The Best Exercise Varieties for Functional and Strong Hips

Woman doing lunges

Getty Images / Cultura RM / Corey Jenkins

Your hips are powerful movers and contain the joint that allows movement of your legs. Strong and functional hips reduce the risks of injury to your hips and knees and protect the joint.Strength-building moves that work both legs at once (bilateral) and one leg at a time (unilateral) are both essential for properly training the hips to be strong and functional.

Strength training is the primary method for building strong hips. Below are some excellent exercises that will help.

For best results, choose a strength program that works your entire body. You want your whole body to be strong and work as a unit so that your core and hips can move, rotate and support you as you perform daily movements or workouts.

Importance of Hip Strength

The hips are one of the most common areas where osteoarthritis develops. You can reduce the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis by strengthening the muscles that support the hip joint.

Your hips help provide stability and direction for your knee joint as well and having strong hips can protect and repair your knee joints from injury and pain. If you are a runner, hips are often a site of pain or injury and so strengthening your hips is vital for preventing this. The hip abductors and adductors work in tandem to stabilize your hips. It's vital to perform exercises that address both of these muscle groups for strong hips.


Some of the best exercises for strengthening the hips are squats. There are many varieties of squats that will work the hips. This classic lower body movement is a functional exercise that everyone should perform. Squatting is a basic human movement pattern used to sit and stand. Unilateral and bilateral squats are useful for training the hips. Here are some of the squat varieties you can include in your training:

  • Basic squat: This is the basic squat exercise using bodyweight or barbell. Being able to perform a full basic squat is essential.
  • Half squats: If you cannot yet perform a full barbell squat (or even bodyweight), a half squat, which is a reduced range of motion squat, is a good place to start for building hip strength.
  • Overhead squat: If you have mastered the regular squat pattern, adding a balance challenge with the overhead squat will improve your stability and strength in your hips and core.
  • Goblet squat: Goblet squats will change the weight distribution of your squat with the center of gravity moving more in front of you. This may allow you to squat deeper to work the hip flexors even more. It's also an excellent exercise for learning the squat pattern.
  • Front squat: The front squat will again change your center of gravity to the front of your body. This will challenge your quadriceps and glutes as well as your core and hip strength, especially the front of your hips and hip flexors.
  • Sumo squat: Sumo squats will work your outer hips in new and challenging ways. Incorporate them into your lower body routines for variety and to hit areas of your hips you don't feel as much with traditional squats.
  • TRX pistol squat: The pistol squat is a very challenging exercise that takes a lot of practice to master. Using a TRX or other suspension trainer will make the exercise easier to perform while still providing an excellent challenge to your muscles. It is a unilateral balance and stability-building exercise that will improve your hip mobility and strength.
  • Single-leg squat: Like the TRX pistol squat, the single-leg squat is unilateral and will challenge and build your balance and stability in your hips.
  • Jump squats: Jump squats are a plyometric exercise that will build power and strength in your hips and entire lower body.


Lunges are unliteral lower body movements that can build strength, stability, and mobility. The forward lunge is similar to the movement pattern used for walking climbing stairs, making it an extremely functional and valuable exercise. Correctly performing a lunge mimes walking gait patterns and improves balance during walking and other dynamic movements essential for daily life.

There are many variations you can incorporate into your training once you have the basic lunge form down. Side lunges will work your outer hip muscles while helping improve mobility and strength in the side body and transverse plane of motion. Adding dynamic movement such as a walking lunge will increase the balance challenge and help build additional stability and strength in your hips and legs.

Other Hip Exercises to Try

Squats and lunges are the most valuable basic movements to master for building hip strength and stability. You can also incorporate exercises that provide more challenge such as:

As well, working on your mobility and flexibility in your hips will boost hip health and help prevent injury. Add some hip stretches to the end of your workouts such as lying hip flexor stretches, kneeling hip flexor stretches, and reclined hip stretches.

A Word From Verywell

Building and maintaining hip strength will help prevent and recover from hip and knee pain and injury and will improve your athletic abilities in other sports like running. Strong hips joints are essential for basic daily living and functional movement. Strength training, as well as mobility and flexibility work, are key for healthy, strong, and shapely hips. Incorporate hip strengthening and mobility exercises into your full-body workout routines.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."