Suffering from pain in your Achilles, hamstring, knee or ITB (iliotibial band, which runs along the outside of your thigh)? It may come as a surprise to learn that your hip flexors could be to blame.
Weakness in the hip flexors – a group of muscles in the pelvic region and upper thighs that help drive up the knees and keep the pelvis and thighs aligned when running – can contribute to slower times, improper form and a host of lower-leg running injuries.
‘The body has the capacity to compensate for weak hip flexors, but the strategies to do that can lead to muscle imbalances and injury,’ says Gregory Holtzman, associate professor of physical therapy at Washington University, US. He recommends doing the following exercises three or four days a week to build and maintain strong hip flexors.
Seated hip flexion
Why Engages the hip flexors past a 90-degree angle to strengthen the muscles throughout their range of motion.
How Sit with good posture. Raise your right knee toward your chest (don’t let your thigh roll in or out). Pause, then slowly lower your knee to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side.
Why Engages the hip flexors while also strengthening the standing leg’s glutes, thereby increasing overall stability and balance.
How While standing on your right leg – keeping it straight – lift your left knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side.
Why Builds up muscular endurance in the hip flexors to help you maintain proper form on long runs.
How While standing on your left leg, raise your right knee as high as you can, then repeat with your left leg after you return your right foot to the floor. Quickly continue, alternating legs for 30-60 seconds. Do three sets.
Standing knee drive
Why Builds power in the hip flexors and hamstrings.
How Loop a resistance band around a sturdy object. Stand facing away from that object, with the band around your right ankle. Drive your right knee up until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Slowly lower your knee. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side.
Standing hip flexion
Why Isolates the hip flexors while also improving balance and muscle control.
How Maintain the same position as in the Standing Knee Drive. This time, keeping your right leg straight, slowly flex your hip forward; pause for a second, then return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side.