Unlocking Your Hip Flexors: Best Exercises For Beginners, Seniors, Runners, and Athletes

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Have you ever experienced that tightness in your lower back or discomfort in your hips after a long day of sitting or a strenuous workout? You’re not alone. Tight hip flexors are a common issue that many people face, and they can lead to a range of problems, from reduced mobility and poor posture to back pain and decreased athletic performance

We’re here to help you uncover the secrets of healthy hip flexors and introduce you to a program that can help you achieve flexibility, strength, and vitality in this crucial area. 

Just a little teaser, this article is highly inspired by Rick Kaselj, MS a Canadian/American Kinesiologist who is an expert in tight hip flexors and injuries recovery. Let’s dive into some of the best exercises for tight hip flexors. 

Why We Get Tight Hip Flexors

Before we delve into the solution, let’s understand why hip flexors can become tight and problematic. The hip flexors are a group of muscles that enable you to lift your knees toward your chest, flex your hips, and bend at the waist. They play a pivotal role in activities like walking, running, and sitting. So, what causes them to tighten up?

1. Sedentary Lifestyle: In today’s modern world, many of us spend prolonged hours sitting at desks, in front of computers, or watching television. This prolonged sitting can lead to tight hip flexors as they remain in a contracted position for extended periods.

2. Lack of Stretching: Failing to incorporate regular stretching into your routine can contribute to tight hip flexors. These muscles need to be stretched to maintain their flexibility.

3. Overuse: Athletes, especially runners, can overuse their hip flexors, leading to tightness and discomfort. Repetitive motion without proper recovery can strain these muscles.

Now that we understand why tight hip flexors are so common, let’s explore how to unlock and strengthen them.

How to Unlock and Strengthen Hip Flexors

Unlocking and strengthening your hip flexors involves a combination of stretching and targeted exercises. The Rick Kaselj Hip Flexor Training Program provides a comprehensive solution to address this issue, but here are some key principles to get you started:

1. Stretch Regularly: Incorporate hip flexor stretches into your daily routine. The program provides effective stretching techniques that can significantly improve hip flexor flexibility.

2. Strengthen Weak Muscles: Weak hip flexor muscles can lead to imbalances and discomfort. The program includes exercises to strengthen these muscles safely and effectively.

3. Maintain Good Posture: Poor posture can contribute to hip flexor tightness. Learn proper posture and ergonomic principles to prevent future issues.

Best Hip Flexor Exercises

Let’s dive right into the most effective hip flexor exercises that can help you release tension, improve flexibility, and strengthen these vital muscles.

1. Hip Flexor Stretch 

This classic stretch is the foundation of hip flexor flexibility. It’s a great starting point for beginners.

  1. Kneel on the floor with one knee and keep the other foot in front of you.
  2. Shift your weight slightly forward while maintaining an upright torso until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your hip.
  3. Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

2. Leg Raises

Simple yet effective, leg raises strengthen hip flexors and can be easily adapted for seniors and beginners.

  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.
  2. Lift one leg off the ground while keeping it straight.
  3. Lower it back down slowly and repeat with the other leg.
  4. Start with a set of 10-12 reps on each leg and gradually increase as you get stronger.

3. Hanging Leg Raises

If you have access to a pull-up bar, hanging leg raises are an excellent way to target the hip flexors. Hang from the bar and raise your legs while keeping them straight. Lower them back down with control.

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms fully extended.
  2. Raise your legs while keeping them straight until they are parallel to the ground or as high as you can.
  3. Lower your legs back down with control.
  4. Repeat for a set of 10-12 reps and gradually increase as you get stronger.

4. Mountain Climbers

This is a dynamic exercise that not only works the hip flexors but also provides cardiovascular benefits. Start in a push-up position and bring one knee toward your chest, then switch legs in a running motion.

  1. Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bring one knee toward your chest while keeping your hips low.
  3. Quickly switch legs in a running motion.
  4. Continue alternating legs for a set of 20-30 seconds and gradually increase as you get stronger.

