As you design your workout program, you’re likely putting a lot of focus on your quads, hamstrings, chest, back, and arms. These are the most noticeable body parts that men work since they are the most visible to the naked eye. Despite this fact, it’s important to think about some of your smaller muscle groups that may not look all that impressive, but will improve your ability to lift heavier during other exercises, and will also help you better perform many of the activities or sports you do on a daily basis.
Hip exercises are the perfect example of this type of less-visible but highly functional focus. The hip flexors in particular are a small muscle group that play a big role in the body. They help to keep the hips in the correct position, and they’re working hard every time you step up a stair, do squats or just get out of a chair. Having strong hip muscles will also help prevent back problems: When the hips are in alignment, the spine is in alignment as well.
Here are some of the main hip exercises that will target the hip flexors and all the surrounding hip muscles.
While you may have always thought of decline sit-ups as stimulating the abdominal muscles, they also call the hip flexors into play. As you lean back past a 180-degree angle, your hip flexors are automatically going to start tensing, preventing the body from falling back completely.
Keep in mind that the hip flexors are generally a much weaker body muscle, so it’s not going to take all that much weight to get them stimulated and progressing. Aim to complete two to three sets of 10-15 reps.
Hanging leg raise
Another classic abdominal exercise is hanging leg raises, which make for another good hip exercise. To increase the intensity of this movement, wrap weights around your ankles or attach a cable to your ankles as you raise them through the air.
Maintaining the straight-leg position throughout the movement will be challenging enough at first, however, so be sure you’ve got that covered before adding any additional resistance. Perform one to two sets of 8-10 reps.
Cable single-leg raise
Cable machines offer a nice variety of resistance training options and are perfect for hip exercises. After attaching the cable to your ankle, select between 20-40 pounds, which is usually plenty to work your hip flexors.
From there, stand facing away from the weight stack with both legs straight and shoulder width apart. Begin to lift one knee up toward the chest, pausing for a second at the top before lowering again. Complete 10-12 reps on one leg and then switch sides for two sets total.
You can also do this movement with your leg going out to the side or back. The only difference is that you should maintain a straight-leg position rather than bending at the knee.
Lying leg raise
If you don’t have a cable available to you, another hip exercise option is a lying leg raise. To do this one, you will again attach an ankle weight, and lying on your back or side, lift your leg straight up into the air until it’s at a 60-degree angle with your body. Lower to complete the rep and switch sides to work both legs equally. Complete 15-20 reps on each side for two to three sets.
Stationary lunge stretch
After performing any hip exercises, you will want to ensure that you’re stretching thoroughly afterward because this muscle is prone to becoming tense.
One of the best stretches to perform for the hip flexors is a stationary lunge where you move into a lunge position, but allow your back knee to touch the ground. Once in that position, place your hands either on the floor in front of you or on your knee and slowly allow the body to rock forward gently until you feel a pull in the hip area. Hold that position for at least 10 seconds, and then switch legs and repeat two stretches for each side.
Stretch it out
The classic quad stretch will also stretch the hip if you think of pushing the hips forward slightly while pulling back on the knee that’s bent.
Doing these stretches regularly will keep the area lose and limber. Often hip flexors can also become tight from sitting all day at work, contributing to lower back pain. By stretching your hips every day you will help overcome hip and back pain.
Source: Jeff Bayer, AskMen