Strengthening hip flexors can help decrease hip and lower back pain. However, when is it advisable to do them? How do you do them? First, we must know what these muscles are and where they are.
Hip flexors are the muscles that bring the knee closer to the chest. The most important are the quadriceps and the iliac psoas, and they are located in the front part of the hip and thigh. Other muscles also help to do hip flexion, even if it is not their main function (like some hip adductors and abductors).
Therefore, strengthening the hip flexors also works other muscles, improving the health of your lumbar spine, hip, and knee. If you still do not include this type of exercise in your routine, we invite you to discover its benefits and how to do them.
Why strengthen hip flexors?
- To decrease the probability of injury in runners, athletes and active people. It has been proven that the weakness of hip flexors and abductors increases the risk of injury.
- To prevent the appearance of discomfort in the back or hip. Working sitting all day tends to weaken the hip flexors since we do not use them in that position. This weakens them in the long term, increasing the likelihood of feeling lower back and hip pain.
- As a treatment for back, hip and knee pain. In people with pain in these joints, strengthening hip flexors can decrease symptoms.
In certain people, stretching these muscles is a temporary solution to a bigger problem; The problem behind muscle tension and lack of flexibility is muscle weakness. If the goal is to reduce pain, it is preferable to try both stretching and strengthening.
If this is your case, try one week only of hip flexor stretches, and another week only of strengthening, then compare the results. Stay with what gives you more benefits or try the combination of both.
When to strengthen hip flexors?
- If you have a feeling of tension or compression in the front of the hip.
- When you have pain in the lower back or hip, especially if you spend a lot of time in the same position (standing or in a chair, for example).
- If you have already done hip flexor stretches to reduce any symptoms and there has been no major difference in symptoms, their intensity has increased or they reappear intermittently.
- If you have not previously strengthened the hip flexors to reduce symptoms.
If you try the exercises to strengthen the hip flexors and not feel improvement, it is best to go to the trusted physiotherapist so you can do an individualized treatment.
How to strengthen hip flexors
Basically you should do the hip flexion movement against some resistance. This resistance can be gravity, elastic bands, weights, etc. As everything depends on each body, use the following guidelines to strengthen the hip flexors:
- Focus on making the move appropriately. In some exercises, your lumbar spine should maintain its curvature, it should not flatten. We will explain how to achieve it later.
- It is not a competition of how many repetitions you can do. It doesn’t matter if you do fewer repetitions than you expected; The priority is that you do it right.
- This exercise should not speed up your breathing. You should breathe normally throughout all repetitions.
3 exercises for hip flexors
Start with 5 slow reps. Each repetition should last between 2 and 3 deep breaths. Increase the number of repetitions only if you follow the previous three points.
It is preferable that you do a series of 5-10 repetitions every 2-3 hours, especially if you have back or hip pain. Thus, the musculature remains active and prevents it from weakening by being so long in the chair. If you don’t have pain, you can do 2-3 sets with the number of repetitions you can do.
1. Simple hip flexion
This exercise will teach you to learn the movement properly.
To do it:
- Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hand in the gap between your lumbar spine and the floor.
- Inhale while bringing the knee to the chest without crushing the hand. In this way, you maintain the curvature of the lumbar spine.
If you literally bring your knee to your chest, your lumbar spine is going to flatten out, it is normal. Therefore, make the movement until you feel that if you go a little further you will begin to crush your hand. That is your endpoint.
- Exhale while returning to the starting position, without increasing the space between your hand and the ground.
Once you have mastered the movement, you can make it more difficult by following this progression (you must maintain adequate lumbar curvature in each one):
- Start with your legs stretched instead of flexed.
- Standing against the wall, with a chair next to you for support.
- Without the chair, but against the wall.
- Without leaning against the wall, but with a chair to support you in case of imbalance.
- Without the chair.
2. Hip flexion with iron
This exercise is excellent not only to strengthen the hip flexors but also to work the abs and the stability of your body in general. Before doing so, make sure you can iron properly, at least for 20-30 seconds.
To do the hip flexion with iron:
- Start with the iron posture.
- Bring one knee to the chest, without modifying the iron.
- Return to the starting position and repeat with the other side.
If this exercise is very difficult for you, you can try to do it standing in front of the wall, leaning with your hands and body in an iron position. Then you can do it in a chair. The idea is that you start from the vertical and gradually lean until you manage to do it horizontally.
Like the previous one, this exercise works on hip flexors, abs and the stability of your body in general. It can be difficult at the beginning, especially if you have no experience, but little by little it will be easier to do it and you will feel the benefits in your day today. In this exercise, you should flatten your lower back against the floor to do it correctly.
To do it:
- Lie on your back, with your feet flat on the floor.
- Crush the ground with your lumbar spine and raise your knees so that they make an angle of 90 degrees.
- Hold this position for 2 seconds.
If so far you can do it without much effort (the effort is excessive if you squeeze the face), the following is:
- Extend your right leg while raising your arm on that side in the direction of your left knee.
- Return to the starting position slowly.
- Do the same on the other side.
Remember that these exercises have effects are cumulative. The secret is to do it frequently, at least once a day. With perseverance and patience, you will get the desired results.