Exercises for Stronger Hips and Knees


Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Do you do specific exercises for your hips and knees? Do you work your hips through their entire range of motion and engage the abductors and adductor muscles? If not, maybe you should. Find out why strong muscles support healthy joints and get tips for essential exercises to strengthen your hips and knees to reduce pain and prevent injury.

Anatomy of the Hips

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint that works best when it has mobility as well as strength. The hip is a complicated joint and needs to be exercised in a variety of directions, including rotation, in order to increase overall stability.

If the muscles that support the hip joint (quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and even the core muscles) are strong and allow appropriate mobility, the amount of pressure and wear and tear on the hip joint, as well as the knee joint, decreases.

The abductors and adductors are critical for providing integrity of the hip joint and create a strong, balanced link between the lower body and the torso. They also need to be exercised through an entire range of motion.

If you work these muscles only in one direction (forward and back) by walking, running, or using common cardio machines, then you are not building structural integrity of the hip or the entire lower body.

Anatomy of the Knees

Strengthening and balancing the muscles that surround the knee can take the pressure off the joint and decrease the amount of total weight absorbed by the ligaments, meniscus, and cartilage in the knee.

Because the knee is a hinge joint and only moves in one direction, it's important to maintain both strength and stability in the joint.

The muscles that surround the knee, along with the quads and hamstrings, play an important role in allowing the patella (kneecap) to track properly as the knee joint bends. If the abductor and adductor muscles are not strong, flexible, and balanced, knee pain such as patellofemoral syndrome, also known as "runner's knee," and other injuries are more likely to occur.

Pain Reduction

Proper alignment is key to alleviating and even preventing pain. The soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.) help maintain the alignment of the bones during movement.

If the bones aren't properly aligned when they move through a range of motion, there can be a great deal of friction, a lack of stability, decreased mobility, and compromised function. This can set up an athlete or exerciser for a number of injuries.

Keep in mind that muscles work in pairs: extensors and flexors. It's important to maintain the balance of strength in these pairs to prevent joint pain and injury.

The best way to uphold biomechanical integrity during movement is with the right balance of strength and flexibility around the joint.

Injury Prevention

When it comes to preventing injury, using compound or "functional" exercises that incorporate a variety of muscles, including the core, and simulate real-life movements are generally considered the ideal way for athletes to train. Such movements include exercises like squats, lunges, and lateral movements.

Exercises that isolate a specific muscle (such as a leg extension or biceps curl) do have a place in athletic training but are often reserved to help isolate and rehab a muscle after an injury or to recover after surgery.

Core strengthening exercises are a great complement to a hip and knee strength training program. Activating the core stabilizers during a warm-up helps to prepare the larger muscles for more powerful exercises.

Exercises for Stronger Hips and Knees

If you are starting from zero or recovering from an injury, you can begin to build strength and stability in the hip and knee joints by going back to basics and using simple exercises such as those shown in the video below.


Watch Now: 5 Beginner Exercises to Strengthen Hips and Knees

In addition, the following lists offer some great exercises for athletes of all levels to help keep the hips and knees properly aligned, strong, flexible—and more capable of withstanding the rigors of sports. Depending on your level of fitness, you can try any combination of these moves for a well-rounded strength training routine.

Beginner Exercises

Intermediate Exercises

  • Side plank: This basic hip abductor strengthening exercise can improve alignment.
  • Lateral mini band walking: This simple exercise can improve the strength of the glute medius, which helps pelvis and knee stability.
  • Single-leg bridge: This one is a slightly more advanced way to build stability.
  • Lunge with a twist: Adding a twist to the lunge improves core stability.
  • Weighted step-ups: This simple and effective exercise improves strength and power without excessive stress on the knees or hips.
  • Squat: The basic full squat is the overall best lower body strengthening exercise. Just be sure to do it correctly.

Advanced Exercises

  • Walking lunge: These can be performed with or without weights to improve strength and balance.
  • Lateral plyometric jumps: These are side-to-side moves to improve hip mobility and strength.
  • One-leg squat and reach: This exercise builds strength and stability in both the lower body and core.
  • Overhead lunge: Increase the difficulty of the basic lunge and add core stability by holding weight overhead.
  • Plyometrics: Plyometric exercises build explosive strength and help reduce the risk of knee ligament injuries when performed correctly.
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