Another fantastic move for strengthening the hip muscles as well as the lower body. To make the most out of lunges, make sure to include different variations of this standard lunge, including static, backward, and plyo versions.
Begin in standing position, feet just slightly apart, looking straight ahead with back flat and core engaged.
Next, place your hands on your hips then take a giant step forward with your right foot. Make sure your hips are hanging straight on either side of your body. Then, once you ensure heel contact with the floor, bend the right knee over the ankle while bending the left toward the ground.
Last up, press back into the starting position, pushing off the ground with your leading foot. Changes sides to complete one rep.
This is one of my favorite squat variations, focusing specifically on the hips instead of every muscle in the lower body.
Begin by performing a mini-squat, bending from the hips and knee and lowering your butt toward the floor while keeping your chest lifted and back flat, then trnsition your weight to the right side and lift the left leg slightly off the floor, toes pointed ahead. This is your starting position.
Next, slowly squat by pushing your hips and butt backward. Keep squatting until your right knee is bent to a 90 degrees angle, if possible.
Perform 10 to 12 reps on each side to complete one set. Shoot for three sets.
You’ll often find this move on most lower body rehabilitation programs: the reason being it works.
Not only does it strengthen your hips and glutes, but it also stabilizes your pelvis muscles and helps soothe tightness in the lower back, which is key for injury-free training.
Begin by laying on the mat on your side, hips stable, heels together, legs stacked up on top of each. Your shoulders, hips, and heels should form a straight line. If it’s uncomfortable to lay in this position, lie with your back against a couch.
Next, open your top knee so that it points at the ceiling. Keep your feet stacked together and allow for no rolling backward throughout the movement.
Raise the top knee as far as possible without rotating your hip or lifting your bottom knee off the floor, then pause for a moment.
To complete one rep, close the leg. Perform 16 to 20 on each side to finish one set. Shoot for three sets.
For more resistance, wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs.
Standing hip flexion
Another excellent move for isolating the hips flexors while improving muscle control and balance. The movement is easy to perform but provides the lower body a good workout.
Begin by assuming an athletic position, back straight, core engaged, and feet hip-width distance apart.
Next, while keeping your left foot planted in the ground, raise your right leg off the ground, ben ditto that you form a 90 degrees angle at the hip.
Then hold for a count of five to ten, then slowly lower the leg. Switch sides to complete one rep. Perform five reps to complete one set.
For more challenge, use weight or slowly flex your hip forward.