If you are having trouble with tightness in your hips, the culprit might be your hip flexors. The hip flexors are the muscles in the front of the hip that are responsible for flexing the hip. They often tighten through lack of use, such as when sitting in one place for too long. Tight hip flexors can lead to problems, including lower-back injuries. Stretching and strengthening the hip flexors will do more than keep you limber. A study conducted by the University of Florida in 2005 showed that hip flexor training improved the hip strength and sprinting speed of physically fit individuals.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start in a kneeling position with both feet on the ground. Lift your right foot and move it forward so your knee is over your foot and your right hip is at a little more than a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on your right leg and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your right leg. Repeat the exercise with the other leg. If you feel the stretch on your thigh instead of your hips, move your front foot farther forward. You can vary this workout by elevating your rear foot on a bench, box or other object. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. Do two to five repetitions on each side.
Hip Flexor Band Pulls
Using your legs to pull on an exercise band provides resistance training that mimics the motions runners and skaters make during sprinting, distance running and hockey. Wrap the exercise band around a solid object such as a pole or bench leg. Face the opposite direction and place it around the ankle of your back leg while your other leg is forward in a split stance. Drive your rear leg by explosively pushing your knee forward until your thigh and knee are parallel to the ground. Do this six to eight times with one leg and switch to the other leg.
Seated Hip External Rotator
An exercise band is also useful for training your hip flexors for lateral movements. Start with an exercise band attached to the leg of a bench. Sit on the exercise bench and wrap the band around your leg that is on the opposite side of the bench from where the band is attached. Keep your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and the exercise band at moderate tension. Lift the leg with the exercise band toward the outside of your body as far as you can while keeping your knees together. Hold the pose for two seconds and return to the original position. Switch sides and work the other leg.
Performing decline situps helps to improve your hip flexor mobility along with your overall fitness. Lie on a situp apparatus with your ankles underneath a pad and your head lower than your legs. Place your hands on your chest or behind your head and flex your hips to raise your body off the bench and into an upright position. Lower your body back to the original pose with your hips almost fully extended. You can grasp a weight to your chest to provide additional resistance and make the workout more intense. Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 situps.
- Stack.com: Strong and Mobile Hips, Part 1 - Introduction
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of Hip Flexor Training on Sprint, Shuttle Run and Vertical Jump Performance
- ExRx.net: Kneeling Hip Flexor
- Stack.com: Hip Flexor Stretches for Better Performance
- Stack.com: Exercise of the Week – Hip Flexor Band Pulls
- Runner’s World: All In the Hips
- ExRx.net: Weighted Decline Sit Up
- Ace Fitness: Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch