7 Best Hip Flexor Exercises

Athletes rely on powerful hip muscles to compete in their sport. Recreational exercisers count on these muscles to propel them through a grueling run. And pretty much all of us need the hip flexors to fire when we want to walk, stand, climb stairs, run, squat, sit up in bed, and so many other daily activities. 

Collectively, these muscles allow you to flex or lift your thigh towards your torso. You also recruit the hip flexors when bending your torso forward at the hip.

But when these muscles are weak or tight, you may experience low back pain or tightness through the front of your hip. That’s why it’s essential to keep the hip flexors strong and flexible. 

A well-rounded lower body workout should include exercises that specifically target the hip flexor muscles. These muscles include: 

  • Psoas major
  • Iliacus
  • Rectus femoris
  • Pectineus
  • Sartorius

Here are seven of the best hip flexor exercises you can try at home or the gym. 

1

Straight Leg Raise

woman doing straight leg raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

One of the easiest and most gentle hip flexor exercises you can do is the straight leg raise. This move targets the hip flexors as well as the core muscles. It’s often included in a rehab program after a hip or pelvis injury, and it’s also an excellent exercise to add to a lower-body routine. You’ll need an exercise mat to perform the straight leg raise. 

How to Do Straight Leg Raise

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight and arms by your sides. 
  2. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle. Plant your right foot on the floor.
  3. Engage the quadriceps muscles in your left leg, inhale, and lift the left leg to about a 45-degree angle, keeping the leg straight. 
  4. Hold for three to five seconds. 
  5. Exhale and slowly lower the left leg to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat 10 times before switching legs. 

Modification: Decrease the distance you lift the straight leg. Start with lifting your leg a few inches off the ground and increase each time you perform the exercise. 

2

Floor Sliding Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers Annotated

Ben Goldstein

Mountain climbers are already a challenging exercise. Add a set of slide discs to the move, and you will feel the burn for days. This move targets your core and hip flexor muscles specifically. They also improve agility and burn calories. 

How to Do Floor Sliding Mountain Climbers

  1. Put a pair of slide discs or furniture sliders on the floor.
  2. Get in a plank or push-up position and put your feet on the discs. Your hands will be shoulder-width apart, arms will be straight and beneath your shoulders, with your back flat and body in a straight line from shoulders to ankles. 
  3. Engage your core and slide your right knee towards your chest. Go as close to your chest as you can while keeping the rest of your body in a straight line. Return the right leg to the starting position.
  4. Switch legs and alternate right and left legs for 30 seconds. 

Modification: To make mountain climbers easier, you can eliminate the sliding discs and perform a traditional exercise. You can also shorten the distance that you slide your leg towards your chest. 

3

Pigeon Pose

woman doing pigeon pose

 Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon

Pigeon Pose (aka Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is a hip opener yoga pose that includes a forward bend. The extended leg recruits the hip flexors and specifically targets the psoas muscle. 

How to Do Pigeon Pose

  1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog position or get in a tabletop position on all fours. From this position, bring your right knee forward and place it in line with your right wrist. Your right ankle will be toward your left wrist. 
  2. Slide your left leg back. It should be straight, with toes pointed and heel pointing towards the ceiling. You should be sitting up with a slight bend at the waist.
  3. Lower your hips to the ground. 
  4. Move your hands forward until your forearms are on the floor, and your head is resting on your arms. If this is too difficult, keep your torso upright and only lean forward as much as you can. 
  5. Stay in this position for five breaths. 
  6. Push back through the hands, lift your hips, move your leg back into all fours. 
  7. Repeat the pose with your left leg. 

Modification: If step four is too difficult, do a lifted pigeon pose. Keep your torso upright and only lean forward as much as you can. Also, try resting your head on a yoga block or placing a yoga block under your hip to decrease the distance between your body and the floor. 

4

Jump Lunge

Lunge jumps
Ben Goldstein

The jump lunge combines plyometric movement with the strengthening of the quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, and glute muscles. Plyometric exercises like the jump lunge improve power and performance in the lower body.

