Everyone can benefit from hip conditioning, even if you don’t currently have any hip concerns.
Stretching and strengthening the muscles in this area helps build stability and flexibility so you can move with ease and avoid injury.
Many people have weak or inflexible hips due to excessive sitting and too little exercise. On the other end of the spectrum, athletes who overuse their hips can also experience pain and injury.
With so many hip exercises out there, it’s difficult to decide which are right for you. We’ve got you covered.
Here are 12 of the best hip exercises that can help everyone; from weightlifters, hikers, and runners to senior citizens and people living with arthritis.
Keep reading to learn what hip exercises are right for you and how to do them.
What muscles are we focusing on?
To stretch and strengthen your hips, you’ll want to target:
the gluteus maximus, the main extensor muscle of the hip
the gluteus medius, the main muscle on the side of the hip
Essentially, you’ll be strengthening and stretching the back and sides of the hips.
You’ll need to avoid overworking the tensor fasciae latae (TFL or IT band), which is right in front of the hip joint. If you overuse this muscle, you can cause unwanted knee, hip, or back pain.
Men and women can target the same muscle groups. In general, men often have tighter hips then women, though this can vary. Anyone with tight, inflexible hips should start slowly and gently, building up gradually.
Warm Up Exercises
Always warm up the large muscles surrounding your hips before you begin a workout. This boosts your circulation and gets these muscles flexible and fired up before you move into more dynamic exercises.
1. Frankenstein walk
This exercise works your hips, quads, and hamstrings. It also increases range of motion. Maintain good posture, avoid bending at the waist, and increase your speed as you progress.
Stand with your arms extended in front of you, palms facing down.
As you move forward, swing your right leg up to extend it straight out, creating a 90-degree angle with your body.
Lower your right leg to the floor, then swing your left leg up in the same way.
Continue for 1 minute, changing direction if your space is limited.
Once you feel comfortable, do the exercise by reaching your arm out to touch your opposite foot, extending your other arm behind you.
2. Hip circles
This movement increases flexibility and stability. For more support, use a stable object for support.
Stand on your right leg with your left leg lifted.
Move your left leg in circles.
Do 20 circles in each direction.
Then do the right leg.
To make this exercise more difficult, increase the size of the circles and do 2–3 sets.
3. Sidestep exercise
(You’ll need a resistance band for these exercises. Use a thicker band to increase the resistance. Can be performed without)
Keep your hips and toes facing straight ahead. Increase the intensity by lowering the band so it’s above your ankles and lowering your squat position.
Stand in a half-squat position with a resistance band around your lower thighs.
Engage your hip muscles as you slowly take small steps to the side.
Take 8–15 steps in one direction.
Do the opposite side.
4. Clamshell exercise
This exercise builds strength in your hips, thighs, and glutes. It stabilizes your pelvic muscles and can relieve tightness in your lower back, which helps prevent overuse and injury. Once you’ve mastered the basic pose, check out a few variations.
Lie on your side with bent knees and a resistance band around your lower thighs.
Rotate your top leg up as high as you can, then pause for a moment.
Lower to the starting position.
Do 1–3 sets of 8–15 repetitions.
5. Lateral step-up
(Any handheld weight object will suffice, can be completed at bodyweight)
This exercise works your glutes, quads, and hamstrings while stabilizing and strengthening your core. Up the intensity by increasing the weight.
With both hands, hold a dumbbell or weighted plate in front of your chest.
Stand with a bench or box to your right side.
Bend your knee, and place your right foot on the bench.
Stand up straight, tapping your left foot on the bench.
Slowly lower your left foot back down to the floor.
Do 2–3 sets of 8–15 repetitions on both sides.
6. Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
Improve your balance, hip mobility, and core strength with this exercise. It also targets your glutes and hamstrings.
Stand on your right foot with your knee slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
Maintain a neutral spine as you hinge forward to bring your torso parallel to the floor. Lift your left leg.
Come back up to standing. Lower your left leg.
Do 2–3 sets of 8–15 repetitions on each side.
7. Floor hip flexors
This exercise stretches your hip flexors, thighs, and glutes.
Lie on your back and pull your right leg into your chest.
Press the back of your left knee into the floor, feeling a stretch in your hip.
Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
Do each side 2–3 times.
8. Butterfly pose
This exercise stretches your hips while improving blood circulation.
Rest your sitting bones on the edge of a cushion or folded blanket to support the pelvic tilt. If you feel tight, place blocks or cushions under your thighs for support.
Sit with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together.
Interlace your fingers under your feet. Use your elbows to gently press your knees down to the floor.
Feel an opening in your hips as you release tension.
After 30 seconds, extend your arms in front of you, and come into a forward fold.
Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
You can deepen the stretch by bringing your heels in closer to your body.
9. Donkey kick out
Do this exercise to tone and strengthen your hips and glutes.
From tabletop position, lift your right knee, keeping it bent as you kick upward.
Bring the bottom of your foot toward the ceiling.
Return to the starting position.
Do 2–3 sets of 12–20 repetitions on each side.
10. Side leg raises
This exercise strengthens your glutes and thighs. To increase difficulty, place a weight on your thigh.
Lie on your right side with your legs stacked.
Raise your left leg as high as you can.
Pause here, then return to the starting position.
Do 2–3 sets of 12–15 repetitions on both sides.
11. Single-leg bridge
This exercise works your core, glutes, and hamstrings while giving your hips a nice stretch and promoting good posture.
Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet in toward your hips.
Press your palms into the floor alongside your body.
Extend your right leg so it’s straight.
Lift your hips up as high as you can.
Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Do each side 2–3 times.
12. Threading the needle (Piriformus)
This pose stretches your glutes and hips.
Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet in toward your hip.
Place your right ankle at the bottom of your left thigh.
Interlace your fingers around your thigh or shin as you draw your leg in toward your chest.
Hold for up to 1 minute.
Do the opposite side.
You can increase the difficulty by straightening your lower leg.
What to avoid during repair phases
There are certain exercises you should avoid if you’re experiencing hip pain. Rest and take a break from daily activities that cause strain for as long as possible. Long period posture has become a trend during lockdown so rechecking your posture, working environment and the cushion in your chair could help in recovery.
In general, high-impact activities, such as sprinting, jumping, weight lifting or hill running, should be done with extreme care. When walking on uneven ground, such as during a hike, pay special attention to your movement and try to create stability.
Exercises like squats, lunges, and step-ups can also put too much stress on your hips. Do these exercises with care, and avoid them during any type of flare-up.
Do what feels best for your body. Go only to the degree that’s comfortable. Avoid any movements that cause you pain.
The Takeaway Snippet
Keeping your hips strong and active is key to most of your daily and athletic movements. Be safe and consistent in your approach so you’re able to build and maintain results over time.
Choose the exercises that are most suited to your fitness level and goals and incorporate them into your fitness routine. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program if you have any health concerns.