Standing, walking, running, and squatting are all made possible by our hip flexors. When you enter cars and work your desk job, these hardworking powerhouses become tighter than a fresh pair of knee sleeves.
Hip mobility and strength is an investment often avoided because it rarely comes without a great deal of discomfort.
Yogis will tell you the hips are the emotional epicenter of our bodies; a deep stretch could lead to a nice big cry or series of epiphanies — another great reason why we should be showing them more love. Both strength and mobility are important. Here are five exercises to tackle both.
The 5 Best Exercises to Improve Your Hip Flexors
1. The Classic Squat
Dynamic or isometric, dropping it low will activate those hip flexors quicker than you can say “psoas major.”
Add a twist by sending one knee to the floor and holding for 20 to 30 seconds then alternating. Take it further again by placing your elbows inside your knees to push them outward, then sending your glutes to the sky and swinging them back down again. The frog squat is a sure-fire way to get your hips firing.
2. Psoas March
Lie flat on your back and place a mini band around mid-foot. Tuck your knees toward your chest, just past 90 degrees. Pull your belly button in toward your spine, but don’t forget to breathe! Keeping one leg where it is, extend the other one straight out in front of you so it’s hovering just above the ground. Repeat on the other side — this is your march.
3. The Runner’s Lunge
Once you hit that sweet spot, you won’t want to leave. Or perhaps you just won’t be able to. Start in a wide lunge and drop your back knee to the ground, squeezing your glutes to push your hips forward. Increase the stretch by pushing your bent knee outward and work your way toward getting your arms and elbows on the ground.
4. Banded Hip Thrusts
Grab a band, wrap it around a pole, and get yourself inside the loop. Kneeling on the floor, place the band so it sits across your hips and launch them forward in a thrust, squeezing your glutes at the top. The band should provide enough resistance to make the movement challenging. Oh baby, that’s good. Hold for a couple of seconds and release back down. Rinse and repeat.
Once you have got this movement down, your glutes and hips will be wide awake and you can add a kettlebell to really make them work; stand up and start swinging. Or load up your bar and watch the magic happen on your good mornings and deadlifts.
5. The Pigeon
No hip flexor list would be complete without the pigeon. Everybody’s favorite isometric killer is guaranteed to make your eyes water. On the floor, bring one leg across in front of you and send the other straight behind.
Try and get your front leg to sit at 90 degrees or your shin out parallel to your hips. If you can handle that, bring your chest down low to your front leg and hold.
A “fun” way to get into your pigeon is to start in down dog, shooting one leg up in the air and bending your knee so your foot hangs behind you. This will start opening your hips with a delightful stretch before you swing your leg down and across to the floor. Try not to squeal as you wince into this one and remember to keep breathing.
Finally, if you have a buddy around, have them place their hands on either side of your lumbar and gently press down on your hips deeper into the stretch. Make sure they do this with even pressure on either side and, it’s probably a good idea to implement a safe word beforehand.
It’s hip to be mobile, so invest the time in your flexors with the TLC they deserve and notice the benefits flow through to all your lifts and movements day by day.
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