Strengthening your hips is the “hip” thing to do if you want to increase your athletic prowess and perform everyday tasks without pain (especially as you age), like climbing the bleachers to watch your favorite player, or squatting down to pick them up for a hug after the game.
Strong and mobile hips have tons of benefits like helping you run faster (source) by increasing your stride for running, or even just walking (source). Your hips also help you avoid injury (source) and relieve pain in other parts of your body like the knee (source).
Plus, no lie, strong hips even help keep your bones healthy and dense (source). But in order for strong hips to help you, you need to know which muscles to work.
There are four major muscle groups in your hips.
- Flexors - these move your legs in front of you.
- Adductors - commonly called groin muscles, they bring your legs together.
- Abductors - not as villainous as they sound (unless you injure them), they move your legs away from each other.
- Extensors - i.e. your glutes and hamstrings.
Whether your goal is more power in sports or counteracting long hours glued to a chair, here are 9 of the best exercises to help you strengthen and mobilize the 4 hip muscle groups.
- Banded hip marches
- Side lunges
- Fire hydrants
- Bulgarian split squats
- Sumo squats
- Donkey kicks
- Single leg Romanian deadlifts
- Squat machine squats
Banded hip marches
You don’t have to play an instrument to benefit from the banded hip march. This exercise uses resistance bands to target your hip flexor muscles while also engaging your glutes and core.
- Loop a resistance band around both of your feet, under the balls of the feet.
- Bring one leg up in front of you like you’re marching in place (your thigh should be parallel to the floor).
- Return to the starting position and repeat with your other leg.
Pro-tip: hold a barbell or dumbbells above your head for extra balance practice and a burning shoulder workout.
Side lunges get your hip adductors working hard while you also blast your glutes and quads. These exercises are great for change-of-direction sports because they mimic the cutting motion and strengthen the groin muscle.
- Stand with your feet together .
- Step to your side into a lunge while keeping your back straight and making sure the knee doesn’t extend out past your toes.
- Push back off your foot and return to the starting position then do the other leg.
Fire hydrants will make your hip abductors and glutes “dog” tired by engaging both muscle groups to rotate your legs away from the center line of your body.
- Start on your hands and knees and keep your back straight.
- Rotate your leg away from your body while keeping your knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Return to starting position and repeat with your other leg
Pro-tip: add a resistance band around your legs for extra intensity.
Bulgarian split squats
The Bulgarian split squat helps strengthen all the major hip muscles by working the glutes, adductors, and abductors on your squatting leg while giving you a deep hip flexor stretch as your off leg is raised behind you.
- Stand with one foot on the floor in front of you and one with your toes on a bench behind you.
- Squat until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and then push through your heel to return to the starting position.
- Switch legs and repeat.
By spreading your feet wide apart, this type of squat really works your hip adductors (i.e. your groin muscles) throughout the squat.
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed outwards at a 45-degree angle.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Push through your heels to stand up.
Clamshells mostly work your hip abductors with some additional benefits for your glutes. These are a great choice to help if you’re struggling with hip or knee pain given the low intensity of the exercise.
- Lay on your side and make sure your head, hips, and heels are in a line while bending your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your feet glued together and rotate your top knee away from the other knee, like opening a namesake clamshell.
- Repeat on the opposite side when you finish all the reps.
Donkey kicks work to strengthen your glutes and also help stretch the hip flexors the higher you kick behind you.
- Start on all fours with your knees beneath your hips and your hands beneath your shoulders.
- While keeping your knee bent and foot flexed, lift your right behind you until your thigh is parallel with the floor.
- Return to the starting position and switch legs.
Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
This exercise isn’t only for gladiators! It is a great exercise for hip strengthening training when your goal is balance. This is because it engages your hip abductors and glutes while also getting a stretch into your hip flexors as your off leg extends behind you.
- Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent.
- Keep your back straight and rotate forward keeping your chest facing the floor and your other leg straight (or slightly bent) behind you.
- Return to the starting position and do several reps or alternate legs.
Squat Machine Squats for Strong Hips
The basic squat doesn’t work the groin muscles as much as the hip extensors (glutes/hamstrings) and abductors, but a squat machine that is glute focused like ours does. The glutes are muscles of the hips, and when you hear trainers and physical therapists talking about strengthening a joint, they’re talking about the muscles that support that joint.
Your glutes surround your hips and aid in hip extension, abduction and stability which is why a glute focused squat machine squat is one of the best exercises to strengthen your hips.
Depending on the machine you use, you’ll want to follow the instructions and make sure you hold proper squat form to get the most out of the exercise. And of course, we encourage you to checkout The DB Method squat machine as it is glute focused and is a great addition to your hip strengthening routine.
These nine hip exercises for strength training are all great additions to leg day, and since many of them are great bodyweight moves that don’t require a lot of space, you can fit them in throughout the day no matter where you are or what you’re doing.