Build a stronger, leaner body before breakfast with these four simple moves.
A ringing alarm clock in the morning probably means one thing to you: It’s coffee time. But it’s also the perfect time to knock out a quick lower-body workout.
Making exercise a daily habit is the best way to stay fit as you age. And strengthening the hips and thighs is one of the most important fitness habits for older adults.
“As we get older, the muscles and bones that support our hips and legs can dramatically lose strength,” explains Lisa Niren, a group fitness instructor and trainer at CityRow in New York City, adding that the hip has a huge impact on overall strength, function, and mobility.
Plus, if you’re interested in losing fat or increasing your daily calorie burn, it’s well worth training the muscles of the hips. After all, the hips and glutes compose the largest muscle group in the human body—and building more lean muscle means higher metabolism.
So the next time your alarm sounds, fire up the coffee maker and perform this quick and effective workout, courtesy of Niren, while your java brews. For best results, make it part of your regular morning routine as many days as possible.
1. Standing Hip Extension
Focusing on the gluteus maximus, the single largest muscle you’ve got, this exercise has major carryover into daily activities, including getting up from a chair and even walking.
How to do it: Stand tall facing a wall, kitchen counter, or back of a sturdy chair, holding onto it for balance. Keeping your back straight, brace your core, and allow both legs to bend slightly. Transfer your weight onto one foot.
From here, slowly extend the lifted leg straight behind you as far as you comfortably can, making sure not to further bend your knee as you do so. Pause, then slowly lower your leg to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
Make it harder: Perform the exercise with ankle weights on. Or loop a small resistance band around your legs, just above your knees (or slightly below, if the band rides up).
2. Standing Hip Flexion (or March in Place)
The muscles in the front of the hip can get tight and weak, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting. This exercise helps fix that.
How to do it: Stand tall facing a wall, kitchen counter, or back of a sturdy chair, holding onto it for balance if needed.
From here, raise one knee as high as you comfortably can, keeping your torso tall and stationary as you do so. Pause, then slowly lower your leg to return to starting position. Repeat with your opposite leg. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps.
Make it harder: Once you can reach your knee above hip height with good form, perform the exercise with ankle weights on.
3. Glute Bridge
This staple bodyweight move strengthens the glutes while also improving stability throughout the hips, lower back, and core.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart, and heels a few inches away from your buttocks. Press your arms into the floor for support, and brace your core to minimize the arch in your lower back.
From here, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your knees to shoulders. As you get stronger, focus on getting your shins as close to vertical as you comfortably can at the top of the movement. Pause, then slowly lower your hips to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps.
Make it easier: If getting down and up from the floor is too challenging, you can perform this exercise on your bed.
Make it harder: Perform the bridges while holding a light weight by both ends against the top of your hips. It should sit right in the crease of your hips.
4. Monster Walk (or Band Side Step)
This exercise strengthens the hip abductors, which are the muscles along the outer hips and thighs. Despite being critical to stability and mobility, they’re commonly weak among all age groups. Strengthening them helps reduce hip and knee pain.
How to do it: Place a miniband or tie a longer band around your legs, just above your knees. Bend knees slightly with your feet hip-width apart.
From here, step to the side until the band provides resistance, then slide your other foot over to re-create your original stance. Repeat this sidestepping movement for 10 reps in one direction, keeping your torso vertical as you do so. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Make it harder: Increase the bend in your knees to hold a small squat throughout the entire movement.
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