Exercises to strengthen hips and the surrounding muscles may end your woes with stiff joints, poor posture, and painful hips. Sitting for long periods, inactivity, and osteoarthritis are culprits of weak or tight hips, but exercise can help. First, let’s see how you strengthen your hips, what causes deteriorating hip joints, and some safety tips before diving into the 3-step exercise program.
How Do You Strengthen A Weak Hip?
The 3-step workout program includes:
Warm-Up Hip Exercises
- Frankenstein walk
- Hip circles
- Side plank with knee drive
- Banded hip march
- Banded glute bridge
- Bulgarian split squats
- Floor hip flexors
- Lateral lunges
- Quadruped pigeon pose
- Straight leg raises
- Lateral step-ups
- Reverse banded clamshells
- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
- Weighted hip thrusts
Hip Mobility Exercises
- Low-lunge twist stretch
- Reclined hip flexor stretch
- Butterfly pose
But first, let’s discover what causes weak hips and the muscles involved in strengthening the ball-and-joint stabilizer.
What Causes Weak Hip Muscles?
Medical News Today suggests the leading causes for weak or tight hip muscles include (21):
- Muscle atrophy from a lack of exercise
- Extended sitting periods at a desk
- Osteoarthritis and other arthritis types
- Past surgeries
- Cerebral palsy
The Cleveland Clinic also explains how excessive overuse of the same exercise movements can strain the hip flexors (9). Running, jogging, cycling, and same-movement exercises can lead to muscle overuse when you don’t target various muscles related to your hips.
Hip Muscles And Functions Explained
Physio-Pedia shows comprehensive anatomy of the hip joint and muscles and how the ball-and-socket joint functions (7):
- Flexor Muscles: The psoas and rectus femoris are muscles that help the joint bend.
- Extensors: The gluteus maximus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris allow the joint to straighten or twist.
- Adductors: The adductor magnus, longus, and brevis muscles pull the thighs inward, stabilize the hip, and allow the upper legs to rotate inward.
- Abductors: The gluteus medius and tensor fascia latae muscles allow you to move your legs away from your body.
- Internal Rotators: The gluteus minimus and tensor fascia latae muscles control the range of motion and stability of the joint.
- External Rotators: The gluteus maximus, gemelus, obturator, quadratus femoris, and piriformis muscles support joint rotation and range of motion.
Not knowing what your hip muscles do stumps you when they weaken or tighten. The National Library of Medicine suggests that hip muscles control your walking stability while supporting your body’s movements (2).
Boston and Washington’s researchers found that tight hip muscles or joints decline gait and posture, possibly leading to injury (16). Meanwhile, researchers in Manchester found that inactivity increases hip tightness (18). Hence, movement is essential to keep the joint mobile.
Does Strengthening Hips Help Hip Pain?
One of the leading causes of hip pain and stiffness is osteoarthritis, and exercise may reduce the pain. Finish researchers found that patients with osteoarthritis experienced less pain and stiffness after a 12-week exercise program (6).
Exercises For Weak Hips Safety Tips
The CDC recommends using gradual programs to start a safe exercise routine with weak hips (10). Don’t simply dive into a vigorous and varied hip routine without taking gradual steps, especially if you have osteoarthritis or other joint problems.
Instead, do this:
- Discuss new workout routines with a healthcare professional who knows your joint.
- Start with 3-5 minutes twice daily and gradually increase the duration to 10 minutes.
- Ease into a new routine over 6-8 weeks to allow your joint to get used to it (17).
- Follow a warm-up and wind-down routine to mobilize your hip muscles (17).
- Modify your workout when you feel pain or stop exercises that may cause it.
The CDC suggests speaking to your doctor if the following symptoms occur (17):
- Sharp or constant pain
- Pain and swelling that doesn’t improve with rest or medication
- Swelling, redness, and warmth around the hips or knees
Physio-Pedia says that the hip and knee joints connect with many hip muscles (7). Swelling and pain in the knees may also relate to your hip joint. Take caution when your knees act up as they’re related to the hip.
