In this post, you will learn about the best hip flexor exercises for seniors and why they are important for your health and longevity.
Hip flexors are a muscle group most people don’t really think about.
That’s probably because they rarely get injured or sore. They are also a bit of an invisible muscle group. Even bodybuilders don’t really focus on building them for this reason.
But they are an essential muscle group that affects your leg strength, gait, and posture. Not to mention athletic performance.
Even though you might never have given a second of thought to your hip flexors, it really pays off to make sure they are strong and healthy.
The modern way of life – which typically includes a lot of sitting – can have a detrimental effect on the hip flexors.
Too much sitting causes the hip flexors muscles to shorten. This can make them stiff and weak if you don’t stretch and exercise enough to counter the effect.
Tight hip flexors can tilt your pelvis and affect your posture. This can increase the risk of falls, reduce your balance and increase injury risk.
But I have good news for you! It only takes a few minutes a week to build strength in your hip flexors.
If you combine weekly hip flexor training with bodyweight squats, you can counter a lot of age-related strength loss in legs. I talked more about this in the article Weak Legs On Seniors.
So I recommend you read through the article and give these exercises a try!
What are the hip flexors?
Before we talk about the hip flexor exercise it’s good to understand a bit about the anatomy and function of this muscle group.
The function of the hip flexors
While it’s not that important to understand the exact anatomy of the hip flexors, it’s important to understand their function.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that are at the front of your thighs and hip joint.
They are responsible for flexing the hip joint. This means bringing the thigh closer to your torso.
This motion is involved in a wide range of activities such as walking, running, jumping, and sitting.
So any time you raise your leg, the hip flexors are activated.
But they are also activated when you are raising your torso from a lying position. Like getting up from bed or performing a sit-up.
In addition to hip flexion, the hip flexor muscles also play a role in stabilizing the pelvis and lower back.
When your hip flexors are weak or tight, it can lead to poor posture and lower back pain.
They can even affect your balance and gait, as I mentioned in the article Fall Prevention Exercises For Seniors [3 Exercises].
Therefore, including hip flexor exercises in your fitness routine can be beneficial for maintaining strength and mobility. As well as reducing the risk of injuries and falls.
Anatomy of the hip flexors
If you are interested more about the anatomy, it’s important to know that the hip flexors consist of several muscles that act together.
They all have a bit different functions and any of the can become injured or dysfunctional.
Psoas is the largest hip flexor and it has the biggest effect on your posture, as it originates from the lumbar spine. That’s why you often see and hear talk about psoas or iliopsoas problems.
Why hip flexor exercises are important for seniors?
As we age, our muscles tend to weaken and lose flexibility. This can make you more susceptible to injuries and falls.
The hip flexors are essential for maintaining balance, stability, and mobility. Yet people often overlook them in their fitness programs.
When you combine the lack of specific exercise with a sedentary lifestyle that involves too much sitting, it would be a miracle if your hip flexors wouldn’t be tight and weak.
Here are the main reasons why hip flexor exercises are important for seniors:
- Your strength and flexibility reduce with age: Even if you are active, the aging process will affect your muscles. It’s important to counter this with exercise so you can lead an active and fulfilling life as you age. Tight and weak hip flexors can cause pain and affect your ability to walk and stand for example.
- Increased risk of falls and injuries in older age: Falls are a common cause of injuries among seniors. Hip fractures are particularly common. Research has shown that strengthening the hip flexor muscles can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries by improving balance, stability, and mobility.
- Benefits of hip flexor exercises for improving mobility and balance: Incorporating hip flexor exercises into a fitness routine can help you improve mobility, balance, and overall quality of life. Hip flexor exercises can help increase flexibility, reduce stiffness and pain, and improve the range of motion in the hip joint. This can make it easier to perform daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of a car.
Types Of Hip Flexor Exercises For Seniors
To improve the function of your hip flexors, there are essentially two types of exercise for them. Stretching and strengthening.
With hip flexors it’s especially important to maintain a full range of motion and improve mobility before building strength.
Focusing on a short range of motion can make the muscles tighter and exacerbate your problems.
As we covered before, tight hip flexors can affect your posture and gait by tilting your pelvis. They are also prone to injuries.
So before we can start to strengthen the muscles, we need to make sure they are not tight.
Hip Flexor Stretches
It is very likely that your hip flexors are tight if you have not been very active.
Even if you exercise regularly, it’s possible to have tight hip flexors from sitting too much.
Even if you happen to have good mobility and are very active it’s a good idea to stretch your hip flexors before doing strengthening exercises.
This helps you avoid injuries and can also improve the range of motion even further. Remember that the aim is to have nimble muscles that are strong on the full range of motion.
There are a few good hip flexor stretches. The couch stretch is my favorite but some people find it a bit cumbersome.
You can learn how to do the couch stretch and some good option in the article Simple Hip Stretches For Seniors
The best hip flexor exercise for seniors in my opinion are standing knee raises.
Knee raises are a great option for seniors because they can be done in different variations.
More importantly, knee raises don’t require any kind of special equipment. All you need is your body and something to hold on to for balance support.
Knee raises are also great for seniors because they don’t require you to get on the floor. I think we both know how uncomfortable that can be.
Sit-ups are a great exercise to strengthen the hip flexors but they can be really hard on your back as you get older. I talked more about this in the article Sit-Ups For Seniors.
Knee raises on the other hand can be performed almost anywhere.
How To Perform Standing Knee Raises
1. Stand next to something sturdy you can hold on to for support. A kitchen table or counter is a good option.
2. Stand in good posture with your hips and knees fully extended
3. Raise one leg by bringing your knee towards your chest. Do this in a controlled manner and try to raise the knees as high as possible.
4. Bring the leg down in a controlled motion
5. To improve the range of motion, you can bring your leg back as much as feels comfortable
6. Do several repetitions and change the leg
That’s it. That’s all you need to improve your hip flexor strength.
To improve strength in your hip flexors, you should perform this exercise often, increasing the number of repetitions over time.
At first, you will likely notice a burn pretty quickly. But just after a couple of weeks, you will likely see some significant improvement!
Here’s a great example and explanation of the exercise by The Move Better Project (YouTube Embed. Content not created or owned by ElderStrength.com):
Notice that in the video the exercise is called standing hip flexor raise. These are different names for the same exercise. Some call them leg raises, even though that generally refers to a different exercise.
I hope you found this article about hip flexor exercises for seniors useful. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help you out.
Hip flexors are a very important muscle group for your balance, posture, and gait so it really pays to give them a little attention.
Fortunately, with these tips, you can keep your hip flexors strong, nimble, and healthy!
As a final word, I want to point out that there are medical conditions that can significantly affect your range of motion and strength in the hips.
If you have any discomfort or hip pain, it’s very important to consult medical professionals to assess your hip function before attempting to strengthen them yourself.
Arthritis, osteoporosis, connective tissue conditions and many others can affect your hip joint stability and range of motion. So it’s important to rule out any medical conditions if you have hip pain or mobility issues.
For more ideas on keeping your hips strong, check out the articles Exercises For Hip Pain In Seniors [3 Exercise Tips], Hip Strengthening Exercises For The Elderly [With Tips!] and Exercises For Hip Pain In Seniors [3 Exercise Tips].
Thanks for reading and see you next time!