Hip Flexor Exercises for Seniors

Age should never be a barrier to staying active and maintaining flexibility. Seniors can benefit greatly from hip flexor exercises that prioritize safety and ease of movement.

It’s essential to note that hip flexor exercises are not one-size-fits-all. The Rick Kaselj Hip Flexor Training Program offers modifications and exercises suitable for seniors and beginners. It ensures that everyone can unlock and strengthen their hip flexors, regardless of their fitness level or age.

1. Seated Leg Lifts

Seated leg lifts are an ideal exercise for seniors because they can be performed from a stable seated position, reducing the risk of falls and overexertion.

  1. Sit comfortably in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold onto the armrests or the sides of the chair for support.
  3. Lift one leg straight out in front of you while keeping your toes pointing upward.
  4. Gently engage your hip flexor muscles as you lift your leg.
  5. Lower the leg back down slowly and repeat with the other leg.
  6. Perform a set 8-12 reps for each leg, gradually increasing as your strength improves.

2. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretching the hip flexors while standing with the support of a chair can improve flexibility, making everyday activities like walking and bending easier.

  1. Stand next to a sturdy chair, holding onto the backrest for support.
  2. Take a small step back with one foot, keeping your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Gently bend the knee of the back leg while keeping the front leg straight.
  4. Feel a gentle stretch in the front of the hip of the back leg.
  5. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then switch to the other leg.
  6. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times for each leg.

3. Chair Marches

Chair marches are a simple yet effective exercise for seniors to maintain hip flexor mobility without putting undue strain on the joints.

  1. Sit on a stable chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Sit up straight and engage your core for stability.
  3. Lift one knee toward your chest as high as comfortably possible.
  4. Lower the lifted leg back down and repeat with the other leg.
  5. Continue to alternate lifting your knees in a marching motion.
  6. Aim for a set of 10-20 reps on each leg.

Hip Flexor Exercises for Beginners

If you’re new to fitness, starting with simple hip flexor exercises is a smart choice. Here are some beginner-friendly options

1. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

The primary purpose of the knee to chest stretch is to increase the flexibility of the hip and lower back muscles. This exercise gently stretches the hip flexors, glutes, and lower back, which can help relieve tightness and discomfort in these areas.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended.
  2. Bring one knee toward your chest, grasping it with both hands.
  3. Gently pull the knee closer to your chest, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch to the other leg.
  5. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times for each leg.

2. Quadruped Hip Flexor Stretch

This exercise will increase the flexibility of the hip flexor muscles. This stretch targets the front of the hip and thigh, allowing you to lengthen and release tension in these muscles.

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Keep your hands under your shoulders.
  3. Gently push your hips forward while keeping your back straight.
  4. Feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the extended leg.
  5. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch to the other leg.
  6. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times for each leg.

3. The Bridge

During the bridge exercise, the hip flexors are in a lengthened position as you lift your hips off the ground. This can help stretch and release tension in these muscles, especially if they are tight from prolonged sitting or other activities that involve hip flexion.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your arms by your sides, palms down.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground by pushing through your heels.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core.
  5. Hold the bridge position for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down.

Hip Flexor Exercises with Bands

For those looking to intensify their hip flexor workouts, resistance bands are excellent tools. Using resistance bands and weights can be beneficial for building hip flexor strength because they provide progressive resistance, challenge the muscles effectively, and allow for targeted training.

1. Band-Resisted Knee Lifts

Band-resisted knee lifts target the hip flexor muscles, particularly the iliopsoas, which play a crucial role in lifting the knee and flexing the hip. Strengthening these muscles can lead to increased power and stability in hip flexion movements, such as walking and running.