If you wish to cinch your waist, tone up your bat wings, blast away the muffin top – our fitness app was created to cater to all your needs! BetterMe won’t give excess weight a chance!
Best Exercises To Strengthen Hips In 3 Steps
Exercises to strengthen hips start with warm-ups before using strength and mobility exercises that target various hip muscles. Step one splits depending on how many warm-ups you want and whether resistance bands suit you. Step two splits to provide better workouts for women or to choose between weights and no weights.
3 Best Hip-Strengthening Exercises To Warm Up (Option 1)
The experts at Summit Orthopedics suggest dynamic warm-ups before exercises, which are safe enough for arthritis (5). Dynamic Warm-ups require gradual increments and simple range of motion movements.
- Stand like Frankenstein, with arms extended and palms down.
- Swing your right leg out slightly as you step forward.
- Your body creates a 90° angle as you swing your leg.
- Lower your leg before repeating on the other side.
- Continue the walk for 60 seconds.
- Stand on your left leg while your right is in the air.
- Make circles with your right leg while your knee is slightly bent.
- Complete 20 rotations and then in reverse before changing legs.
Side Plank With Knee Drive
- Start in a side plank while resting on your elbow,
- Stack your ankles, knees, and hips with straight legs,
- Tighten your glutes and core while bringing your knee toward your chest,
- Pause for a second before doing 15 reps on each side.
2 Banded Warm-Up Exercises (Option 2)
The New York Times also shares how resistance training improves muscle circulation and strength (11). Remember to complete the first warm-up session before using bands.
Banded Hip March
- Place a mini resistance band around the balls of your feet as you stand tall.
- Tighten your core and raise your chest as you start lifting one leg at a time.
- Your knee must lift and move in front of you until it reaches hip height.
- Don’t force the hip height if your hips or knees feel uncomfortable.
- Your glutes should tighten on the flat leg while your raised knee pulls on your hip.
- Slowly lower it before doing 5-6 reps on each side.
Banded Glute Bridge
- Put a resistant band around your thighs, above your knees.
- Lie on your back and spread your heels to hip-width, six inches from your glutes.
- Tighten your glutes and core while raising your hips without letting your knees touch.
- Lower back down before doing 15 reps.
5 Exercises To Strengthen The Hips Of Women (Or Weak Hips) (Option 1)
These exercises appeal to women, those with weak or tight hips, or painful joints. Men who might also want home workouts without weights can try doing this set.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Livestrong explains how Bulgarian split squats target the glutes, hamstrings, core, hips, and quads (23). It helps with home workouts without the use of weights.
- Place one foot flat on the floor and the other toe down on a bench.
- Keep your body straight and your hands resting on your sides.
- Tighten your core and glutes as you bend your knee from the toe-down foot to squat.
- Your chest will move slightly forward into your floor knee.
- Rise back before completing 15 reps on each leg.
Floor Hip Flexors
The name says it all! Physio-Pedia reminds you of the five muscles involved in the hip flexors, including the psoas, iliacus, rectus femoris, sartorius, and pectineus (8).
- Lie flat with your legs straight before pulling one leg toward your chest.
- Push the back of the resting leg’s knee into the ground to stretch the muscles.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds before changing sides.
- Complete each side thrice.
Lateral lunges target some muscles you haven’t worked on yet. The side lunge movement strengthens the adductors, quads, glutes, and tensor fascia latae on the hip’s sides (15).
- Keep your hands on your sides as you stand tall and spread your feet shoulder-width.
- Step out to the left with some force while your right thigh goes parallel to the floor.
- Use your left leg’s force to push yourself back into the starting position.
- Complete 15 reps on each leg.
Quadruped Pigeon Pose
Some stretches work well for hip muscles. WebMD suggests using pigeon poses to work your hip glutes, psoas, and rotators (12).
- Get on all fours before stacking your hands under your shoulders.
- Tuck your toes while keeping your heels directly under your knees.
- Move your left ankle in front of your right knee until your shin is parallel to your hips.
- Gently fold forward at your waist as you push your hips back.
