12 Best Exercises For Hip Flexors (According To Experts)

best exercises for hip flexors

As a fitness coach, I’ve helped many of my clients work through hip flexor issues caused by hip flexors that are tight and weak. My job is to recommend exercises that will help them stretch and strengthen their hip flexors so they can get back to the activities they enjoy.

Here are the 12 best exercises for hip flexors:

  • Couch Stretch
  • Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Groiners
  • Shin Box Hip Flexor Stretch
  • 90/90 hip Flexor Stretch
  • Hanging Leg Raises
  • Banded March
  • Pause Squats
  • 90/90 Hip Flexor Rotations
  • Poliquin Split Squat
  • Walking Lunges

In this article, we will talk about how to address tight hip flexors and strengthen them to improve performance and decrease injury.

What Are Hip Flexors?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles located in the front of your hip, pelvis, and lower torso. These muscles are responsible for bending the hips (flexion) and assisting in pelvic stability.

The muscles involved in hip flexion include:

  • Iliacus
  • Adductors
  • Psoas Major
  • Gracilis
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)
  • Sartorius
  • Rectus Femoris (Quadriceps)
  • Pectineus

The hip flexors are a very active muscle group as we use them in everyday life (walking, running, stairs, biking); however, they can easily become tight from prolonged sitting or when they become weak.

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Why Is It Important To Stretch and Strengthen Your Hip Flexors?

Tight and weak hip flexors are more than just uncomfortable, they can also cause a variety of issues:

Tight Hip Flexors Can Cause Lower Back Pain

tight hip flexors can cause lower back pain

When the hip flexors are tight, they pull the pelvis forward which causes your pelvis to tilt anteriorly. When this happens, the lumbar spine (lower section of the spine) goes into hyper-extension (arching). 

Over time, this can cause lower back pain and increase your risk of lower back injury, especially when running or working out.

Weak Hip Flexors Can Result in Hip and Knee Pain

Your weak hip flexors may be responsible for hip and knee pain while squatting, running, or lunging. The hip flexors help you to bend the hip, which is a necessary part of most movements, but if the hip flexors cannot perform their job properly then it can cause instability at the hip and knee. 

The lack of strength in the hip flexors put the hips and knees in unfavorable positions which can result in pain and injury.

Lack of Hip Mobility

Lack of hip mobility is often used as an umbrella term to address a slew of issues like back pain, poor posture, and limited range of motion when performing movements.

If you have tight and weak hip flexors, you may find it difficult to squat deep, run fast, or stand without excessive arching of the lower back.

How Should You Stretch and Strengthen Your Hip Flexors?

To develop hip flexor strength (and flexibility), you will want to stretch and strengthen the hip flexors in the fullest range of motion. 

If you stretch them out, but then never strengthen them in the full range of motion, then you may still suffer from not having strong hip flexors in the ranges of motion that matter most.

When looking at issues caused by tight hip flexors, it is important to understand that tight hip flexors are often a result of them being weak. When a muscle becomes “overactive” or “tight”, it often is because the muscle lacks the strength to go through the full range of motion.

Direct hip flexor training doesn’t need to be something you spend hours on, especially if you are already performing a full range of motion squats, lunges, and lower body exercises. Adding in a few of the movements below as warm ups or doing a few a week, 2-3 sets  a session would suffice. Keep loading relatively moderate, and work on slow and controlled reps (8-15 reps).

Stretching frequency can be based on need. The more you are able to achieve a good range of motion during training, the less you’ll need to spend stretching. Start out stretching 1-2 movemende daily for 3-4 sets of 20-30 seconds. Once you have achieved better levels of flexibility and can train the full range of motion, you can stretch as needed to maintain your flexibility.

6 Best Hip Flexor Stretches

best hip flexor stretches

Below are six of the best hip flexor stretches for all levels. However, if you are new to hip flexor stretching, start at the top of the list and progress your way down toward the last exercise (these are in order of difficulty).

Note: some of these stretches can be found in the Fitbod app, however, others are not there. 

1. Couch Stretch

The couch stretch is a stretch that targets both the hip flexors and the quadriceps. Tight quads can pull on the hip flexors, so stretching both of these muscle groups is beneficial for addressing tight hips.  

You can place more emphasis on the hip flexors by taking a wider stance to open the hips more in the stretch.

How To Do It

  • Take a knee and place your rear foot on a bench, box, or low step, with the rear knee on the floor. Your front leg should be in front of you.
  • You should feel a stretch in the hip flexor of the side of the body that has the knee down. To get a better stretch, make sure you are not arching your lower back.
  • If you want more of a hip flexor stretch, walk your front foot forward a few inches and push the hip forward by squeezing your glute (not by arching your back).

2. Supine Hip Flexor Stretch

The supine hip flexor stretch involves lying on your back (supine = lying on your back) either on a massage table or the side of your bed, so that you’re off the ground by a few feet. 

When you’re lying down, you will be able to focus on keeping your lower back flat and letting gravity do the work to stretch your hip flexors. 

You do not need to support your weight when doing this, making it a great way to stretch the hips for longer periods.

