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The Best Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises

Now that you’ve learned the top reasons to strengthen your hip flexors, you’re probably chomping at the bit to try some exercises. In this article, we’ll share with you the best hip flexor strengthening exercises you can do to gain those benefits.

Try these exercises to strengthen your hip flexors

For the most effective results with any of the following hip flexor exercises, we recommend that you work within a range of motion, resistance level, rep range, and speed at which you are sufficiently challenged yet can control with good technique. This is super important!

Hip Flexor March (Supine or Standing)

A hip flexor march strengthens the iliopsoas (formed by the iliacus and psoas muscles). So it is a psoas strengthening exercise and an iliacus strengthening exercise. Depending on your ability to balance on one leg, you may choose to perform this exercise while laying on your back (supine) or you can place your hand against the wall for some light assistance when standing.

Removing balance from the equation may make this exercise even more effective because you are able to place more focus and energy towards engaging and strengthening your hip flexors. We recommend that you try those variations first before challenging yourself by adding balance back into the mix.

Here’s how to do each exercise!

Supine Hip Flexor March

To perform a supine hip flexor march:

  1. Lay down on the ground on your back and have a resistance band (optional) around the middle of your feet. Keep your legs straight.
  2. Keep the core engaged around a neutral pelvic position, where you could really only slide one finger between your lower back and the floor if you tried.
  3. Bring one knee as close to your chest as possible, while squeezing the glute and quad on the other leg to keep it straight. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and make sure the core stays engaged.
  4. Return to the starting position slowly and with control, repeating the same thing on the opposite side. Continue to alternate sides with each rep in the set.

To challenge the core and upper body during this psoas strengthening exercise, you can also add movement of the arms to perform a more advanced variation of this exercise that is commonly called a dead bug.

Standing Hip Flexor March

To perform a standing hip flexor march:

  1. Stand up tall and have a resistance band (optional) around the middle of your feet.
  2. Keep the core engaged around a neutral pelvic position (not too arched and not too rounded in the lower back).
  3. Raise one knee towards your chest, while keeping your pelvis as level as possible. Squeeze the glute and quad on the other leg to keep it straight. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and make sure the core stays engaged.
  4. Return to the starting position slowly and with control, repeating the same thing on the opposite side. Continue to alternate sides with each rep in the set.

Taking a Different Angle

By changing the angle at which you orient your hip when holding the end position, you can begin to target the tensor fascia latae (TFL) and pectineus muscles — both of which are also hip flexors — and strengthen them too.

By placing your hip into internal rotation, you will activate the TFL muscle. As you do this, you can also move your leg further away from the center of your body (hip abduction) to challenge the TFL even more, while also recruiting the gluteus medius.

By placing your hip into external rotation, you will activate the pectineus muscle. As you do this, you can also move your leg closer to the center of your body (hip adduction) to challenge the pectineus even more, while also recruiting the other adductor muscles.

Note that you can also use these variations to change the angle of your hip flexor strengthening when performing the supine hip flexor marches shown earlier.

Mountain Climbers to strengthen hip flexors (using sliders)

Mountain climbers are a fantastic way to challenge your core and upper body while keeping the primary focus on strengthening the hip flexors. It is our preference to perform this exercise using sliders underneath the feet (wearing socks on a smooth surface also works great) to add some additional resistance due to friction and also to prevent “cheating” the purpose of the exercise by bouncing out of each rep.

Standard Mountain Climber

To perform a standard mountain climber:

  1. Start in a high plank position with your arms directly underneath your shoulders. Keep the core engaged around a neutral pelvic position and with the hips around shoulder height.
  2. Drive one knee forward towards the elbow while the other leg remains straight, keeping the core engaged and staying in contact with the slider or the floor.
  3. Straighten that leg out while you simultaneously drive the opposite leg forward towards the other elbow, again keeping the core engaged and staying in contact with the slider or the floor.
  4. Repeat this alternating pattern for the remainder of the reps or duration in the set.

For a very advanced version of mountain climbers, you can add a resistance band around the middle of your feet. Feel the burn!

