Hip Flexor Muscles and Anatomy for Personal Trainers

How many of the 11 muscles involved in hip flexion can you name from memory? It’s hard to remember them all! Yet it’s easy to see why so many muscles are needed for this motion. You hip flex every time you sit, squat, walk or ride a bike. And your clients are flexing their hips constantly during workouts while lunging, crunching, stepping up, etc.

To make it easier for your memory, here are tips on how to study according your level of anatomy knowledge. Pick which works for you and then we’ll review the muscles!

Beginner hip flexor muscle anatomy

If you’re just starting your anatomy journey, work on remembering the names of all 11 hip flexor muscles. Use acronyms to help you. Here are the letters to work with: AAA I GG PP R S T. Scroll down to see the muscle names that go with these letters.

Here’s a sample acronym: GAGA RAP TIPS

So, what are Lady Gaga’s rap tips? I’m not sure, but creating acronyms is helpful and fun!

Share your funky hip flexor acronym (or gaga rap tips) with us on Facebook!

hip flexors

Intermediate hip flexor muscle anatomy

Once you’ve memorized the 11 hip flexor muscles, see if you can learn the bones that each muscle attaches to. Making flashcards is an easy way to practice.

All of the hip flexor muscles attach from the pelvis or spine to the femur or tibia, which is how they influence hip flexion. Bypass the tricky bony landmark terms for now and familiarize yourself with just the two bones each muscle attaches to.

The bolded words in the descriptions below are there just for you intermediate anatomy student! Knowing which bones each muscle attaches to is helpful for creating basic hip flexor exercises and stretches. More to come on that in a future article…

Advanced hip flexor muscle anatomy

If you know all the hip flexor names and bones they attach to, that’s an awesome accomplishment! Now you’re ready to learn the specific bony landmarks for each of the 11 hip flexors. This is not a feat for the faint of heart!

The landmarks are tricky to learn, but they’re the key to really effective exercise programming. Some of the hip flexors are better at creating hip flexion when the hip is internally or externally rotated and some better in neutral. Abduction and adduction also influence the way these muscles function. So does the degree that the hip is flexed.

With advanced anatomy knowledge, you can create stretches and exercises that are strategic, specific and help clients overcome muscle imbalances quickly. Unfortunately, there’s no quick way to learn the exact muscle attachments.

Do this to help…

skeleton

Find each specific muscle attachment listed below on yourself and a partner. Place the ends of a balloon, string or rubber band on each attachment site. Move the bones into internal and external rotation with hip flexion. Try adding some abduction or adduction with hip flexion. This will clue you in to the muscles abilities, which change as the position of the bones change. You’ll start to see the possibilities as you solidify your knowledge of the attachments and specific abilities of each muscle.

For example, psoas major and iliacus seem to be involved in external rotation of the femur because the lesser trochanter lines up with the other side of the muscle attachment more when the femur is externally rotated. In other words, it comes closer to the anterior (front) side of the body.

Hip flexor muscles and attachments

Each muscle below has the bones in bold for intermediate learners and the specific bony landmarks for advanced learners. I skipped origin vs. insertion because that just makes it more confusing and your muscles don’t really identify themselves that way anyhow… You can reference these amazing hip flexor muscles in any anatomy book. Anatomy coloring books are a fun choice if you’re in the market. Here are some anatomy books and study cards I recommend.

Psoas Major

Spine: bodies of transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae
from/to
Femur: lesser trochanter

Iliacus

Pelvis: iliac fossa
from/to
Femur: lesser trochanter

Tensor fasciae latae

Pelvis: iliac crest, posterior to the ASIS
from/to
Tibia: iliotibial tract

Sartorius

Pelvis: anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS)
from/to
Tibia: proximal, medial shaft at pes anserine tendon

Rectus femoris

Pelvis: anterior inferior iliac spine (AIIS)
from/to
Tibia: tibial tuberosity (via patella and patellar ligament)

Gluteus medius (anterior fibers)

Pelvis: gluteal surface of ilium between posterior and anterior gluteal lines, just below the iliac crest
from/to
Femur: lateral aspect of greater trochanter

Gluteus minimus

Pelvis: gluteal surface of ilium between anterior and inferior gluteal lines
from/to
Femur: anterior aspect of greater trochanter

Adductor longus (assists)

Pelvis: pubic tubercle
from/to
Femur: medial lip of linea aspera

Pectineus (assists)

Pelvis: superior ramus of pubis
from/to
Femur: pectineal line

Adductor brevis (assists)

Pelvis: inferior ramus of pubis
from/to
Femur: pectineal line and medial lip of linea aspera 

Adductor magnus (assists)

Pelvis: inferior ramus of pubis, ramus of ischium and ischial tuberosity
from/to
Femur: medial lip of linea aspera and adductor tubercle

 

Dive into anatomy more deeply with interactive videos and activities by signing up for Andy’s Anatomy Program, an NFPT approved CEC course.

Got questions about the hip flexors? Come ask us!

Reference

Biel, Andrew. 2014. Trail Guide to the Body. Boulder: Books of Discovery

About the Author:

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a unique method that involves a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, the NFPT blog editor, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn more about how to align your business with her coaching guide, Fitness Career Freedom and your body with her Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.