While many clientele demonstrate marked hip flexor tightness, limited hip flexor strength and/or poor endurance can be a limiting factor with performance. For example, endurance runners may struggle with hill climbing or late in a race if they lack sufficient hip flexor strength/power. This exercise is a way to facilitate hip strength (drive) and improve performance.
Execution: Place an elastic loop or mini-band around the balls of the feet. Choose a lighter band for this exercise to avoid too much strain on the hip. Slowly flex the right hip up as far as possible while maintaining good control on the left leg. Pause for about one second at the top, and then slowly return to the start position. Keep the foot dorsiflexed during the movement (toes pointing ahead). Repeat for 10 repetitions and then switch sides. Perform 1-3 sets.
Regression: decrease the resistance and/or remove the elastic band altogether
Progression: increase the time under tension or level of resistance
Application: This exercise is an effective way to improve hip flexor strength on the moving leg, while improving closed chain stability on the stance leg. This movement is also effective for facilitating running mechanics. The focus should be on form and minimizing trunk lean, pelvic drop and dynamic valgus on the stance leg. It will be necessary to use tactile, audio and visual feedback for clients to reinforce proper form.
Be sure to emphasize a slow and controlled cadence, as fatigue will lead to more rapid movements and compensations including foot drop, forward trunk lean, decreased hip flexion, etc.. Keep in mind that an asymmetrical hip mobility issue as well as pelvic positioning may impact the execution of the movement.