Crossover Mountain Climber

To perform a crossover mountain climber:

  1. Start in a high plank position with your arms directly underneath your shoulders. Keep the core engaged around a neutral pelvic position and with the hips around shoulder height.
  2. Drive one knee forward towards the opposite elbow while the other leg remains straight, keeping the core engaged and staying in contact with the slider or the floor.
  3. Return that leg to its starting position while you simultaneously drive the other leg forward towards the opposite elbow, again keeping the core engaged and staying in contact with the slider or the floor.
  4. Repeat this alternating pattern for the remainder of the reps or duration in the set.

This version will be much more of a challenge for the hip flexors and there will likely be the tendency to want to round the lower back and twist the pelvis to help the knee get closer to the opposite elbow. Resist the urge to do so as best as you can to keep the focus on the hip muscle working.

Paused Squats to strengthen hip flexors (or Tempo Squats)

You might not think of these exercises as something that trains your hip flexors, but they sure do! The functions of the iliopsoas include flexing the hip and stabilizing the lower back, pelvis, and hip. When performing a paused squat or a tempo squat, you will find yourself engaging your hip flexors (as well as many other muscles that make up your core) as you control your body throughout the movement.

There are many different tempos and lengths of pauses that you can experiment with. When written out, you will often see the tempo as 3 numbers. For example, a 3:2:1 tempo means a 3-second eccentric component as you lower yourself down into the squat, a 2-second isometric hold (or pause) at the bottom of the squat, and a 1-second concentric component as you stand back up.

Here are some helpful cues!

To perform a pause squat (or tempo squat):

  1. Start by standing nice and tall in the squat variation you’ve chosen. Keep your core engaged around a neutral pelvic position.
  2. Send the hips back slightly as you also begin to bend your knees. Slowly lower yourself down into the bottom of your squat position in accordance with the tempo you selected.
  3. At the bottom of the squat, hold this position and continue to engage your core (which includes your hip flexors) to maintain a strong, stable position.
  4. Drive out of the bottom position of your squat and return to the starting position with a strong squeeze of the glutes and legs as you stand back up.
  5. Take a breath and rest in between reps, as needed.

There are many different squat positions that you can practice these exercises — bodyweight squat, goblet squat, front squat, back squat, overhead squat, and more. The ones listed here are in an order of relative difficulty. Choose a squat variation that is appropriate for you and, if you choose to add weight, select a resistance that you can control with good technique.

Want to deepen your knowledge of your hip flexors?

Learn more about the hip flexors and how they affect the functioning of your entire body in the book “Tight Hip, Twisted Core - The Key To Unresolved Pain” by Christine Koth, MPT.

Frequently asked questions about hip flexor exercises

What are the benefits of strong hip flexors?

Having strong hip flexors can help you maintain good posture and core stability, reverse the effects of sitting, improve the symptoms of weak hip flexors, decrease the likelihood of pain and injury, and increase athletic performance.

How do you strengthen your hip flexors?

Strengthening the hip flexors can be done using isolation or compound exercises that train these muscles through their full range of motion. Using added resistance and changing the tempo during the eccentric, isometric, and concentric portion of an exercise are all variables that can be changed to achieve the desired effect.

What causes weak hip flexors?

Your hip flexors spend a lot of time each day in a shortened position when sitting, where they can become easily fatigued. This contributes to the hip flexors becoming weaker and tighter, especially as you sit for longer periods of time day after day without letting the muscles recover.

How long does it take to strengthen your hip flexors?

If you are someone who does not do any direct hip flexor strength training work on a regular basis, then you may start to see some noticeable improvement in a relatively short period of time by incorporating these hip flexor strengthening exercises more consistently into your routine.

If you are a more experienced athlete or are someone who trains their hip flexors already, then it may take longer for you to make significant strength improvements. Working with a trainer or other exercise professional to determine a more appropriate routine that mixes in more exercises, different loads and resistance, varying rep ranges, and larger ranges of motion can help accelerate your hip flexor strength gains.

If my hip flexors are tight, should I still strengthen them?

A tight hip flexor is likely to be a weak hip flexor. To strengthen tight hip flexors, you may find it helpful to first get those muscles to relax. Using a hip flexor release tool in combination with other hip flexor stretches can help the muscles to recover before you perform hip flexor strengthening exercises.

By Bobby West . Fri Mar 05

Author Bio

Bobby is a coach, trainer, and writer who loves health and fitness. As someone who once experienced chronic pain for 5 years, it is part of his personal mission to help others work towards creating a solution so that they, too, can become free of pain.