This one exercise can completely transform your flexibility and strength!
If there’s one area of the body that we forget about the most, it’s the hip flexors. Ironically, this muscle group does a ton of heavy lifting for us during walking, running, sporting activities, and more. Fortunately, training them is easy and extremely impactful. If you begin isolating your hip flexors during training sessions, you’ll notice a huge difference in hamstring flexibility, lower body/core strength, and running performance.
Today we’ll look at one incredibly easy exercise to strengthen this forgotten muscle group. All you need is 2–3 minutes and a little floor space to properly execute it! Whether you’re an experienced gym-goer or new to resistance exercise, there is a modification here for you. Here’s to discovering the immense power of training your hip flexors!
3 benefits of hip flexor training.
The hip flexor group includes several muscles, the main players being the rectus femoris, iliacus, and psoas muscles. Hip flexion itself is achieved when we raise the leg or knee up. Due to the natural mechanics of this movement, training these muscles is very simple. Just keep in mind that any history of injuries around this site should be reported to a health professional before participating in strengthening exercises. So, let’s jump into your new secret weapon!
The Pike Pulse
Application: 2 x 10 reps (1–2 x / week)
Cues: Start in an upright seated position with your hands planted just in front of you. Next, keeping the torso still, raise your legs up while keeping the knees straight. Go to your maximal range of motion and then slowly lower with control. Complete 10 reps in succession and then take a brief break. If you do it correctly, you should feel a very localized ‘burn’ at the front of your hips, along with a good challenge throughout the core.
Easy Regressions/Modifications: If you’re finding it challenging to raise the legs from this position or perform reps in succession, try declining your trunk. Level 1 would be to complete single-leg raises from a lying position. Next, you can progress to double-leg raises. After that, you can prop yourself onto the elbows to slowly begin closing the angle to fire up the hip flexors. Ultimately, work towards completing the position above for 20 reps.
If you’re breezing through this movement, consider adding a small leg or ankle weight to increase the load for the hip flexors!
Why the pike pulse?
#1 — Increased hamstring flexibility.
You may be confused about why this movement would have anything to do with hamstring flexibility, and I don’t blame you. Oftentimes, this muscle group is greatly misunderstood. In short, static stretching won’t help you increase flexibility, but strengthening exercises (deadlifts, hamstring curls) and antagonist muscle training (hip flexors, quads) can help you reduce stiffness.
This is far less about improving the ‘elasticity’ or ‘length’ of your muscles, and more about improving the relationship between the brain and these tissues. Static stretching may temporarily make you feel longer, but it’s not nearly as sustainable as mobility and strength exercises that target these muscles under load and stability.
#2 — Enhanced core strength.
While this movement may look innocent, it’s essentially a progressed version of lying leg raises. In other words, your core will be getting no shortage of work! Due to the close-knit relationship between the core and hip flexors, you’ll be sure to improve the endurance and strength of some of your other core exercises if you’re consistent with the pike pulse.
#3 — Better, safer running.
The most effective injury prevention method for running is resistance exercise. If you want longevity and success on the roads or track, you must put the work in at the gym. Due to the heavy load the hip flexors take on during running, and especially during sprinting, isolating this muscle group will do you wonders from both an injury prevention and performance standpoint. Even if you’ve had zero problems with your hip flexors in the past, it never hurts to take the 2–3 minutes to give you that extra layer of bullet-proof protection!
The hip flexors are easily the most forgotten muscle group while training. Whether you’re an avid runner or are just looking to decrease leg pain/stiffness, doing exercises like the pike pulse will make a world of a difference. Fortunately, all it takes is 5 minutes per week to isolate and strengthen this muscle group effectively. This small sacrifice will do wonders to boost your leg health, core strength, and overall athletic performance!
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