- Extend your left forearm on the floor in front of you while bending your right elbow.
- Hold the position for 60 seconds before walking the movements in reverse and changing sides.
Straight Leg Raises
Alberta Health Services suggests that the straight leg raise targets the muscles connecting your thigh, hip, and knees (19). The exercise is also safe for injured knees or hips.
- Lie flat with one knee bent; foot flat on the ground.
- During this exercise, your back must not curve more than a flat hand’s height.
- Raise the other leg off the floor toward the ceiling, keeping it straight.
- Bring it back and flatten your knee against the floor to pull your thigh muscles.
- Keep those thigh muscles tight for 10 seconds before raising it again.
- Complete 12-15 reps on each leg.
Exercises To Strengthen Glutes And Hips With Lightweights (Option 2)
Exercises to strengthen hips and glutes focus on those muscles. Let’s discover the best exercises to target the hip and glute muscles with weights to add resistance. If you have joint pain or stiffness, please complete part one of step two.
Medical News Today suggests deadlifts as a hip-centered workout. It targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core (22). Use a lightweight if you’re just starting this routine.
- Stand tall with a dumbbell in front of your feet (switch for a barbell when ready).
- Bend your knees slightly as you grab onto the dumbbell or barbell.
- Engage your core, glute, and hamstring muscles to pull the weight off the floor.
- Stop when you reach a hip height, and then lower the dumbbell and barbell back down.
- Complete 15-20 reps.
The Mayo Clinic shows how step-ups work the glutes, hamstrings, buttocks, hips, and lower body (20). However, let’s up the game by adding weights and variations.
- Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest with a bench to your side.
- Step onto the bench sideways while bending your knee gently.
- Push your weight onto the benched heel to rise and step up with your other foot.
- Slowly lower your second foot back to the floor.
- Complete 15 reps on each side.
Reverse Banded Clamshells
You can add resistance with a band and skip the weights for similar benefits. Livestrong stated that reverse clamshells can work the hard-to-target inner glutes or gluteus medius (14).
- Wrap a resistance band around your ankles before lying on your right side.
- Bend those knees to 90° before raising your left foot as high as you can.
- Your knees must remain together as you raise the inner foot.
- Hold the position for 20 seconds before completing eight reps.
- Change to your other side and complete another eight reps.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
- Stand on your left foot while bending your knee slightly on a bench.
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand while stepping down with your right foot.
- Bend your torso over without straining your spine until your torso is parallel to the floor.
- Your right foot will move backward before it touches the ground.
- Reverse the position and return to standing.
- Complete 15 reps and three sets on each side.
Weighted Hip Thrusts
Brazilian researchers reviewed muscle activations during barbell hip thrusts (3). It was found that weighted hip thrusts strengthen the gluteus, rectus femoris, and biceps femoris in your hips and glutes.
- Rest your shoulders and upper back against a bench or bed.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor as you hold a dumbbell over each hip horizontally.
- Thrust your dumbbells into the air to straighten your arms and align your hips with your shoulders and knees.
- Bring the dumbbells back gently before completing 15 reps.
BetterMe is your fast-track ticket to a long-lasting weight loss! Tailor your fitness journey and maximize your results with just a couple of swipes!
3 Exercises To Improve Hip Mobility And Wind Down
Hip stabilizer muscle exercises will help you improve mobility in one of your body’s most important stabilizing joints. Complete a workout with mobility stretches and exercises to reap its benefits.
Low Lunge Twist Stretch
Lunges work adductors, psoas, bicep femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus (15). This exercise targets a wide range of hip and glute muscles, and you may try other variations as well.
- Get down on both knees before raising one leg until your foot anchors the floor.
- Put your left elbow on the inside of your left knee and gently twist your upper body right.
- Place your right arm behind you until you feel a pull in your groin.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before changing sides.
Reclined Hip Flexor Stretch
New Mexico Orthopedics recommends the recline hip flexor stretch to improve mobility and release muscle tension post-workout (1).
- Lie on the ground with your legs stretched and your toes pointed upward.
- Slowly bend your right knee to bring it to your chest.
