18 Hip Strengthening Exercises

Difficulty walking or climbing stairs? Or just want to prevent this? Here's 18 exercises to help.

Your hips consist of powerful muscle groups: Abductors, adductors, hip flexors and extensors. A lot of people in the UK have been experiencing pain in this area. Hopefully we can ease some discomfort.

Hip Flexors

Ever felt discomfort simply walking? Climbing a flight of stairs? How about a slight lower back pain out of nowhere — or you want to prevent this? All I’ve mentioned could be symptoms of weak hip flexors. As you imagine, the hip flexors assist with basic functional movement — they’re extremely important in the human body.

What are the Hip Flexors?

The hip flexor is a group of muscles consisting of the: iliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius. It’s responsible to move your legs and knee up towards your body (flexion in the hip). These muscles surround and attach to your pelvis and leg.

The best diagram I could find for hip flexion

Now let’s put this in perspective — heres some activities which involve hip flexor assistance.

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Sitting down/getting up on a chair
  • Climbing stairs
  • Picking up something from the floor

These are simple things we do on a day to day basis. Imagine feeling slight discomfort when doing these tasks.

“Weak hip flexors can cause the surrounding muscles to overcompensate, which can cause pain and difficulty walking” Medical News Today Medical News Today

How do I target the Hip Flexor?

Good question — lets see.

Exercises to strengthen:

1 Leg Raise

This exercise engages the lower core too, so it’s a bit of a double whammy. Try keep the legs straight and together throughout the entire movement.

2 Mini Band Runner Extension

The trick is to keep the lower leg up about an inch of the floor and keep the raised one at 90 degrees. You’ll feel the most tension at the endpoints of the exercise. Change sides after 4–6s holds.

3 Dumbbell Split Squat (Racked)

I chose the racked position because it tends to keep the body upright. You should finish on right angles with both legs. Push from your front heel.

Exercises to stretch:

4 Knee to Chest Stretch

Don’t underestimate this exercise — it’s simple but effective. Hold for a good 20 seconds on each leg.

5 Figure 4 Stretch

You should feel the stretch from the rotated leg. The more you pull the leg towards the body, the more intense the stretch. You can fully extend the leg upwards on this one — it’s just preference. Hold for 20 seconds per leg.

Hip Flexors

The hip extensors work hand in hand with the hip flexors. It’s responsible for moving the thigh away from the front of the pelvis. Hip extensors consists of the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings.

Hip Extension

Everyday activity may involve

  • Walking (pushing off your foot)
  • Running
  • Stair climbing
  • Sitting and standing

 

Weak Extensors

I found this article by nmortho [2] which explains symptoms of weak extensor muscles — which I’ll link in the resources.

  • changes in gait (walk) and posture.
  • knee pain.
  • hip pain.
  • back pain.

 

How do I target the Hip Extensors?

Let’s dive in.

6 Donkey Kick

This is a common calisthenic glute exercise, but you may not realise its a good leg extensor exercise. The magic comes from the push upwards. Try 12 reps, 2 sets per leg.

7 Mini Band Glute Bridge Hold (Around Hips)

Because the band is around the hips, your extensors have to fight to maintain this position — isometric holds are great. Don’t forget to engage the core, glutes and hamstrings. Hold for 10 seconds, 3 sets.

Now for stretching:

8 Lunge Hip Flexor Stretch

Like the above, the extension from the back leg. Difference here is this is an isometric/static hold. I’d advise to do this after your workout — hold for 12 seconds per leg.

9 Suspension Strap Dancer Pose

I threw in a wildcard here — the dancer pose. I’m not the most flexible, but as you can imagine you can get major hip extension and flexion with this exercise. Be careful not to over do it. It’s an isometric hold so I advise to do it after your workout. Hold for 12 seconds per leg.

Hip Adductors

The hip adductors are responsible for moving the leg towards the midline of your body. The muscle group consists of 4 muscles: adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracillis.

Visual representation of hip adduction

Some activities which involve hip adduction.

  • Squeezing the thighs together
  • Placing one leg on top of the other (sitting or lying down)
  • Doing a side lunge

 

Hip Abductors

Hip abductors are responsible for moving the leg away from the midline of the body. The muscle group consists of 5 muscles: adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineus.

Visual representation of hip abduction

Hip Abductor/Adductor Imbalance Summed Up

This clip was taken from a chat I had with Mel Larkin. We touched on neglecting hip muscles and the implications.

How do I target the Hip Abductors?

I got you.

10 Lateral Leg Lift w/ Step Up

The adductors work on the lateral kick out. This combo move has elements of balance & coordination.

11 Mini Band Fire Hydrant

This move focusses on hip abduction and the added mini band makes your muscles work harder. Don’t over do this one as it’s a sensitive area.

12 Mini Band Clamshell

This is another hip abduction exercise. Imagine your feet are glued together whilst opening the outer leg. Try 12 reps and 2 sets per leg.

 

Now for stretching those abductors:

13 Foam Roller Hip Flexor Swing

The magic comes from the twist and laying the top leg over the other. You may also feel this in the lower back.

Option A: Dynamic version

As demoed, you can hip swing and keep yourself moving. This dynamic version can make a good warm up. Try 20 seconds and 3 sets.

Option B: Isometric Hold

You can make this into an isometric hold by keeping the position for 12 seconds per leg. If this is the case, then do this after the workout.

14 Resistance Band Lying Leg Pull Over

Keep the leg upwards and straight with this one — the stretch comes from the raised leg coming across the body. You can even point the big toe towards the ground to target the abductors more.

If you don’t have a physio band, a long rope of any sort can do (even a dressing gown rope). Like above you have 2 options.

Option A: Dynamic version

Find the sweet spot (where you feel the stretch) and gently push towards the ground then bring your foot back up (easing the pressure).

20 seconds and switch sides.

Option B: Isometric Hold

Find the sweet spot and hold it in place until the timer ends.

12 seconds and switch sides.

How do I target the Hip Adductors?

Lets take a look...

15 Pilates Ring Leg Lift (Inner)

This beginner friendly version is not too taxing on the adductors because you don’t have to travel far to meet the resting leg. Try 12 reps per side.

16 Resistance Band Goblet Squat

Because of the wide stance, your adductors (inside the leg) get targeted more — especially on the descent.

Note: You can do this with just a dumbbell/kettlebell if it’s too much.

And finally to stretch off those adductors

17 Sumo Squat Stretch

This is an easy straight forward way to stretch from a standing position. Sit back in the squat. Hold for 12 seconds.

18 Frog Stretch

The adductors can be tight (especially for those who do sport) so it’s important to give them some attention. The stretch comes from pushing the body back. Sensitive area so be careful.

Final Thoughts

Thank you, dear reader, for reaching the end.

The hip flexors/extensors & abductors/adductors are like ying and yang. If one side is weaker (imbalanced), the other side will have to over compensate. This can result in posture change and can eventually result in pain. People, we can prevent this.

I’ve gone through the trouble and made a free follow along plan. Theres target rep/sets and duration added. I’ve modified the exercises slightly so all you need is a mini band & chair.

Just download, press ‘begin’ and start tracking. No catch, I just want to help.

If you enjoy my work a share goes a long way. To better health — Leon W.

Resources:

by Leon Ward
Product Director and Cofounder

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