Strengthen your Hip Flexors

This is part 4 of the article How to Run Faster… at any Age as we start going into Technical Competency and Sprinting Efficiency.  Part 2 talked about the importance of coordination. Part 3 talked about Hip Height and Sprinting.

I would classify training the hip flexors more of a strength endurance exercise.

In short, Strong hip flexors allow for a faster and more powerful forward leg movement and upward knee drive, as well as a good complement for Training the Posterior Chain.

I also believe training the hip flexors have a key role in injury prevention, and you’ll have to go back to my article on Hamstring Injuries, the Iliopsoas and Imbalances to understand why.

When you are running the 200 or 400 meters, and fatigue sets in, having strong hip flexors will carry you through the line. Just watch a track meet and you’ll see the hips “collapse” in novices.

Here are some of the popular hip flexor exercises to strengthen them.? Be sure to stretch the hip flexor afterwards with a good set of lunges and with a foam roller.

hip flexor muscles

Photo source:

Slow Running A’s or High Knees.  I still have memories of my 9 years with Coach Dennis Barrett doing these.  Basically, it’s running on the spot with high knees, but not too high high where the hips drops. This would be an oxymoron to hip height.  The arms are fluid, like a running action.  Relaxation is key.  We start with 3 sets of 10 meters and build up to 50 meters or more throughout the season.  The key is form, and you should stop the exercise when form deteriorates.  Cues are “stay tall”, “relax”, “good arms”, and “lean forward”.

Cable (or Band) Knee Drives. 3 sets of 10 reps.  Usain Bolt reportedly does these, so it must be good?  Using a low cable pulley and an ankle cuff attachment, stand so that the cable has pressure, but not enough to whip you backwards. Drive your knee explosively up to your chest. Keep the movement controlled as you lower. Using band will give a different feel, and thus you’ll have to really accelerate the initial explosive movement. Make sure the upper body stays tall and this will work your core as well.

Knee Drives (no weight).  3 sets of 25 or 30 reps. This is the same as the above, but you simple drive your knee and your foot lands on a small box or chair in front of you. Make sure when you drive with the knee, the opposite arm goes backwards.

Lying Cable Knee Drive.  This is the same as number 2 above, but you are lying on your back and you attach the ankle cuffs to the cable pulley at floor height,  and bring both knees to the chest one at a time.

Spread Eagle Sit-ups.  This is the same as doing crunches, but with your legs straight and spread preferably resting on a squat rack, wall, or door frame.   Add a light weight for added resistance.

Hanging Knee or Leg Raises.  Hang from a pull up bar or some other apparatus, keeping your upper body straight, and either (1) bring knee to chest or (2) straight legs to parallel

Incline Bench Leg Raises.  If weak arms is your limiting factor for the above exercise, try the same exercise on an 45 degree angle on a sit up bench.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Hip Flexors are antagonist to the glutes. If they fire the glutes don’t.
    That is why I am a not a big fan of lifting legs with hip flexors. High knee drills and such.
    As the foot cycle around its movement should create the knee lift
    But if you don’t use your glutes when sprinting then you must use your hip flexors.

    Just as people scream triple extension, triple extension should happen because you are doing something,you shouldn’t have to force it to happen.
    Now you can create triple extension via the calf muscle as in doing a calf raise or via the glutes.

    • Yes the hip flexors are antagonists to the glutes but that doesn’t mean they won’t fire if you have strong hip flexors. Remember antagonists contract eccentricly when there is a forcefull concentric contraction so in fact the stronger the hip flexors are, the stronger the glutes need to be to handle the eccentric load placed on them during powerful hip flexion. One is the prime mover for hip flexion and one for extension so in fact it would be ideal if the glutes don’t fire much during hip flexion as this would increase forward swing velocity of the leg. Vice-versa during hip extenison it is ideal that the hip flexors are more relaxed so as not to inhibit backswing velocity. This means they need to be strong so they can tolerate greater eccentric loads induced by faster movement velocities produced by the agonist!!!

  • Strengthening your hip flexors combined with speed work will result in a faster knee drive, as far as being antagonistic to the glutes I can only think of flexibility issues, this is why you stretch.

  • Looking to increase my height in a seated straddle for a contest. Any suggestions. Can get feet off the floor but need more height to really show how great I am. Feel free to reply directly to my e-mail.

  • @ Jimson…or actually anyone else.

    Would performing hip flexor exerciese with an isometric band instead of a cable machine be better, the same, not as good? Could someone point to any articles?


    • Firstly, what do you mean by isometric band? Typically, band training is still isoinertial. As far as comparing the two, cables allow for more control over load and a reasonably constant resistance, while the resistance with a band increases as you get more deformation in the band. Thus, for a descending strength exercise like hip flexion i would prefer cables although i don’t rate either particularly highly.

  • After sitting for long hours at work, many of us develop weak hip muscles which can cause injuries while being more physically active in our free time.

  • The more I research about why I have tight hip flexors and remedies, the more it is all making sense. I too, sit for long periods of time. I have a strong upper core but not lower. These exercises seem to be all lower core, which is just what I need.

  • These exercises are all great but my problem would be putting these into a progression or periodization. Understand that there are many different versions of this exercise, but would doing three different variations of this exercise for the hip flexors in one day be beneficial?