- Wrap both of your hands around your knee as it nears your chest.
- Rotate your hips gently to put more pressure on those muscles.
- Hold it for 30 seconds before changing sides.
End your stretches and mobility workout with a butterfly pose. Livestrong suggests that struggling with this pose means you have too much tension between your hips, pelvis, and thighs (4).
- Support your pelvis with a towel while sitting on the floor.
- Bring your feets’ soles together while bending your knees.
- Gently press your knees into the floor with your elbows.
- Hold it for 60 seconds.
What Exercises Strengthen Hips?
Various lunge variations target multiple muscle groups within your hips, glutes, and legs (15). Lunges target the psoas, biceps femoris, glutes, adductors, rectus femoris, and tibialis anterior muscles. Lunges work nearly every muscle around the hips.
How Do You Strengthen Weak Hips?
The CDC recommends gradual workout routines to strengthen weak hips (10). Gradual increments also help with painful hips or arthritis. Start slow, modify activities as you experience discomfort, and use joint-safe movements to exercise those hip muscles.
How Long Does It Take To Strengthen Your Hips?
The CDC says strengthening and improving muscles or joints takes around 6-8 weeks (17). Always start new exercise routines with gradual increments over 6-8 weeks to safely exercise weak or painful hips and improve strength and mobility.
How To Strengthen Hip Flexors?
The Cleveland Clinic suggests warming up before strengthening hip flexors (9). Then, you need exercises that target hip muscles. Finish researchers found that a 12-week exercise routine targeting hip muscles strengthened and reduced pain in the hips of people with arthritis (6).
What Exercises Are Bad For The Hips?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, exercises that overuse the same muscles and joints harm hip flexors (9). Running, jogging, and cycling use the same muscles and movements, not allowing the complete hip flexors to practice their extensive range of motions.
Strengthening your hips and increasing mobility are possible when following uncomplicated guidelines, even if you have pain or arthritis. Choose the part of steps one and two that work for you. Alternatively, use both features of step one to engage more mobility before exercising.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Best Hip Flexor Stretches – New Mexico Orthopedic Association (n.d., nmortho.com)
- Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Hip – Stats Pearls – NCBI Bookshelf (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation, and Performance: A Systematic Review (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Can’t Do a Butterfly Stretch? Here’s What Your Body Is Trying To Tell You | Livestrong (2023, livestrong.com)
- Easy Hip Warm-Up Ideas to Try at Home | Summit Orthopedics (n.d., summitortho.com)
- Exercise Training in Treatment and Rehabilitation of Hip Osteoarthritis: A 12-Week Pilot Trial (2017, hindawi.com)
- Hip Anatomy – Physiopedia (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Hip Flexors – Physiopedia (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Hip Flexor Strain: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery (2022, my.clevelandclinic.org)
- How Do I Exercise Safely With Arthritis? | CDC (2022, cdc.gov)
- How to Build Strength – A Year of Living Better Guides (n.d., nytimes.com)
- How to Do a Pigeon Yoga Pose (2022, webmd.com)
- How to Do a Romanian Deadlift for Stronger Glutes and Hamstrings | Livestrong (2023, livestrong.com)
- How to Do the Reverse Clamshell for Well-Rounded Glute Strengthening | Livestrong (2022, livestrong.com)
- Lunges Muscles Worked: Variations and Benefits – Better Me (2022, betterme.world)
- Original Article: Effect of Posture on Hip Angles and Moments During Gait (2014, sciencedirect.com)
- Pain During or After Exercise | CDC (2021, cdc.gov)
- Prolonged Sitting and Physical Inactivity are Associated With Limited Hip Extension: A Cross-Sectional Study (2020, sciencedirect.com)
- Straight Leg Raise to the Front (2022, myhealth.alberta.ca)
- Video: Step-Up Exercise – Mayo Clinic (2023, mayoclinic.org)
- Weak Hip Flexors: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What Muscles Does Deadlift Work: How to, Variations, and More (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Which Muscles Do Bulgarian Split Squats Work? | Livestrong (2023, livestrong.com)