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17 Hip Exercises Proven to Loosen and Strengthen Hip Muscles

Exercising your hip muscles can provide many benefits, like increased mobility, flexibility, strength, and pain relief. When you practice hip stretches and exercises, you may find it easier to do things that were more difficult before, such as running, jumping, or other simple activities that involve hip motion. That’s why I’ve put together these basic hip exercises that can help you target mobility and strength. 

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Exercises for Hip Muscle and Joint Problems

If you have hip muscle or hip joint problems, you can try these hip-strengthening exercises to help strengthen them. These exercises are designed to improve flexibility and relieve hip pain. They also help prevent injury by strengthening muscles around joints.

Hip pain is caused by numerous things, including muscle strains and injuries, arthritis, and inflammatory disorders. Gentle exercises for the hips can often help alleviate pain and restore mobility.

Peer-reviewed studies show that strength training and flexibility exercises are important for relieving hip pain. These exercises shouldn’t cause or aggravate any pain. If an exercise causes you pain, stop doing it. Or try going at a slower pace.

Targeted Hip Muscles

The hip muscles include the pelvic and groin muscles. They’re important for keeping the body stable and moving the legs. 

him muscles anatomic diagram

Strengthening the hip muscles is important because they support the spine and pelvis. Weakness in the hip muscles can lead to back pain and other health issues. Strengthening the hip muscles will help keep your lower back strong and healthy.

Abductors

Your hip abductors are located along your outer hips. They’re important and often overlooked muscles that help us stand, walk, and move our legs easily.

Hip abduction exercises and stretches can not only help you get a tighter and toned backside, but they also help to keep your hips healthy and strong.

Hip abduction is the action of moving the leg away from the body’s midline. This action is used daily, for example, when we step aside, get out of bed or exit a vehicle. We also use it in walking to keep our unsupported leg under control.

Glutes

Your gluteus muscles, located in your backside, help your body remain upright, keep your body going forward, and help you perform your workout routines. Keeping your posterior healthy will help you move better.

The gluteus medius and minimus muscles help with hip abduction (the movement of the leg away from the body) and impede hip adduction (the movement of the leg toward the body). They work together to keep our bodies stabilized. 

The gluteus maximus is the primary hip extensor muscle and the biggest of the three gluteal muscles. Their main job is to keep us upright and push our bodies forward.

Adductor

Your adductor muscles are located on your inner thighs and help you move your legs toward the middle of your body. They help provide stability during daily activities and support explosive movements such as jumping or running for athletes.

Rotator

External rotation of the hips is when the thigh and leg rotate outwards, away from the body, and internal rotation of the hip is the opposite.

Actions that involve using external hip rotation include:

  • Getting out of a car.
  • Throwing a ball.
  • Any other movement requiring a person to rotate their hips while putting most of their weight on one leg.

The external rotators can become weak due to injuries, surgeries, or prolonged periods of physical inactivity. Weak rotator muscles can increase the risk of injury.

IT Band

The iliotibial (IT) band helps your hip’s extension, abduction, and rotation. It also helps to protect the outer thigh while stabilizing and moving the side of your knee.

You can get your doctor to check whether you have IT band syndrome by considering your history, examining your symptoms, and performing an examination. This may include a physical assessment, such as performing certain movements, strength, or stability tests. Your doctor may assess whether your pelvic alignment is correct and the tightness of your IT band. Depending on the case, some cases may require an ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Flexors 

The main function of hip flexors is to bring your thigh upward towards your abdomen or bring the abdomen towards your thighs.

You use your hip flexors every time you take a step. Sitting for too long or not moving enough lengthens and tightens these muscles, which makes them stiffer and less flexible. Short muscles don’t generate as much power as longer muscles. When you use these muscles, they might be difficult to use or not work as they ought to.

How to Strengthen Hips

Any strength exercise will make your muscles work harder than usual. This can lead to regulated bone density, stronger muscles, balance, and reduced joint pain. Strengthening your hips can reap a lot of benefits, such as increasing range of motion and even helping with back and knee pain. You can strengthen your hips by consistently maintaining active exercises in your daily routine and speaking with your doctor about an exercise plan.

An effective hip-strengthening routine consists of sets of exercises that target your hip and glute muscles, the hip joints, and help with hip extension. It’s also key to maintain proper nutrition so your body feels energized and your mind is sharp throughout the day.

