runners legsHip Flexors.  We all have them, but what do they do and how can they affect our ability to run?

The hip flexors are the name given to a group of muscles in the pelvic region and upper thighs that, as the name suggests, flex the hips.  The strongest hip flexor is the Iliopsoas (a combination of the psoas major and the iliacus).  It helps us to stand, walk and run.  Other hip flexor muscles include the Rectus Femoris, Sartorius and Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL).

Tight hip flexors may cause pain in the low or mid back, Sacroiliac Joint, hip, groin, thigh, knee or a combination of any of these.

Weakness in the hip flexor causes decreased ability to flex the hip joint which, if you are a runner can decrease your stride and effect your running form.

Strong hip flexors allow for a faster and more powerful forward leg movement and upward knee drive and also keeps the pelvis and thighs aligned, which can improve running speed and endurance and also lessens your risk of injury.

So how do you strengthen your hip flexors?

The following exercises can help to strengthen hip flexors;

  • High Knees – This builds endurance in the hip flexors. Include 3 rounds of 30-60 secs into your running or workout routine.
  • Lunge with Knee Drive – You can either do this on flat ground or put one foot on a Bosu for an extra challenge. This exercise helps to strengthen the hip flexors and also improves balance.
  • Knee drive with resistance – This exercise can be done with a cable machine or a resistance band and involves standing tall and lifting one knee up (with weight or band attached) until the thigh is parallel with the ground and holding it for 10 secs and repeating.

By adding these exercises into your routine a few times a week you can improve your running performance and reduce your risk of a hip flexor-related running injury.