The hip flexors are a trio of muscles that have the primary responsibility of moving the leg forward during walking or running. If the hip flexors become significantly weaker than the hip extensors, an imbalance can result, which places abnormal stress through the hip joint. To keep hip flexors functional, strength training exercises may need to be added to your fitness routine.
The muscle group known as the hip flexors is made up of the iliopsoas, sartorius and rectus femoris. All three muscles are located on the front of the hip joint. The hip flexors are aptly named as they help the hip joint flex so you can raise your knees and bend forward, backward or side to side at the waist.
Most common leg exercises, such as squats and lunges, focus on strengthening the hip extensors rather than the hip flexors. Hip flexors can be strengthened by lying flat on your back and lifting the legs while keeping them straight. This exercise is made more difficult by applying cuff weights to the ankles. A similar exercise is performed standing with a low cable. The cable is attached to one ankle with a cuff and then the individual moves the leg forward. A stable object can be grasped to maintain balance. A more advanced hip flexor exercise is done by performing situps on a roman chair.
Forward motion is the essence of many sports, such as basketball, football and lacrosse. The stronger an athlete's hip flexors are, the faster her forward motion, according to trainer Kevin O'Neil, MS, CSCS. The hip flexors are also the main component for a strong kick, needed in sports such as soccer. If you play soccer or another sport that requires powerful footwork, strength training the hip flexors can add velocity or distance to the kicks.
Strength training of the hip flexors should not be performed every day. These muscles are often under-trained, so it may be necessary to rest several days in between training sessions. Hip flexors can become tight if they are not adequately stretched. Stretching the hip flexors before any lower body workout can help prevent muscle strains or painful tightness. Tight hip flexors can result in painful conditions such as bursitis, labral tears and snapping hip.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.