By providing your body with proper nutrition and consistent exercise, you’re bound to see a decrease in hip pain, as well as an easier time performing daily activities like walking, running, and sitting. You’ll be surprised by how much balance you’ll gain back, too! Many of these exercises require balance, which will help you regain alignment.

How to tell if you’re exercising at the right level

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your exercising effectively while your performing them, so here are some tips to let you know whether your exercising at the right level.

Pain during exercise

If you are experiencing pain during exercise, it could be due to muscle strain or injury. Muscular injuries can occur if you push yourself beyond your limits. For example, if you lift weights above your maximum capacity, you may experience pain or discomfort.

 While mild discomfort is common during exercise or stretching, you should stop and speak with your doctor or physical therapist if you begin to feel sudden pain. 

Pain after exercise

It’s normal to feel some pain after exercising. This is because muscles are sore after working out. However, if you experience severe pain or swelling, see a doctor immediately.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, stop what you’re doing right away and seek medical attention. These include: 

  • Severe pain or stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

The hip exercises listed below are simple and easy to do. If they cause severe pain, you should contact your physician.

Squats

Squats help to open up your hips and tone your legs. It’s a common exercise and relatively easy to perform. They’re a great workout for your lower body and your knees. However, don’t go overboard if they hurt you.

Squats
  1. Stand upright.
  2. Bend your knees, lowering your body downward.
  3. Go back to the standing position.
  4. Repeat this 5 to 10 times, depending on your physical ability.

Swimming Superman

This resistance band exercise works the gluteus medius effectively while engaging the hip abductor muscles.

superman exercise
  1. Lie on your belly with your hands pointing forward.
  2. Put the band above the knee, raise both feet off the ground. 
  3. Arch your back and start opening and closing your legs.
  4. Do 10 to 15 repetitions.

Side Lunges

Side lunges are great for opening up tight groin and hip muscles while strengthening the inner thigh and glutes.

Side Lunge
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and toes facing forward.
  2. Step out with your left foot as far as you can.
  3. Make sure you’re feeling the stretch in your groin and the soles of your feet are flat on the ground.
  4. Return to your original position.
  5. Repeat the same motion on the right side.
  6. Repeat this workout 10 to 15 times.

Having Babies

Don’t let the name fool you; this is a great exercise for engaging the hip abductors, core, and tricep muscles.

having babies - compressed
  1. Sit back on your elbows with your feet together and the elastic band above the knee. 
  2. Raise your hips to whatever height you can and push the knees outward.
  3. Hold the position for two seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this movement 15 to 20 times. 

Banded Walk

Banded walks are among the best exercises for strengthening your glutes and increasing hip mobility.

Monster Walks
  1. Use a resistance band that has moderate resistance.
  2. Put the band around your ankles.
  3. Keep your back aligned and feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Walk forward or backward while keeping constant friction on the resistance band.

Side-lying Leg Lifts

Side-lying leg lifts (side-lying leg raises) are common exercises in Physical Therapy programs because they help keep hips and knees strong.

Side Lying Leg Raise
  1. Lie down on one side with the bottom leg slightly bent and the top leg straight back.
  2. Raise your top leg to a comfortable height with your foot in a flat, flexed position.
  3. Hold the position for three seconds.
  4. Lower your leg.
  5. Do this motion 10 to 15 times and switch to the other side.

Half Jacks

Half jacks are a great strengthening exercise for your glutes and hip abductors. Use a lightweight resistance band to prevent injury.

Half Jacks
  1. Place the band just above your knees.
  2. Stand up straight and carefully jump into the air letting your feet land wider than shoulder-width and flat-footed.
  3. Hinge your upper body forward at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Hop back into to starting position with your feet together.
  5. Hop back out into the squat position and hold for two seconds.
  6. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Clamshell Exercise

You can perform the Clam Shell with or without using a resistance band. It effectively loosens and strengthens all of your thigh and hip muscles. 

Clam Shell
  1. Lay on your side.
  2. Bend your legs at 45 degrees.
  3. Place your head on your lower arm.
  4. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  5. Keep your feet touching and raise the banded upper knee.
  6. Avoid lifting your lower leg up.
  7. Hold this position.
  8. Perform 20 reps for each side.

