The hip flexors primarily consist of the iliacus and psoas major muscles that work to flex the thigh and trunk. These two muscles are assisted in hip flexion by the sartorius and rectus femoris muscles. Because strong hip flexors allow for a more powerful and quicker forward leg movement, they are important for nearly every athletic event, particularly those that involve sprinting or quick bursts of power such as football and soccer. You can strengthen these muscles with a few simple exercises.
The spread eagle sit-up is a simple exercise that can be performed almost anywhere and works to strengthen your hip flexors. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Keeping them straight, spread them and hook your feet under a sturdy object. Ideally, the object should be 4 to 6 inches off the ground so that your toes can point straight toward the ceiling and your feet form a 90 degree angle with your shins. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your core. Cross your arms over your chest and, keeping your back straight, sit up. With control, lower back down to the floor. Most of the work should be done by your hip flexors rather than your abdominal muscles. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. If you have a history of low back pain, do not perform this exercise because it will stress the lumbar vertebrae and muscles.
Weighted hanging knee raises effectively develop strength in your hip flexors and your abdominal muscles. Begin by hanging from a pull-up bar or a Roman chair. Hold a weighted ball between your feet to add resistance to the movement. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your core. Securing the weight, slowly pull your knees up as high as you can. Pause at the top of the movement and then, with control, lower your legs back down. Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Once 15 reps become easy, you can progressively increase the number of repetitions or you can stay at 15 and increase the weight of the ball.
The knee-to-elbow exercise increases endurance and strength in your hip flexor muscles while also sufficiently challenging your core muscles. Begin on all fours with your hands aligned directly below your shoulders and your arms extended. Extend your legs back so that you are in push-up position. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your abdominal muscles. Bend your right leg and bring your knee forward until it touches your right elbow. Straighten your right leg and then bend your left leg to touch your knee to your left elbow. Continue to alternate back and forth at a challenging pace for one minute. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat the exercise for another minute.
The cable knee drive helps develop power and strength in the hip flexors, two characteristics ideal for athletes. If you do not have access to a cable machine, a resistance band can be used instead. Ensure that it is secured to a sturdy object. Attach the ankle cuff attachment to the cable machine and then around your right ankle. Place a box or exercise bench in front of the machine so that you can lean over the object for stability. Bend over and place both hands on the box so that you look like a sprinter in the blocks. Ensure that your feet are far enough away from the cable machine so that there is tension in the cable before you begin the movement. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your abdominal muscles. Keeping your foot flexed and your back straight, explosively drive your knee toward your chest. Slowly and with control, return your foot to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions and then switch to your left leg. Complete two sets of the exercise.
- "Anatomy & Physiology, Second Edition"; Elaine N. Marieb; 2005
- Elite Fitness Systems: The Hip Flexor Solution
- football image by goleador from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.