12 Hip Exercises to Increase Strength and Mobility

Build a strong and flexible lower body with these hip exercises.

Around the World Lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You may know your hip muscles as the tissue that sits atop your hip bones — the creases in your legs that become sore after a grueling run or a long day of sitting. That tissue does in fact make up part of your hip muscles, but in actuality, there’s much more than that to the movement and function of your hips. 

Below, learn about the muscles that move your hips and 12 of the best exercises for your hips— six for strengthening weak hip muscles and six for increasing range of motion. 

Muscles That Move Your Hips

You might be surprised to learn how many different muscles are needed to move your hips. They’re categorized into four groups based on the way they move your hips: flex (bend), extend (stand), abduct (move outward), and adduct (move inward).

Hip Flexors

Hip flexors include all muscles that are responsible for bending at the hips. Every time you bring your knee upward or forward, such as when you’re walking or going up stairs, you’re using your hip flexor muscles. These include:

  • Rectus femoris (part of your quadriceps)
  • Psoas major, which connects your spine to your hips
  • Iliacus, which attaches to your hips and thigh bone
  • Pectineus, your groin muscle
  • Sartorius, which connects your hip and knee joints in each leg

Hip Extensors

These muscles do the opposite of what hip flexors do. Hip flexors bend the hips; hip extensors extend the hips. These muscles include:

  • Biceps femoris, or what you know as your hamstrings
  • Gluteus maximus, the largest gluteus muscle

Hip Abductors

Your hip abductors are responsible for moving your leg outward, or away from your body. These include: 

  • Gluteus medius, which makes up the sides of your glutes
  • Gluteus minimus, a small muscle that lies beneath the gluteus maximus and medius
  • Tensor fasciae latae (TFL), which attaches to your iliotibial band and stabilizes your hip and knee

Hip Adductors

Hip adductors perform the opposite motion of hip abductors. They bring your legs inward, or toward your body, such as when you squeeze your legs together. Your adductors are a group of five small muscles that run along the inside of your thighs. They include: 

  • Gracilis
  • Obturator externus
  • Adductor brevis
  • Adductor longus 
  • Adductor magnus

If you have pain, tightness, cramping, or other unpleasant symptoms in your hips, you could be dealing with weakness or immobility in any of those muscles. Luckily, there are tons of exercises that can help with hip weakness and tightness. 

Hip Exercises for Strength

"It’s extremely common for people to struggle with weak hips these days," says Dr. Theresa Marko, a physical therapist and owner of Marko Physical Therapy in New York City. 

Much of this is due to the fact that people sit for such long periods of time, which “causes the hip flexors in the front of the hip to get tight and the glute muscles in the back of the hip to become compressed, overstretched, and weak,” Dr. Marko explains. This explains why Dead Butt Syndrome is a real thing,

Proactively performing exercises to prevent weak hips is important to avoid injury. Below are some of the best exercises for strengthening weak hips. 

1. Deadlift

Deadlift

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

It seems so simple: Grab the weight and stand up. Despite their simplicity, deadlifts are one of the very best exercises for increasing strength in the hips. The epitome of the “hip hinge” — one of the most important functional movement patterns — deadlifts involve pulling weight off of the ground using strength primarily from your hamstrings and glutes (not your back, like many people think). Deadlifts strengthen your hip abductors and extensors. 

2. Hip Thrust

Hip thrusts target all of the gluteus muscles, hip abductors, and adductors, as well as your hamstrings. Your quads get worked, too, but they aren’t a primary mover. This barbell-loaded movement is good practice for improving your hip extension. 

3. Power Clean

Power Clean

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Power cleans involve deadlifting a bar off of the ground and utilizing a speedy hip extension to propel the bar upward. With a quick flip of the elbows, you’ll catch the barbell on your shoulders in the front rack position. Power cleans develop explosiveness and strength in the hips. This movement teaches you to use your hips, not your back, when you need the power to move a heavy object.

4. Bridges

Bridge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The basic bridge exercise is a simpler and easier variation of the hip thrust. For this one, you’ll lie on your back on the floor and press your hips up without any weights. Even though the bridge is a bodyweight movement, it’s still effective for strengthening the hips. 

5. Straight Leg Raise

Leg Raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This exercise strengthens your hip flexors, also known as the front of your hips and your quadriceps muscles. The straight leg raise is a bodyweight exercise but make no mistake: You’ll feel the burn in your hip flexors in no time.

6. Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A unilateral (one-sided) movement, Bulgarian split squats force you to stabilize your hips—otherwise, you’ll topple over. During this version of single-leg squats, you’ll prop one foot up on a bench or box behind you, plant your other foot firmly on the ground, and lower your body down using only your front leg. Once you reach parallel, press up and squeeze your glutes at the top to fully extend your hips. 

Hip Exercises for Mobility

Strength isn’t the only important factor when it comes to fitness. According to Dr. Marko, it’s not uncommon for people to think they’re weak when really they’re just inflexible. It makes sense: Squats feel super hard if you can’t reach parallel without pain. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your legs are weak — they could just be tight! 

Start working toward flexible hips with these hip mobility exercises. 

1. Standing Quad Stretch

Standing Quad Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You probably know this simple quad stretch from middle school gym class. To do it, hold onto something sturdy, grab your foot, and press your heel toward your butt cheek. You should feel a stretch in the front of your leg and through the front of your hips. This is a great simple, do-anywhere stretch for the hip flexors. 

2. Standing Lunge Stretch

Standing Lunge Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A classic for loosening the hip flexors, abductors, and adductors, the standing lunge stretch is a beginner-friendly stretch for the hips. 

3. Low Lunge Twist Stretch

For an additional element of flexibility, try this low lunge twist stretch. Drop into the lunge position a little deeper and twist your torso toward your front leg. This variation adds more tension to your hip flexors on the back leg and opens up your spine, too.

4. 90/90 (Reclined Hip Flexor Stretch)

The reclined hip flexor stretch is great because you can fully control the intensity. It targets the hip abductors, gluteal muscles, and groin muscles. 

5. Pigeon Pose

Pigeon

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A popular yoga pose, pigeon is a deep stretch for the gluteal muscles and hip adductors. It’s an advanced stretch, so it may take some practice and time for beginners to learn.

6. Butterfly Stretch

Butterfly Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If you have tight hip adductors (the small muscles on the inside of your thighs), you’ll want to add the butterfly stretch to your routine. This stretch loosens up the muscles in your groin. 

How to Improve Tight or Weak Hips 

In addition to practicing the 12 hip exercises covered above, Dr. Marko recommends implementing some simple lifestyle changes to improve the health of your hips. Taking more frequent breaks from the computer and going for walks would help, for sure, but that’s not realistic for everyone, every day. 

“If you don't have time to leave your desk, simply doing a hip flexor stretch a few times throughout the day would help,” Dr. Marko says. "Performing quick bodyweight exercise, like hip bridges, a couple of times a day would help fight muscle imbalances that come from sitting," she says. 

It doesn’t have to take long: Next time you’re feeling tight in the hips, try a 20-second hip flexor stretch on each leg, followed by 10 glute bridges. This would take all of two minutes and can make a world of difference in how you feel!

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