Even though they’re small, your hip flexors carry a lot of responsibility regarding your balance, stability and overall health. When you have weak hip flexors, you force other muscles to work harder than they should, which can lead to a variety of injuries. By strengthening them through weight training, you can decrease your risk of injury and improve your daily activity level.
Squats rule the weight room. As the standard lower body exercise, squats help you develop the muscles in your quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings. You can do them with barbells, free weights, medicine balls or simple body weight, making squats highly versatile. Because you don’t have to move your feet, you can lift heavier weights with squats than other lower-body exercises, which results in greater muscle mass and strength.
You can work the same muscle groups by doing lunges. Because you only use one leg at a time, you have to use lighter weights, usually dumbbells, or just rely on your body weight for resistance. With the extra movement, though, you’re forced to work on your stability and balance when you do lunges, which makes them ideal for training your core along with your lower body.
Squats vs. Lunges
In the effort to strengthen your hip flexors for stability and balance, lunges are the clear winner. Because they require your stabilizing muscles to work every time you take a step, lunges not only challenge your hip flexors, they challenge your entire core. You must maintain proper form, though. Keep your abs tight and your back straight. Perform each lunge slowly so you don’t lose your balance and your stabilizers remain fully engaged. Never let your knee extend past your toe and don’t use more weight than you can safely handle. And always check with your doctor before starting a new lifting routine, especially if you have current problems with your hip flexors.
When performing lunges to strengthen your hip flexors, you can choose from several variations. For smaller spaces, choose stationary lunges in which you remain in one place and alternate stepping forward to lunge with each leg and returning to your starting position. If you have more room to move, try walking lunges. Because they require more motion and greater balance, they increase the workload of your hip flexors and offer a better result for your time.
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