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The Hip or Thigh Flexor Muscles 

The thigh flexor muscles (a.k.a. hip flexors) are a group of seven muscles located on both sides of the body.  Their names are: 1) Psoas, 2) Iliacus, 3) Sartorius, 4) Vastus Rectus (a.k.a Rectus Femoris), 5) Adductor Longus, 6) Adductor Brevis, and 7) Pectineus.  These muscles are shown in Figure 1 below:

Thigh Flexor Muscles

  Figure 1.  The Thigh Flexor Muscles.




The reason we sometimes like to call these muscles thigh flexors instead of hip flexors is because it is much easier for people to visualize the movement of their thighs at the hip joint, rather than trying to figure out what is going on deep within the hip joint itself.


As their name implies, the function of the thigh flexor muscles is to flex the thigh, upward, at the hip joint. The fulcrum or leverage point of this thigh flexor motion takes place inside the hip joint where the head of the femur mates into the acetabulum.

The acetabulum is a rather complex joint when compared to other joints in the body. It is formed by the union of three separate bones: 1) ischium, 2) ilium, and 3) pubis. All three of these bones form a cup-shaped cavity, or socket, in which the ball-shaped head of the femur moves.

Figures 2a and 2b show the action of the thigh flexor muscles.




For many, the exercise of choice for these muscles is your basic sit-up as shown in Figure 3 below.

While it is true that sit-ups utilize your thigh flexor muscles in the movement, they are really being used more for leverage rather than motion.

In Figure 3 above, it is actually the abdomen that is moving toward the thigh rather than the thigh moving toward the abdomen (Figures 2a and 2b). The thigh is in a fixed position while performing the sit-up, i.e., it doesn’t move.

So again, sit-ups use the thigh flexor muscles more for leverage in performing the exercise rather than for movement of the thigh itself.

Is This a Problem?

If your goal is to build a strong core and stomach, then this is a highly recommended exercise.

If however, your goal is to run faster, kick farther and jump higher (as seen below in Figure 4), all of which require some degree of thigh flexor movement, then the sit-up exercise should not be your first choice.


Figure 4.

There are other reasons, too

Aside from utilizing the thigh flexor muscles more for leverage than motion, the sit-up exercise will only target two of the seven thigh flexor muscles listed above in Figure 1. These are the psoas and iliacus muscles.

The other five thigh flexor muscles require a little more creativity to target and as a result, even when athletes think they are training these muscles for speed and quickness, they are almost always leaving the other five out of the picture.

Again, the one’s that typically go untrained are the Sartorius, rectus femoris, adductor brevis, adductor longus and pectineus. These five muscles need special attention if you ever hope to tap into the full benefit of the hip flexor muscles.

Unfortunately, you can’t target these muscles directly on a machine, so don’t look for one, they don’t exist in the gym. This further leads athletes to believe that if they simply use all of the equipment at their disposal, that somehow, some way, they will have done everything they could to improve their athletic performance.

While this may work for some muscle groups, it will not work for the hip flexors. So as a quick test for you to determine if this is the case, can you name one exercise that you might be doing right now where you are physically raising your knee upward, under resistance while at the same time you are placing significant leverage on any one of these five remaining hip flexor muscles?

There aren’t many choices and as a result, the entire thigh flexor muscle group goes untrained by athletes on every level.

Fortunately, that is what we here at do best! We provide sport specific training programs designed to attack an athlete’s weaker areas. We do this using the resistance band with an isometric training strategy and that allows us to create an entirely new set of exercises.

These exercises, when athletes try them for the first time, deliver impressive results. If you are looking to run faster, kick farther and jump higher to name a few, then you will definitely want to consider getting your copy of one or more of these training programs found here on this site.

And now to finish up with our discussion of the thigh flexor muscles, let’s talk about their nerve supply.



The nerve supply to the thigh flexor muscles is as follows: The psoas muscle receives it’s nerve supply from the anterior branches of the lumbar plexus (L1, L2, L3, L4, & L5); The iliacus, sartorius, and vastus rectus receive their nerve supply from the femoral nerve (L2, L3, & L4 - a.k.a. anterior crural nerve). The pectineus, adductor longus and adductor brevis receive their nerve supply from the obturator nerve (L3,L4). The pectineus also receives additional nerve supply from the femoral nerve and the accessory obturator nerve. See Table 1 and Figure 2:

Table 1. Thigh Flexor Muscles and Their Nerve Supply.

Lumbar Plexus (L1, L2, L3, L4, L5)
Femoral Nerve (L2, L3, L4)
Femoral Nerve (L2, L3, L4)
Vastus Rectus
Femoral Nerve (L2, L3, L4)
Obturator N (L3, L4), Accessory Obturator N,  Femoral N (L2, L3, L4)
Adductor Longus
Obturator Nerve (L3, L4)
Adductor Brevis
Obturator Nerve (L3, L4)


LumboSacral Plexus - Anterior View.jpg

Figure 2. LumboSacral Plexus.  Anterior View.


Always glad to help, and remember, at, “We’ll bring you up to speed!” ™
Dr. Larry Van Such

Why the Thigh Flexor is underdeveloped in athletes

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