Kicking recruits your hip flexors, among other lower-body muscles.
You use your hip flexors -- located on your upper thighs on the front of either hip -- every time you kick the ball in soccer. Having strong hip flexors improves your kicking coordination, improving your passes and goal shots. Strong hip flexors also make you a faster player and reduce your risk of injury on the field. To strengthen your hip flexors, do resistance training exercises that target them and soccer-specific drills that recruit them for movements on the field.
According to sports coach Brian Mac, the strength of your hip flexors is directly related to how powerfully you can kick a ball. Kicking a ball involves both flexing your hip and extending your knee, making your hip flexors and quads the key muscle groups used. To kick a ball far and hard, you need power. The stronger your hip flexors, the more power you'll be able to hit the ball.
Speed is important in soccer, like when you need to get to the ball first or in time to receive a pass from a teammate. Your hip flexors lift and lower your thighs when you run and sprint. The stronger the muscle, the faster you'll be able to move it because it will have more explosive power. You also need a longer stride length to run faster. According to Mac, being able to lift your knees high using the strength of your hip flexors increases your stride length.
Watch out if you hear or feel clicking, popping or grinding of your hip bones when you play soccer, or if your hip flexors are always sore or need ice after playing. According to Coach Brent Grablachoff at KickingWorld.com, these are signs of being prone to hip flexor injury, which can happen when you overwork weak hip flexors or other muscles compensate for them as they lose endurance. This can be prevented by strengthening hip flexors off the field, since extra-strong hip flexors will help you avoid injury on the field.
Drills and Exercises
According to Mac, sprinting alone won't strengthen your hip flexors very much; to do that, you need resistance training. Do incline sit-ups and hanging leg raises, split squats and single-leg squats at the gym to strengthen your hip flexors. Add extra weight resistance as you improve. Do high-knee drills by running with high knees back and forth between two cones. Move between the rungs of a ladder on the ground as fast as you can, bringing your knees to your chest.