Scorpions

Doing scorpions effectively will tone your glutes and improve hip mobility. You can do this exercise with or without a resistance band. 

scorpion hip exercise
  1. Get into a plank position with the resistance band over the knees, and your bottom arched upward.
  2. Drive each leg back and up, squeezing the glute at the top.
  3. Do 10 to 15 reps for each leg.

Hip Circles

Hip circles are one of the best hip exercises for improving mobility and relieving joint pain. It’s a low-impact exercise that targets the thigh muscles.

Hip Circles
  1. Stand upright with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend your hands either in front of your stomach or on your hips.
  3. Pull one knee up until it’s parallel with the floor.
  4. Push the knee out, opening up your hip.
  5. Go back to the original position and repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat this exercise 15 to 20 times.

Floor Hip Flexor Exercise

Exercises that target your hip flexors will help loosen them up and relieve any tightness. This hip flexor exercise provides a gentle stretch that can help people with hip pain find relief.

Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation
  1. With one knee bent, kneel onto your right leg.
  2. Put your right foot on the floor in front of your body
  3. Lean forward, so your right hip stretches downward.
  4. Squeeze your gluteus muscles, so your hip flexor stretches.
  5. Hold the position for a comfortable amount of time, typically around one minute.
  6. Switch to your other leg and repeat.

Baseball Swings

This workout is done with resistance tubes with handles and helps increase mobility and flexibility in your hips.

Baseball Swings
  1. Tie the tubes with handles onto a secure foundation or split them over the side of a door at shoulder level.
  2. Use both hands to grab the handles.
  3. Turn sideways and take a wide stance.
  4. Twist your body towards the base, and pull the handles across your body like you are swinging a bat with straight arms across your chest and to the other side. 
  5. Keep your legs straight or slightly lunge to each side as you pull the bands across.
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side. 

Donkey kicks

This is an example of a classic exercise usually done with a machine. However, you can also do it independently if you want to work your glutes for exercise.

Donkey Kicks
  1. Position your body on all fours.
  2. Extend your left leg straight behind you, then kick up towards the ceiling.
  3. Repeat each side at a comfortable pace.
  4. Hold your leg in an extended position and bend it at the knee as you kick out to shift your weight.
  5. Go back to the original position and do the other side.

Speed Skaters

This exercise is a good glute workout that engages your core and hip abductors. This exercise is done with a lightweight resistance band.

Speed Skaters
  1. Place the elastic band just above your knees and stand shoulder-width apart.
  2. Step out and lungee your left knee forward as though you were starting on a pair of ice skate blades or roller blades, swinging your arms to the side.
  3. Hold this position for two seconds, then alternate legs.
  4. Repeat 12 to 15 reps on each leg.

Bridge

The Bridge exercise is one of the most commonly used exercises for stretching the pelvic and gluteal muscles. If you want an extra challenge, use light weights and rest them across your thighs.

14. Bridge
  1. Lie down with your knees and feet flat at a comfortable distance from your hips.
  2. Keeping your arms by your sides, slowly lift your hips to make a ‘bridge.’
  3. Hold for up to 10 seconds, keeping your shoulder blades and neck on the ground, your glutes and abs engaged the whole time.
  4. Slowly lower your hips back down. 
  5. Repeat 15 to 20 times. 

Hip Abductors

This is a simple hip stretch that you can do on any flat surface to help loosen tight hip muscles.

Hip Abductors
  1. Place your ankle against a flat surface, such as a table, bed, chair, etc.
  2. Reach your opposite arm straight up by your side.
  3. Lean into the lifted leg, hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and release. 
  4. Do this stretch three times on both sides. 

Gator Bites

This resistance band exercise is great for the obliques and upper thighs. Ensure the resistance bands are lightweight so you don’t risk injury.

Gator Bites
  1. Lie down on your side and put the resistance band around your ankles.
  2. Open your legs just wide enough to give the band some tension.
  3. Raise your leg, creating more tension on the resistance band.
  4. Return to starting position. 
  5. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg, engaging the ab muscles when your feet are apart. 

Increase Mobility With These Hip Exercises

You may not be prepared to return to your normal exercise routine right away, and improvements may be slow at first. However, gradual recovery from a hip injury is the best way to achieve good short and long-term results.

You should pay attention to your pain levels when exercising, especially in the early stage. You may find that doing these hip exercises increases your symptoms slightly at first. However, they should become easier over time. By practicing them regularly, you can help to improve mobility in the hips.

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Dr. Kristina DeMatas

Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Read bio.

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