How To Do It

  • Lying on your back on a table or bed close to the side edge.
  • You should have one leg straight out on the stable and the other one hanging off the table.
  • Let your leg that is hanging off the table hang freely, and feel the stretch in the hip flexors and quadriceps. Make sure you are not arching your lower back.
  • If you want a bigger stretch, pull your other knee into your chest (the leg that was resting on the table).
  • If you have a partner, they can also then move the leg that is hanging toward the ground to deepen the stretch.

3. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

The standing hip flexor stretch can be done with minimal setup, and allow you to stretch the hip flexors and quads. Those who struggle to stay balanced on one foot should use a wall for support when performing this exercise to avoid falling over.

How To Do It

  • Starting from a standing position, lift one leg off the ground by bending at the knee and letting your foot come up towards your glutes.
  • Grab your foot or the back of your shoe with your hand (left hand grabs left foot, right hand would grab right foot).
  • Stand tall and squeeze your glutes so that your hips stay underneath you and your back doesn’t arch.

4. Groiners

Groiners are dynamic hip flexor stretches that are done in a plank position. This is a great way to stretch the hips before exercise and can help increase your lower body mobility.

How To Do It

  • Start in a plank position, with arms fully extended and legs straight back behind you.
  • Step one foot up beside your hands, making sure to keep the back knee straight and lower back flat. 
  • You should feel a big stretch in the leg that is straight, however, you may also feel a stretch in the groin as well.
  • If you do not feel a stretch in the hip flexors of the straight leg, make sure your rear knee is not bent.

5. Shin Box Hip Flexor Stretch

The shin box hip flexor stretch is a floor-based stretch that is a progression to the 90/90 hip stretch (below). This is a good stretch for the hip flexors, glutes, and quadriceps.

How To Do It

  • Start on the floor, with one leg bent in front of you (knee facing forward, and ankle in front of your hips).
  • Your back leg should have the knee bent, pointed outwards to the sides, with your rear ankle behind you. Your front knee and hips do not need to be at 90-degree angles (such as in the 90/90 hip flexor stretch below).
  • Once in this position, sit tall and feel the stretch in the outer and inner hips and quadriceps.
  • To get more out of this stretch, lift yourself onto your knees, opening the hips. Lower yourself down and repeat.

6. 90/90 Hip Flexor Stretch

The 90/90 hip flexor stretch is a more advanced version of the shin box hip flexor stretch and can be done after you can successfully complete shin box stretches.

How To Do It

  • Assume the same start position as you would in the shin box stretch, however, this time make sure your knees and hips are at 90-degree angles (less bent than in the shin box stretch).
  • Once you have assumed the setup position, you can sit there, making sure to sit up tall, feeling the stretch around the entire pelvic region (glutes, hips, lower back, quadriceps).
  • To make this a more dynamic stretch for warming up, you can lift your knees off the ground and rotate them to the other side, all while keeping your feet on the ground (and not letting the hip and knees move out of the 90-degree bent area).
  • You can then repeat this back and forth, making sure to not unbend the knees or hips as you move back and forth.

6 Best Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises

best hip flexor strengthening exercises

Below are six of the best hip flexor strengthening exercises.

Note: some of these stretches can be found in the Fitbod app, however, others are not there.

In addition to the exercises below, any lower body exercise that places the hips into deep degrees of flexing and extending (bending and straightening) will be good for strengthening the hip flexors.

1. Hanging Leg Raise (or Knee Raise)

The hanging leg (or knee raise) can be done hanging, but also can be done lying on the floor if hanging is too difficult for you at this time. The hip flexors aid the abdominals in flexing the hips (bending the hips), which is why this “core” exercise can also target the hip flexors.

How To Do It

  • Start by hanging from a bar, with your feet together and legs straight.
  • With the legs straight, lift your feet as high as you can towards your hands. The higher they are lifted (with straight knees), the more hip flexor and abdominal strength you need.
  • If keeping your legs straight is too challenging, bend the knees and pull them upwards to the chest. This is still a challenging hip flexor exercise but requires less hip flexor and core strength than the straight leg variation.

2. Banded March (Standing or Lying)

Banded marching can be done from a standing or lying position, and is a good exercise to strengthen the hip flexor muscles. You will need access to a resistance band, ideally, the smaller loop bands referred to as “mini bands”.

How To Do It

  • Stand or lie down on your back, and place a mini resistance band around your feet (the band should be over the shoe laces.
  • Starting with both legs straight (and toes pointed towards the sky if you’re lying down), bend one knee to pull the band towards you.
  • The other leg should remain straight, as this will increase the difficulty of the movement.
  • Make sure your toes stay pointed upwards to ensure the hip flexors are performing the movement.
  • Once you get your knee pulled up to your chest (or as high as you can), pause, and then slowly straighten your leg out and switch sides.

3. Pause Squats (Deeper the Better)

Pause squats are great for increasing your core and hip flexor strength because the pause at the bottom of the squat forces the hip flexors and core muscles to contract to stabilize the pelvis. 

