While not everyone can have hips as agile as Shakira, we all can benefit from strengthening the muscles that support this ball and socket joint. Our hips are not only responsible for the rocking dance moves we bust out on occasion, but they’re also a vital area for runners, bikers, and nonathletes alike.
Sitting for much of the day — something almost all of us are guilty of — contributes to tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can cause lower back pain, hip pain, and injury.
And hip problems don’t stop there. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, hip replacements are on the rise in the United States, peaking among adults in early middle age.
To ensure that you won’t find yourself busting your body while busting a move — or simply walking down the street — here are nine great hip flexor exercises to keep your hip area strong and flexible.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Try these stretches to loosen your hip flexors and joints.
Seated Butterfly Stretch
This simple move will stretch your inner thighs, hips, and lower back — and you can do it sitting down!
- Sit on the floor with your back straight and abs engaged.
- Push the soles of your feet together in front of you. Let your knees bend out to the sides.
- As you pull your heels towards you, relax your knees and allow them to inch closer to the floor.
- Take a deep breath, and hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
This popular yoga pose is an advanced move, so only execute it if you feel comfortable doing so, and feel free to modify the pose.
- Begin in a plank position.
- Lift your left foot off the floor and slide it forward, so that your knee is on the ground next to your left hand, and your foot is near your right hand. Exactly where your knee and toes fall will depend on your flexibility.
- Slide your right leg back as far as you can while keeping your hips square and lowering yourself to the floor and onto your elbows, bringing your upper body down as far as possible.
- Hold the stretch without letting your chest fall. Once you feel like you’ve gotten a good stretch, switch sides.
It’s amazing what you can do while lying down. Like this Bridge pose!
- Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet on the floor, and your knees bent. Try to position feet so your fingers can touch your heels.
- Press into your heels, and lift your hips off the floor toward the ceiling while squeezing your glutes. Try to shimmy your shoulders as close together under your body as possible.
- Hold the position for a few seconds before returning to the original position, then repeat several times. Don’t forget to breathe!
Hip Strengthening Exercises
Try these exercises to strengthen your hip flexors.
- From a standing position, look straight ahead and take a generous step forward with your right foot.
- Bend your extended knee and transfer your weight onto that front right leg. Continue to lower yourself (slowly) into the lunge until your left knee hovers just above, or softly kisses the ground. Your right knee should be directly above your right ankle.
- Step back into a standing position, and repeat the pose with your left leg.
Floor Slide Mountain Climbers
Grab some sliding discs, paper plates or even hand towels — basically, anything that slides, and get ready to climb.
- Position yourself on a wood floor or another smooth surface.
- Place your homemade sliders under the balls of your feet while in a pushup position.
- Pull your right leg toward your chest, alternating with your left leg as you would for standard mountain climbers.
- Go slowly at first, and then pick up the pace.
This move is similar to regular squats, with a tweak that specifically targets your hips.
- Bend from the knee and hips, lowering your butt toward the ground while keeping your back straight and chest lifted.
- After each squat, shift your weight to either your right or left leg, while lifting the opposite leg off to the side with your toes pointed ahead.
- Alternate legs each time.
Straight Leg Raises
- Lie on your back with your palms at your side, and take turns extending each leg up and off the ground for about 2 seconds.
- Hold your leg at roughly a 45-degree angle. Your opposite leg should be bent at the knee with your foot planted on the floor, while your raised foot should keep the toe pointed to the sky.
- Switch legs, and then repeat 10 times on each leg.
Wall Psoas Hold
This move strengthens your deep hip flexor muscle known as the psoas, which can increase stride length and reduce injury. A win-win situation!
- From a standing position, bend your right knee and lift your upper leg up to the sky.
- Balance on your left foot while keeping your right knee and thigh at hip level for about 30 seconds.
- Lower it slowly, then repeat on your left leg.
- While lying on your back with your legs straight out, flat on the ground, slowly take a knee (one at a time) toward your chest.
- Pull it as close to your chest as possible without feeling uncomfortable.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat on your opposite leg.
Now that you’re armed with these stretching and strengthening moves, practice them on a regular basis. Remember, the stronger your hip flexors are, the better chance you have of keeping them injury-free, and off of the operating table!