  1. Attach one end of the resistance band to a secure anchor point.
  2. Stand facing the anchor point, holding the other end of the band close to your chest to create tension.
  3. Lift one knee toward your chest, engaging your hip flexor muscles.
  4. Hold for a moment, emphasizing the contraction.
  5. Lower your knee slowly and with control, resisting the band’s pull.
  6. Maintain tension in the band.
  7. Perform the desired number of reps (usually 10-15 per leg) and then switch to the other leg.

2. Standing Hip Flexor March with Band

The exercise requires you to lift your knees high against resistance, which can enhance hip joint mobility. Improved hip mobility is essential for maintaining flexibility and preventing stiffness, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle or spend extended periods sitting.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place the resistance band around your ankles.
  2. Lift one knee as high as possible against the resistance of the band while keeping your toes pointing forward.
  3. Lower the lifted leg back down and repeat with the other leg in a marching motion.

Hip Flexor Exercises For Runners

1. Lunges

Lunges strengthen the hip flexors, quads, and glutes, which are essential muscles for propelling yourself forward while running. They also enhance balance and stability.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a step forward with one foot and lower your body until both knees are bent at approximately 90-degree angles.
  3. Ensure your front knee is directly above your ankle.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.
  5. Repeat for 5-10 reps on each leg.

2. High Knees

High knees help improve hip flexor mobility and coordination, making it easier to lift your knees higher while running, which can lead to increased stride length and running speed.

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. March or jog in place, lifting your knees as high as possible with each step.
  3. Focus on driving your knees upward, engaging the hip flexors.
  4. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.

Hip Flexor Exercises With Weights

1. Weighted Lunges

Hold dumbbells in each hand while performing lunges. This increases the challenge to your hip flexors and quadriceps, helping to build strength in these crucial muscle groups. Strong hip flexors are essential for activities like running, walking, and climbing stairs.

  1. Begin by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.
  3. Take a step forward with one foot, ensuring that the front knee is directly above the front ankle. The back knee should bend and hover just above the ground without touching it.
  4. As you lower your body into the lunge, engage your hip flexors, quadriceps, and glutes to perform the movement.
  5. Keep your upper body upright and avoid leaning forward.
  6. Push through the heel of your front foot to rise back up and return to the starting position.
  7. Perform the desired number of lunges on one leg before switching to the other leg.

2. Weighted Psoas March

The weighted psoas march is an advanced exercise that targets the psoas major muscle, which is one of the primary hip flexors. This exercise involves lifting the legs while holding a weight, and it requires good core stability and control. Here’s how to perform the weighted psoas march.

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on your hips or hold onto a stable surface, like a wall or a chair, for balance support if needed.
  3. Place one foot under the handle of a kettlebell and begin by lifting one leg straight in front of you while keeping it as straight as possible.
  4. Engage your hip flexor muscles to perform the lift.
  5. Keep your toes pointing forward throughout the movement.
  6. Hold the lifted leg in the raised position for a moment, emphasizing the contraction in your hip flexors.
  7. Slowly lower the leg back down to the starting position with control.
  8. Perform the desired number of repetitions (usually 10-15 reps per leg) while maintaining proper form and controlled movements.
  9. After completing the repetitions on one leg, switch to the other leg and repeat the exercise with the opposite side.

Best Hip Flexor Exercises: Our Final Thoughts

Tight hip flexors are a common issue that can have a significant impact on your daily life and physical performance. I can speak this from experience as earlier on in my fitness journey, tight hip flexors has limited me from achieving my full potential in soccer. Therefore, I made it a priority to stretch, strengthen and mobilize this weakness.

Fortunately, with the Rick Kaselj Hip Flexor Training Program, you can unlock the secret to healthier, more flexible hip flexor muscles. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete, a senior looking to improve mobility, or a beginner taking the first steps toward a healthier you, this program has something to offer.

I hope this article helped shed some light on tight hip flexors. Remember, none of these exercises should not exacerbate any existing pain you may be experiencing. If you don’t experience relief from these exercises, I strongly advise seeking assistance from a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, to aid in your recovery.