How to Do Jump Lunge

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Get into a lunge position: Take a big step forward with your right leg then shift your weight forward, so your heel touches the floor first.
  3. Lower your body so the forward leg is parallel to the floor. Place your arms at your sides. 
  4. Jump up with both feet, switching position of feet mid-air. Your left leg will now be forward and your right leg back behind you. Land in a lunge position with left leg forward. You can pump your arms in the air while you jump.
  5. Repeat the lunge jump movement for 30 seconds or 10 jumps on each side. 

Modification: The jump lunge is an advanced move. If it is too difficult, take the polymeric jump out of the exercise and perform a stationary forward or reverse lunge or do a set of walking lunges.

5

Bulgarian Split Squat

bulgarian split squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Bulgarian split squats are an intermediate exercise that strengthens the hip flexors, glutes, and calves. You need a bench or box that is knee-height. The move is performed unilaterally, which means that you target one leg at a time. This can help improve side-to-side muscle imbalances.

How to Do Bulgarian Split Squats

  1. Set a bench or box behind you. Make sure it is knee-height and level. 
  2. Stand in front of the bench, about two feet, with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your chest and eyes pointing straight ahead. Be careful not to round your shoulders.
  3. Starting with the right foot forward, pick up the left foot and place it on the bench behind you with the ball of your foot in contact with the bench. 
  4. Keep your back straight and lower the left knee towards the floor, but don’t let it touch the floor. It will hover over the floor before returning to the starting position. Your right knee should form a 90-degree angle, so your thigh is parallel to the floor. You will feel
  5. Press the right foot into the ground and push the top of the left foot into the toe box and return to standing. 
  6. Complete 12 to 15 reps on each leg.

*You can add resistance to this exercise by holding a dumbbell in each hand or a weight plate or small kettlebell with both hands. 

Modification: Ease into this exercise by starting with bodyweight only. As you progress, consider adding a light weight and increasing as your legs and core get stronger. If having your leg on the bench is uncomfortable, bring the move to the floor. Keep your back foot on the floor as you perform the exercise. 

6

Kettlebell Swing

kettlebell swing

Extreme Photographer / Getty Images

The kettlebell swing is part cardio, part explosive strength, and all about working every muscle in your body. Your hip flexors, mostly, play an active role in performing this move. 

How to Do Kettlebell Swing

  1. Place a kettlebell in front of you. 
  2. Stand tall, feet slightly wider than hips, legs slightly turned out. 
  3. Keeping a straight spine, bend knees, and bend at hips to pick up the kettlebell with both hands. 
  4. Pull shoulders back and lift the chest.
  5. Bend knees and bend at hips to swing the kettlebell between your legs (like passing a football), and then stand tall, swinging the kettlebell up in front of the chest as you squeeze your backside and press hip forward. Try to swing the kettlebell to shoulder level. Keep bodyweight towards heels.
  6. Lower the kettlebell and swing through your legs to repeat.
  7. Continue kettlebell swings for 60 seconds or 15 to 20 repetitions. 

Modifications: There’s not much you can do to modify the kettlebell swing other than taking your time learning how to do it. Consider hiring a personal trainer or physical therapist to walk you through each step and watch as you perform the move. They can make sure you’re executing each step correctly. 

7

Banded Hip March

hip flexor stretch

Getty Images / Wavebreakmedia

The banded hip march (aka the psoas march) is an excellent move to strengthen the hip flexors. Plus, the addition of a band around the ankles means you're working against resistance making the exercise more challenging.

How to Do Banded Hip March

  1. Stand hip-distance apart with your arms at your sides. Keep your chest lifted and core engaged.
  2. Loop a mini resistance band around the balls of both feet.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles, and bring your right knee up and out in front of you like you are marching. Stop when it reaches the height of your hips.
  4. Raise the left arm as your right knee comes up towards the hips. You will repeat opposite arm to opposite leg the entire round.
  5. Slowly lower the right leg and repeat on the left side.
  6. Do 8 to 10 reps on each leg, alternating sides.

Modification: You can drop the band and just do a psoas march. Think of this as a low-impact high knees exercise. You can also shorten the march by bringing your knee up half the distance.

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Article Sources
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  4. Lockie RG, Risso FG, Lazar A, et al. Between-leg mechanical differences as measured by the Bulgarian split-squat: exploring asymmetries and relationships with sprint acceleration. Sports (Basel). 2017;5(3):1-12. doi:10.3390/sports5030065