7 Exercises That Strengthen Your Hips
Healthy, mobile hips mean better movement and less pain.
Most people don’t realize how much their hips do until something goes wrong.
These ball-and-socket joints generate power and move in all directions, allowing you to walk, get in and out of a car, climb stairs, reach for things, and much more. To do all of these things without pain, it’s important that you regularly work your hips in their full range of motion. The hip exercises below from fitness expert David Jack will help you do just that.
Look at the list below, and pick one movement to do every other day. Once you can do that movement and feel comfortable, add another exercise. Keep adding more hip exercises until you are doing all seven, either as one long workout or during multiple short sessions throughout your week. For example, you might do the first three exercises on Monday, the second four on Wednesday, the first three again on Friday, and so on.
Ready to get started? Here’s how to perform each exercise. As always, safety is key. The movements here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Hip Exercise #1: Seated Side Taps
Because this is a seated exercise, it’s an especially safe way to work several parts of the hips.
How to do it: Sit tall in a chair with feet flat on the ground, holding the sides of the seat for support. Engage your core. That means to tighten across your belly as you would if someone were about to punch your gut. Lift your left foot and extend the leg in front of you and slightly to the side, at about a 45-degree angle. Tap your left heel on the ground, then bring the left foot back to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your right foot.
Finally, extend your left foot and place your heel on the ground, then extend your right foot as well. Bring both feet back to the starting position at the same time. That’s one rep (single + single + double). Do 10 reps total.
Hip Exercise #2: Step Back, Stand Up
In addition to working your hips, glutes, quads, and core, this exercise challenges your coordination. That means it helps improve the communication between your muscles and your brain.
How to do it: Stand tall and engage your core, as if you are about to be punched in the gut. Step your left leg behind you, hinging forward at the hips and slightly bending your right knee as you do. Tap the left toe. Then press through your right foot to go back to upright, lifting your left knee so that the upper leg is parallel with the ground. Pause for one second, then repeat the movement. Do eight reps and then switch to repeat with your right leg.
If you need help balancing, use a wall or chair for support.
Hip Exercise #3: Step Back and Forward with Leg Extension
This Step Back, Stand Up movement adds an extra challenge because you have to balance longer.
How to do it: Stand tall and engage your core, as if you are about to be punched in the gut. Step your left leg behind you, like you did with the previous exercise. This time, however, push into your left foot and stand on it as you extend your right leg behind you, parallel to the floor.
From here, bring your right leg back to the starting position. Next, extend your left leg in front of you, parallel to the floor. Continue this back-and-forth movement, extending one leg behind you and then the other in front of you. Do 10 reps, then switch sides and repeat, this time extending your left leg behind you and right leg in front.
If you need help balancing, use a wall or chair for support. You can make it easier by only lifting your foot a few inches off the floor.
Hip Exercise #4: Standing Knee to Side Kick
This movement works your hips, core, and glutes, and also improves stability.
How to do it: Stand tall and engage your core, as if you are about to be punched in the gut. Shift your weight into your left leg as you raise your right knee in front of you so your thigh is parallel with the floor.
Keep your toes pointed forward. Extend your right leg out to the side slightly lower than hip height. At the same time, extend your arms out to the sides for balance. You should feel this in your butt, not the front of your hips. If you feel your hips, lower your leg slightly.
Pause with your foot off the ground, then return to the starting position. Do 10 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
If you need help balancing, use a wall or chair for support.
Hip Exercise #5: Side Hurdle Step
This movement works your hips in many directions. It’s great as part of a warmup and to build strength.
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How to do it: Stand tall and engage your core, as if you are about to be punched in the gut. Shift your weight to your left leg and push that foot into the ground. This will help with balance and power the movement.
Imagine there is a hurdle to your right and you need to step over it. Using slow, controlled effort, lift your right knee and draw a small circle with the knee from the front of you, then up and out to the side, taking a step to the right as if you are stepping over that hurdle. Bring your left foot to meet your right, then repeat the movement to the left. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps total.
Hip Exercise #6: Seated Runner
This move targets the hips, lower back, and lower abs, while also working your core. If you feel any pain in your lower back, skip this exercise.
How to do it: Sit tall in a chair with feet flat on the ground, holding the sides of the seat for support. Engage your core, bracing as if someone were going to punch you in the gut. Extend your left leg in front of you to tap your heel on the ground. At the same time, reach your right foot slightly behind you to tap your right toes to the ground. Your toes will be under your seat.
Repeat the movement, bringing your left toes back to touch the ground and extending your right leg to touch your right heel to the ground. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps total.
Hip Exercise #7: Single-Leg Hamstring Hinge
This stretch uses your glutes for support and stability while stretching your opposite hamstring.
How to do it: Stand tall and engage your core, as if you were about to be punched in the gut. Hinge forward at your hips as you bend your left knee slightly and extend your right leg in front of you, placing your right heel on the ground. Your heel should only be slightly ahead of the toes of your left foot.
Keep your back straight, and sit your butt back as if you’re trying to push a door open behind you. You will feel a stretch in your hamstring. Only go as deep as is comfortable. Pause for a moment, then switch sides. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps total.
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