Exercises for Healthy Hips

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Exercises for Healthy Hips

Woman running with hip muscles exposed
Henning Dalhoff / Getty Images

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.

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Hip Squeeze for Groin Strengthening

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 5 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times. Be sure to stop the exercise if you feel any sharp pain.

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Straight Leg Raise

Photo of the straight leg raise.
The straight leg raise is a great exercise to strengthen your hips. Brett Sears, 2011

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 2 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.

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Side Leg Raise

Photo of the side leg raise.
The side leg raise can strengthen your gluteal muscles. Brett Sears

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 2 seconds, then slowly lower. Repeat 10 times.

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

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Hip Rotation Stretch

Image of the hip rotation stretch.
The hip rotation stretch helps to keep your hips rotating and moving freely. Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

The hip rotation stretch, also known as the figure 4 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 5 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 5 seconds, then slowly release. Repeat 10 times.

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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 exercies 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.

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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