Pause Squats can be done with a barbell for front or back squats, with a dumbbell in a goblet squat, or bodyweight.

Regardless of which pause squat variation you choose, the deeper the squat, the more hip flexors you will target (and the more difficult the movement will be).

How To Do It

  • Perform a squat to the deepest position you can, making sure to keep your lower back flat.
  • Once you have squatted as low as you can without your back rounding, pause, and then stand back up.
  • The goal here should be to squat as low as possible and hold. You can elevate the heels to help you get more hip flexion in the squat (bending at the hips).
  • If you’re doing a bodyweight variation, you can also take a narrow stance, with your toes forward, and place a yoga block or ball between the thighs. As you squat down, keep tension on the ball/block to engage more of your hip flexors and muscles of the hip/inner groin.

4. 90/90 Hip Flexor Rotation

This is a dynamic version of the 90/90 hip strength I discussed earlier and is a more advanced bodyweight movement to strengthen the hip flexors.

How To Do It

  • To perform this movement, you will assume the same setup position as the 90/90 hip flexor stretch from above.
  • Next, you will slowly lift one knee (while keeping both feet planted), and then the other knee, rotating yourself to the other side.
  • The higher you can lift the knees, the more hip flexor stretching and strengthening that will occur.

5. Poliquin Split Squat

The Poliquin split squat is a split squat that targets deeper ranges of motion to increase hip flexor mobility and strength. This is a challenging exercise and should be done slowly with full control.

How To Do It

  • With your front foot elevated (3-5 inches), place yourself in a standing split squat position. An easy way to find your split squat position is to do a lunge and then stand up while keeping your feet where they’re planted.
  • Place the majority of your weight in the front foot, and lower yourself down into a split squat, making sure to keep your torso upright.
  • Your back knee should NOT bend further than it is in the start position. This will force a bigger stretch on the rear hip flexor.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your front knee should be bent over the front toes (but make sure your heel stays down), and your chest should be upright.
  • Stand back up, repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch legs.

6. Walking Lunge

The walking lunge is a great exercise to strengthen the hip flexors if you do it properly (and shift a little more emphasis to them). As discussed above, you want to take the hips through a large range of motion (which means opening and closing them). To do this, you will want to take bigger steps in the lunge than you normally would.

How To Do It

  • Stand tall and descend into a lunge, taking as big of steps as you can without losing balance. 
  • You should still be able to touch the back knee to the floor.
  • Stand up, and step into the next lunge to continue in a walking manner. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Sample Mobility Routine to Stretch Tight Hip Flexors

Below is a sample 10-minute mobility routine to stretch tight hip flexors. You can perform this routine before or after a workout but if you’re doing it before then be sure not to hold these stretches for more than a minute.

Static stretches lasting longer than 60 seconds have been shown to decrease power output when performed before a workout, so it’s best to save most of your static stretching for after your workout. 

You must ease into stretching movements, and “take what your body gives you” (meaning, don’t overstretch a muscle or force yourself into a position).

Note: the exact routine below is not found in Fitbod exactly how it is written below. The below routine is a sample that you can use as a reference when you go to design your own.

  • Couch Stretch: Perform one minute of the couch stretch per leg, slowly walking your lead leg forward and deepening the stretch as you can throughout each minute.
  • Shin Box Hip Flexor Stretch: Sit in the stretch for one minute, then switch lead legs and repeat for another minute. You can add some lifts to the minute as well if you can progress into those.
  • Groiners: Perform 3-5 steps per side, taking bigger steps every time. You should try to keep the back leg straight and pause in the stretch for 10 seconds for every step).
  • Supine Hip Flexor Stretch: Perform 3-5 slow and controlled reps here, making sure to lower yourself and pause in the stretch (for 10 seconds). Switch legs and repeat.

Sample Workout Routine to Build Stronger Hip Flexors

sample workout routine to build stronger hip flexors

Below is a sample workout routine you can do to build stronger hip flexors. This workouts routine will also help to build leg and core strength since the hip flexors work alongside these muscles in many of the movements

The key to this workout is to make sure you are using a full range of motion and pausing at the bottom of every rep.

Note: This workout routine is not found in the Fitbod app exactly as it is below. You can however use this sample workout as a reference to build your own hip flexor stretching routine based on your own ability levels and equipment access.

  • Banded March (Lying or Standing): Perform 2-3 sets of 10 marches per leg, going slow and pausing at the top of every march.
  • Pause Squats: Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps, pausing at the bottom of each repetition for 3 seconds. Make sure you sit as low as you can while keeping the chest up and lower back flat. The lower you can sit (more bending of the knees and hips), the better.
  • Poliquin Split Squats: Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps, lowering yourself slowly (3-4 second lowering phase). Remember, the key is to keep the back knee straight, and sit as low as you can without leaning forward.
  • 90/90 Hip Flexor Rotation: Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 slow and controlled repetitions. See how slowly you can perform these with full control. This is a great way to finish off a workout, as it can help restore hip mobility after a tough workout.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.

Helpful Resources

Looking for more helpful content to improve your mobility? Take a look below!

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.