Exercises for Healthy Hips

The hip is a major weight-bearing joint in the body and is responsible for many functional activities such as walking and running, sitting and standing, and climbing stairs. By keeping your hips strong and mobile, hip pain can quickly be eliminated and you can return to normal activity.

Here are some basic exercises to help keep your hips strong and mobile. Remember to check with your doctor, physical therapist, or health care provider to ensure that you are healthy enough to exercise.

These exercises should be performed once per day to maintain strength and flexibility of the hips. When the exercises start to feel easy, you can perform two to three sets of each exercise to challenge the hip muscles and to further improve the strength and mobility of the hips. You may also wish to try more advanced hip strengthening exercises.

Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting this, or any other, exercise program.

1

Hip Squeeze for Groin Strengthening

woman doing hip squeeze exercise

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon

The hip squeeze is a simple exercise to do that can get your groin muscles working. Your groin muscles provide medial stability to your hips and help control the position of your knees.

While lying on your back, keep both knees bent and place a small ball, pillow, or towel roll between your knees. Give the pillow a gentle squeeze. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat 10 times. Be sure to stop the exercise if you feel any sharp pain.

2

Straight Leg Raise

woman doing straight leg raise

Photo: Ben Goldstein

 

The straight leg raise exercise can strengthen the front of your hips and quads and can help support your knees.

While lying on your back, keep one leg straight and one knee bent. Tighten your quadriceps muscle on the top of your straight leg, and then lift the straight leg up about 12 inches. Hold it there for two seconds, then slowly lower your leg. Remember to keep your leg as straight as possible. Repeat this 10 to 15 times.

You can make your straight leg raise exercise more challenging by adding a small cuff weight to your thigh or lower leg.

3

Side Leg Raise

woman doing side leg raise exercise

Photo: Ben Goldstein

The side leg raise helps strengthen the gluteal muscle on the side of your hip and buttocks. These muscles are essential in maintaining proper hip and knee position while walking and running.

Lie down on one side. The leg closer to the floor should be bent, and the top leg should be straight. Slowly lift your top leg up, making sure to keep your knee straight and your toes pointing forward. Hold for two seconds, then slowly lower. Repeat 10 times.

Bonus straight leg raise exercise: The Prone Straight Leg Raise.

4

Hip Rotation Stretch

woman doing seated hip rotation stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein

The hip rotation stretch, also known as the figure-four stretch or piriformis stretch, is a great exercise to keep your hips rotating freely in their full range of motion.

Here is how you do the hip rotation stretch: Sit on the floor with your knee out straight. Cross one leg over the other by placing your ankle on top of your knee (as if crossing your legs while sitting). Gently pull your knee across your body, and hold for five seconds. Then gently push the knee of the top leg away from you until a stretch is felt in your hip. Hold this position for five seconds, then slowly release. Repeat 10 times.

5

Ball Bridges

Photo of a woman performing ball bridge.
Henglein and Steets/Getty Images

 Performing bridges with a ball under your legs is a great way to improve the strength of your gluteal muscles as well as your hamstrings. Here is how you do it:

  • Lie on your back and place a Swiss ball under your calf muscles.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles, and then slowly lift your buttocks off the ground.
  • When your pelvis is raised up, hold the position for two seconds.
  • Lower down slowly.
  • Repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.
6

Hip Hikers

The pelvic drop exercise.
Slowly lower your leg by letting your pelvis fall gently while keeping your support leg straight. 2012, Brett Sears, PT

Hip hikers (also known as the pelvic drop) are great exercises to get your gluteal muscles working in a weight bearing position. To do the exercise, stand sideways with one foot on a step and the other hanging off. Keeping both knees straight, lower down your pelvis on one side so your foot moves toward the floor. Both knees should remain straight; the motion should come from your hip joint. Once your pelvis is lowered down, slowly raise it back up to the starting position. Repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.

A Word From Verywell

By keeping your hips strong and flexible, you may be able to prevent hip pain and problems from occurring. If you have hip pain, gentle exercise might be the key to help you decrease pain and return to your normal activity. 

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Article Sources
  • Lun, V., Marsh, A., Bray, R., Lindsay, D., & Wiley, P. (2015). Efficacy of hip strengthening exercises compared with leg strengthening exercises on knee pain, function, and quality of life in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine25(6), 509-517.