Workout Program For Weak And Tight Hip Flexors
Today we’re going to talk about tight hip flexors. Many of you – myself included – have some degree of tight and weak hip flexors.
When I say hip flexors, I mean the deep hip flexors. The iliopsoas. It’s actually three muscles. They’re called Psoas Major, Psoas Minor, and Iliacus. The three muscles originate separately from the vertebrae of the low back and the inside of the pelvis and merge together as one at the insertion on the femur (on your leg). Together they’re called the Iliopsoas muscle. Whenever I use the term hip flexors in this blog, that’s what I’m talking about.
Tip: In my video at the bottom of this article I’m showing you exactly what these muscles look like.
What are the symptoms of Tight Hip Flexors?
Symptoms of tight hip flexors are pain down the front of the thigh, pain in the lower back and/or clicking and stiffness when you move your legs. A lot of us have this pain because our hip flexors are shortened and weak from spending so much time sitting down in front of the computer at work, on the couch in front of the tv, in our cars driving, etc. And despite always sitting down, shortening out hip flexors, we never really take a moment to stretch them out or strengthen them.
But don’t worry, it’s never too late! And in this blog post, I’ll teach you how it’s done.
The exercises I’m going to show are easy and safe and can be done anywhere. They have helped me tremendously and I use them on my clients who experience the same kind of tightness and weakness, leading to low back pain. Personally, my issues come from a quite severe case of uneven leg lengths and scoliosis. My spine isn’t straight but laterally curved like an S and my left leg about 2 cm. longer than the right. Causing all sorts of imbalances. Plus, I’ve been spending most of my life basically sitting, riding my bike, driving, riding horses… Never really stretching or strengthening this important muscle. At least not up until a few years ago when they started causing me a lot of trouble. That’s when I knew I had to find a solution!
I used to not be able to do any type of leg lifts … I competed in Bikini Fitness and did CrossFit, but I couldn’t get my legs up in toes-to-bar. I couldn’t do V-ups or leg raises… I couldn’t anything that required my hip flexors to work. When I would try had a lot of pain in my hip and low back and clicking in my hips.
About four years ago, started doing these exercises before and after my ab and cardio workouts. And they’ve helped me so much, so I want to share them with you today.
Stretches For Tight Hip Flexors:
Exercise 1: Kneeling Hip flexor stretch
Kneel on one knee with the other leg placed in front of you, both knees bent at 90-degree angles. Keep your back straight and do a posterior tilt of your pelvis (tucking your tailbone under) as you squeeze your glutes, tighten your abdominals and shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch. Make sure you DO NOT arch your back. You should feel the stretch in front of your hip on the back leg.
Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
Exercise 2: Kneeling Hip flexor stretch with Quadriceps Stretch
Kneel on one knee with the other leg placed in front of you, both knees bent at 90-degree angles. Keep your back straight and do a posterior tilt of your pelvis (tucking your tailbone under) as you squeeze your glutes, tighten your abdominals and shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch. Make sure you DO NOT arch your back.
Once you’re in this position, bend the back knee and grab around your ankle with the opposite hand. You should feel the stretch intensify in front of your hip on the back leg.
Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
Strength Exercises For Weak Hip Flexors:
Following the stretches, we need to strengthen the iliopsoas and improve neuromuscular control. Low back pain and hip pain can be caused by the iliopsoas being shortened AND weak, therefore pulling on the vertebrae’s of our low back. This exercise will strengthen your hip flexors and teach you how to control the position of your spine as you move your legs.
Exercise: Heel Drop Bent Knees
Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and, by tilting your pelvis back and activating your core, press your spine flat down on the floor from your neck to your tailbone. Hold this tension throughout the entire exercise.
Breathe in at the top, and slowly lower one heel down towards the floor.
Gently tap the floor and return to the starting position while you exhale and contract your abdominals. Alternate legs for 10-20 repetitions total.
If at any point you feel your low back lift and you’re not able to keep it down, stop the movement, contract your abs and exhale while returning to the starting position. Make sure to do the exercise slowly and controlled.
I recommend doing 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions on each side (10-20 repetitions total)
Progressions (to make it harder):
Both legs bent knees
Both legs straight knees
Regressions (to make it easier):
Bend knee more so foot stays closer to buttocks
Bring knees closer to the chest
Choose the variation that challenges you, while you can still perform it with perfect technique. If you’re not able to keep your low back down, the exercise will strain your low back and won’t have the desired effect on strengthening your hip flexors.
And now stretch those tight hip flexors (again):
Following the strength exercise, complete the stretches again. This time holding each stretch anywhere from 20-90 seconds.
Don’t skip this step, you don’t want to finish your hip flexor workout with leaving your hip flexors tense and tight after those strength exercises.
If you want to know more about weak and tight hip flexors…
Watch my latest YouTube video for a more in-depth explanation and video instructions. In the video I go through everything step by step.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a message below or reach out via e-mail! I’ll be happy to assist you.
If you’d like to read this article in Danish, I posted a similar one back in 2015.