Glute, Hip, and Thigh Exercises for Strength

Everyone can benefit from building lower body strength to enhance muscular endurance and improve agility and balance. A strong lower body will help prevent falls and injuries during physical activity and support functional movement during everyday activities. Try these glute, hip, and thigh exercises to build lower-body strength, power, and endurance.


Leg Extensions

The leg extension is a simple, classic exercise targeting the quadriceps muscles. This exercise is great for anyone who needs to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint to provide more stability and support. You can do this exercise on a leg extension machine, but this seated version can be done anytime, anywhere. You'll feel this in the front of the thighs as well as in the hip flexors of the working leg.

  1. Sit tall in a chair or on a ball with your core engaged.
  2. Keeping your body stable, straighten the right leg with the foot flexed and try to bring it up until the leg is parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower the leg back down, lightly touching the heel to the floor.
  4. Repeat for 16-20 reps before switching sides.

Tips: Add ankle weights or a resistance band for more intensity. You can also sit on an exercise ball to make the move more difficult.


Side Step Ups

Switching up your strength training workouts forces your body to use different muscle fibers in response to those new movements. Step ups are great for the glutes, and one way to add some variety to your step workout is to try side step ups. While you're still working that glutes, hips and thighs, you'll change the emphasis of the exercise, adding a bit more inner thigh.

  1. Stand sideways on a step or platform (at the highest level; the leg on the step should not bend more than 90 degrees) and hold a medium-heavy dumbbell in both hands.
  2. Step down with the right leg, lowering into a squat and keeping the back straight, the torso upright, and the abs pulled in.
  3. Focus on the leg that's on the step as you push into the heel, bringing the right foot back onto the step.
  4. Keep the movement slow and controlled and imagine that the leg on the step is doing all the work.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on both sides.

Tips: Watch your step height on side step ups to avoid any knee pain. You might need to work at a lower level than regular step ups.


Seated Inner Thigh Squeezes

Inner thigh exercises are a great way to work the small muscles of the inner thigh to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. You can use any type of exercise ball for seated inner thigh squeezes.

  1. Sit tall in a chair or on a ball and squeeze an inflatable ball between your knees.
  2. Keep the abs engaged as you squeeze the ball with your knees, activating the inner thighs.
  3. Release just halfway, keeping tension and pressure on the ball, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 16-20 reps.

Tip: To increase the intensity, try using weighted medicine ball instead of an inflatable ball.


Ball Taps

It can be tricky to work the lower body from a seated position, but ball taps are a dynamic way to get blood flowing to your hips and thighs while focusing attention on the hip flexors and the quads. You also work on balance as you quickly shift from foot to foot.

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your abs engaged and place a medicine ball on the floor in front of you.
  2. Lift the right leg, keeping it bent, and tap the toes on top of the medicine ball.
  3. Take the leg back down and tap the ball with the left foot.
  4. Continue tapping the ball, alternating feet, and going as fast as you can.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 16-20 reps.

Tip: Keep your abs engaged throughout the exercise.


Crossover Step Ups

When it comes to lower body functional exercises, the crossover step up is at the top of the list. This move works the glutes (both the gluteus medius and maximums) through all planes of motion with a focus on lateral movement. This lateral movement engages the hips in a different way than traditional step ups, involving both internal and external rotation while working on your coordination and balance.

  1. Stand with your left side facing a step, bench, or platform. If you're more advanced, try a height where your thigh is parallel to the floor as you're stepping.
  2. Hold weights for added intensity, if desired.
  3. Lift the right leg and cross it over the left, placing the foot flat on the step or platform.
  4. Keep your hips square to the front of the room as you press up with the right leg, bringing the left foot beside the right on the bench.
  5. Step back down with the left foot and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

Tips: Starting with a lower platform may help you perfect your form, but you should skip this move if you have knee, hip, or ankle issues.


Straight Leg Raise

This deceptive move looks easy, but it's actually quite challenging for the quads and hip flexors. By sitting upright, you limit your range of motion and you'll feel your core engage to keep your torso straight while lifting and lowering the leg. This move is excellent for strengthening the quads and giving your knee joints more support.

  1. Sit tall with the left leg bent and the right leg straight with your foot flexed.
  2. Wrap your arms around the left leg for support and engage the abs.
  3. Lift the right leg off the floor, keeping the leg straight (but not locked).
  4. Avoid leaning back, but use your core and the left leg to stay upright.
  5. Lower the leg, lightly touching the floor and repeat before switching sides.
  6. Complete 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Tips: To make the move easier, you can lean back on your hands or elbows. To increase the intensity, and add ankle weights.

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.
  1. Signorile JF, Lew KM, Stoutenberg M, Pluchino A, Lewis JE, Gao J. Range of motion and leg rotation affect electromyography activation levels of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extensionJ Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(9):2536-2545. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000582

  2. Bryant CX. American Council on Exercise. Why is it important to vary my workout routines? February 9, 2011.

  3. Thielen S. American Council on Exercise. Workouts for Inner Thighs | How to Strengthen Your Inner Thighs. March 12, 2014.

  4. Yu W, Cha S, Seo S. The effect of ball exercise on the balance ability of young adultsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(12):2087-2089. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.2087

  5. Neto WK, Soares EG, Vieira TL, et al. Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: a systematic reviewJ Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):195-203.

  6. Anwer S, Alghadir A. Effect of isometric quadriceps exercise on muscle strength, pain, and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled studyJ Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(5):745-748. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.745

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."