Strengthen Your Hip Flexors With These 5 Moves

Weak hip flexors can be just as bad as tight ones.
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Many of us — especially if we sit all day — have tight hip flexors, the muscles on the front of your hips that pull your knee up toward your chest. Stretching them can help, but it's also very common for hip flexors to be weak. And the only way to help that is to strengthen them.


We explain how to tell the difference and share our favorite exercises for strengthening these important muscles.

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What Are the Hip Flexors?

The five hip flexor muscles are the iliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris and sartorius. These muscles are responsible for hip flexion, which occurs when you lift your leg in front of your body (as in walking or kicking) or pull your knee up toward your chest.

Your hip flexors are long muscles that connect your spine, pelvis and femur. This means they have a big impact on your posture and performance. It's important to identify tight and/or weak hip flexors and take steps to address these issues if you want to move well and feel great.

How to Tell If Your Hip Flexors are Tight or Weak

Many people have tight hip flexors thanks to lots and lots of sitting. When we sit all day, our hip flexors are constantly flexed and can become shortened. Chronically tight hip flexors are one piece of anterior pelvic tilt, a postural issue where your pelvis is constantly tilted forward.


It's also very common for our hip flexors to be weak. This usually happens because we haven't spent enough time building leg, core and hip strength in full ranges of motion.

Not everyone has both tight ‌and‌ weak hip flexors. It's important to test your own hips to determine if should stretch them, strengthen them or both.

A simple test called the Thomas Test can identify tight hip flexors. You'll need a massage table or bed that's tall enough for your legs to hang off without touching the floor. It's also helpful to record yourself (or work with a buddy) so you can get a clear view of what's going on with your hips.


Region Lower Body
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your lower legs hanging off the edge of a massage table or bed.
  2. Grab one knee with both hands and pull it up toward your chest.
  3. If the opposite leg lifts up off the table, your hip flexors are tight.

You can use a similar test to gauge your hip flexor strength.

Region Lower Body
  1. Stand upright with both feet on the floor.
  2. Grab one knee with your hands and pull it up toward your chest.
  3. Release your hands and try to hold your knee in the same position for 10 seconds.
  4. If you're unable to hold your knee in place, your hip flexors are weak.

If you struggle with balance, you can hold onto something, or perform this same test while lying on a massage table or bed.


5 Exercises to Strengthen Hip Flexors

What should you do if you've determined your hip flexors are weak? We've got you covered with the five exercises below — try incorporating them into your lower body workouts.


Many of these exercises use a mini band to make your hip flexors work harder. It's best to stick with lighter mini bands as opposed to trying to go as heavy as possible.

It's important to note that the hip flexor muscles never work in isolation. So to truly maximize your hip flexor gains, it's important to perform exercises where the hip flexors are working in tandem with your core and/or lower body muscles.


This means you can also strengthen your hip flexors by using full ranges of motion on lower body exercises like squats, Romanian deadlifts, split squats and lunges. Focus on bending your hips as much as you can without rotating your pelvis or rounding your spine.

1. Dead Bug

The dead bug is a core exercise performed on your back. You use your hip flexors to keep one knee bent at 90 degrees while extending the other leg out away from your body. The hip flexors also help stabilize your pelvis to prevent low back extension.


There are many different ways to do dead bugs using different exercise equipment. Placing a mini band around your feet can make any variation more challenging for your hip flexors.

Sets 3
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Loop a mini band around the tops of your feet.
  2. Lie on your back with your arms extended above your chest, your legs rolled off the floor and your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Your hips should be posteriorly tilted and you should press your entire back into the floor. Point your toes up.
  3. Take a deep breath, then exhale and slowly extend one leg away from your body. Keep the opposite leg as still as possible, resisting the pull of the mini band. Do not allow your lower back to arch or pull off the floor as you extend your leg.
  4. Finish the rep by inhaling and slowly returning to the starting position. Alternate sides and repeat until you complete 6-12 reps per side.

2. Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are another combo core and hip flexor exercise. You flex your hips and pull your knee to your chest while maintaining a strong plank position. Place a mini band around your feet or use sliders to increase the demands on your hip flexors.



Sets 3
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Loop a mini band around your feet or place a pair of sliders under your toes.
  2. Begin in a push-up position plank with your arms fully extended and your legs out behind you. Point your belt buckle toward your chin and reach your hands through the floor to establish a stable core position.
  3. Initiate the movement by pulling one knee in toward your chest. If you're using a mini band, you will pick this foot up off the floor. If you're using a slider, drive your toes into the ground as you pull your knee up. Resist rotation in your hips and don't round your lower back.
  4. Finish the rep by slowly extending your leg back out behind you. Alternate sides and repeat until you complete 6-12 reps per side.

3. Marching

Marching helps strengthen your hip flexors while also working on your balance and core strength.

There are many different marching variations. You can do bodyweight marching or hold weights in your hands or at your chest. You can move forward or stay in place. And you can choose to emphasize your hip flexors by placing a mini band around the tops of your feet, or leave it off for a more natural feeling.

Whichever variation you choose, focus on pulling your knee up as high as you can without rounding your back or tilting your hips from side to side.

Sets 3
Region Lower Body
  1. Loop a mini band around the tops of your feet.
  2. Begin standing upright with both feet flat on the floor. Make a fist with both hands to create core tension if you're not holding weights.
  3. Initiate the movement by picking one foot up off the floor. Pull that knee up toward your chest. Don't allow your leg back to round or your hips to shift from side to side.
  4. Keep the down side leg extended and actively grab the floor with your toes to help with balance.
  5. Finish the rep by lowering your up side foot back to the floor in a controlled manner.
  6. You can alternate sides or do all the reps on one leg before switching. Perform 6-12 reps per side.

4. Seated Leg Raise

This is a challenging exercise for people looking build serious hip flexor and quad strength. It requires you to use your hip flexors while keeping your legs as straight as possible.

Begin by lifting one leg at a time and progress to both legs when you feel ready. Experienced trainees can up the ante by lifting their legs over an obstacle such as an upright dumbbell or kettlebell.

Sets 2
Region Lower Body
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your arms extended so your hands are on the floor outside your thighs. Point your toes in front of you.
  2. Lift one or both legs off the floor. Keep your toes pointed and your legs as straight as possible.
  3. Finish the rep by returning your legs to the floor. Perform 6-12 total reps.


To make seated leg raises more challenging, place an upright dumbbell or kettlebell on the floor next to your legs. Lift your straight legs up and over the obstacle, moving back and forth until you complete 6-12 reps per side.

5. Hanging Leg Raise

A final exercise that can smoke your hip flexors is the hanging leg raise. This exercise also requires a significant amount of grip, core and upper body strength, so it's not recommended for beginners or people with shoulder injuries.

Sets 2
Region Full Body
  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms and legs fully extended.
  2. Pull yourself into an active hang by pulling your shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Slowly pull your knees up toward your stomach. It's okay for your low back to round slightly at the top, but don't use excessive momentum or swinging.
  4. Lower your legs back into their fully extended position in a slow and controlled manner. Repeat until you've completed 6-12 reps.
  5. To make the exercise more challenging, straighten out your legs until you're able to lift your toes to your head with straight legs.



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