Your hip flexors need your attention right now!

Roman Koch 9. August 2022

Foto: Bengoetxea Iguaran

They not only connect your upper body to your legs, but also give you support and stability. Here you’ll find out how exactly the hip flexors work and what you should bear in mind when training.

This article is presented by Spiraldynamik

The iliopsoas muscle originates deep in the lower back (psoas major muscle) and in the pelvis (iliacus muscle) and then extends to the inside of the thigh. The two muscle strands merge at the level of the groin and thus form the iliopsoas.

It is the strongest hip flexor in the human body. However, due to its strength, incorrect loading can quickly occur: excessive hip flexion, a pronounced hollow back and externally rotated legs. To function optimally, it is essential it has the correct length and strength.

What can you do about short hip flexors?

When you spend long hours sitting at work, the iliopsoas shortens and thus pulls the pelvis forwards and down. This can cause pain in the pelvis and lower back. The following exercise will give your hip flexors the necessary length again:

Dynamic stretching

Start: Lie on your back with both legs bent. Rotate your pelvis backwards at the iliac crest so that your lower back lies flat on the floor (1). Now stretch your left leg straight in the air (2) and slowly lower it to the floor (3). Once on the floor (4), pull your left leg back to the starting position (1) and stretch it straight in the air (2).

Dosage: 2 sets of 10 repetitions per side.

Take note: Always keep your pelvis in the same position, so your lower back doesn’t arch and lift off the floor.

Variation: When you bring it slowly down, rotate your entire leg inwards from the hip until your leg gets to the floor.

How can you become more flexible?

If your hip flexors already have the necessary length, they need strength in the extended position. Always train your muscles by going through the full range of motion. This is the only way to get more power out of your hip flexors. Here’s how to strengthen your hip flexors in the extended position:

Active stabilisation

Start: Stand in a split stance. Your feet are hip-width apart and both feet are facing forward. Select a stride length that ensures both knees are at a 90° angle when your rear knee touches the floor. Now rotate your pelvis backwards at the iliac crest so that you no longer have a hollow lower back. Then lift your rear knee slightly in the air and hold this position.

Dosage: 2 sets of 45 seconds per side.

Take note: Keep the position of your pelvis upright so that you don’t end up with a hollow back. Your front knee is right above your front foot.

Variation: Now rotate your upper body to the side of your front leg. Keep your pelvis stable.

Now the power is missing!

With each step, your hip flexor on the free leg side must pull your leg forward, while the gluteal muscles move your supporting leg into the push-off phase. This interplay between bending and stretching not only requires length and stability, but also strength. With the next exercise, you'll kill two birds with one stone. Strength in the free leg and supporting leg:

Functional strengthening

Start: Place a folded elastic band on the floor in front of you. Now stand on it with your right foot so that the loop points to the left. Take the loop in both hands and pull it upwards. Now place your left knee inside the loop. Place the band flat on your left thigh and keep holding your leg up. Now move your left knee up as far as you can and lower it again. The closer the band is to your hip, the easier this is to do. The closer it is to your knee, the more difficult it becomes.

Dosage: 2 sets of 10 repetitions per side.

Take note: Keep your upper body upright and move your leg slowly and in a controlled manner against the resistance of the band. Your knee should always be facing forward.

Variation: When you pull your knee up, rotate your upper body towards the free leg side. When you lower your knee again, rotate your upper body back to the starting position.