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Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world #1 in orthopedics.

Stretches and Exercises to Strengthen Hips, From a PT

Your hip health can impact how you sit, stand, walk, and move overall.

Advice to improve your movement, fitness, and overall health from the world #1 in orthopedics.

The hips are the strongest area of the body. That’s a good thing, since they bear the brunt of the load when it comes to standing, sitting and stabilizing. When the hips are tight—which, for most people, is much of the time, since so many of us sit for such long lengths—it puts stress on the joints above and below, in the lower back and the knees. This can alter your posture and gait, which can lead to injuries.

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“The hips are prone to continually getting tighter and weaker unless we stretch and strengthen,” says Aleksandra Kuta, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist at HSS. “By doing mobility and strengthening exercises, we slow down the wear and tear.”

Of course, if you’re experiencing hip pain that’s keeping you from moving, you may want to pay a visit to a healthcare professional. “A regular exercise routine is always best for prevention,” says Kuta. “But you should see a physical therapist if you feel your hips are losing their mobility, or you have any pain or stiffness in your hip area that’s interfering with your quality of life.”

4 Exercises to Strengthen the Hips

Here are Kuta’s favorite hip strengthening moves. Do them 3 to 4 times a week for best results. 

Single-Leg Hip Bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and about a hand’s distance away from your butt.  
  2. Raise your right foot, keeping a bend in your knee.
  3. Push your left heel into the floor, squeeze your bottom, and tuck your hips up until your shoulders and knees are in a straight line. Make sure you keep your core stabilized by pulling your belly button back toward your spine. 
  4. Breathe in and out in this position slowly. Hold it for 3-5 seconds.  
  5. Lower your hips to the floor while your right leg stays raised and steady.

Repeat 10 to 15 times on the same leg, then switch to the other side. Perform 2-3 sets 

Lateral Band Walk

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Place a resistance band right above your knees.
  3. Get into a mini-squat position by pushing your butt back and bending your knees slightly.
  4. Step your right leg out to the right, then follow with your left leg, making sure your feet remain hip-width apart to keep constant tension on the band. 
  5. Be mindful that your knees don’t cave in and that the movement comes from the glutes.
  6. Walk 10 steps to the right, then 10 steps to the left, then rest.
  7. Repeat for a total of 3 times.  

Lateral Step Down

  1. Stand at the bottom of your stairs or on a step stool with your left leg firmly on the stair/stool (this is the working leg) and your right leg hanging off the edge of the stair/stool.
  2. Flex your right toes upward. Be sure to hold on to the railing or another solid object as you do this entire exercise. Your pelvis should be aligned and your trunk upright.
  3. Start the motion by hinging your hips back (like a single-leg squat), tapping your right heel to the floor without putting any weight on that leg.
  4. Come back up by squeezing your left glute. 
  5. Make sure your trunk and pelvis stay aligned and motion is driven by your hips. Your knee should not move inward, and it should stay behind your toes.
  6. As you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercise, you can do this without holding on to anything for support.
  7. Do 10 reps, then switch legs, then repeat for a total of 2 sets each leg. 

Single-Leg Deadlift

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a soft bend in your knees, and your hands hanging straight down in front of you.
  2. Keep your left foot firmly planted on the floor.
  3. Brush your right foot backward along the floor while hinging backward with your hips, making sure your back stays straight.
  4. When there’s no floor underneath your right foot, extend it off the floor and lift your heel toward the ceiling as you tip your torso forward until it’s almost parallel to the ground.
  5. Keep your arms straight toward the floor, shoulders back and down. Your hips should stay even throughout the entire move.
  6. Return to the starting position by squeezing your left glute, pressing your left foot into the floor, and thrusting your hips forward.
  7. Repeat for a total of 12 times and 3 sets on each side.  
  8. Once you get comfortable with the move, you can add weight using a dumbbell or kettlebell. Hold the weight in the hand of the leg that’s coming off the floor. 

3 Stretches for Hip Flexibility

To keep hips flexible, here are Kuta’s favorite stretches. Do them 3 to 4 times a week for best results. 

Supine Figure-Four Stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your right leg and place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee.
  3. Thread your hands on either side of your left thigh and interlace your fingertips behind it as you bring the left knee toward your chest.
  4. If you can, use your right elbow to push the right thigh away from your body.
  5. Gently pull the left knee toward your chest. You should feel a stretch in the right glute but no pain in the knee or hip. 
  6. Hold for about 30 seconds as you breathe in and out. 
  7. Release the left leg and place your right foot back down on the floor.
  8. Repeat with the other side for a total of 3 times on each side.

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Begin by kneeling on the floor. 
  2. Bring your right leg in front of you so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor, with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Leave your left knee on the floor, making sure that your shin is pointing straight back (not toward either side).
  4. Put your hands on your hips and tuck your hips slightly under to make sure your spine is in a neutral position.
  5. With your back straight, shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch through the front of the left thigh and groin. Keep your spine neutral as you shift your weight. 
  6. For an even deeper stretch, reach your left arm up overhead and slightly toward the right.
  7. Stay in the stretch for 30 seconds, 3 times on each side.   

Supine Hamstring Stretch with Towel

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your right knee toward your chest. 
  3. Loop a rolled-up towel around the ball of the right foot and hold the towel in each hand.
  4. Inhale and slowly raise your right foot toward the ceiling, keeping the towel in your hands and your left foot on the floor. Stop when you feel a stretch in the hamstring. 
  5. Exhale as you feel the hamstring relax and stretch further. Continue to inhale and exhale as you gently push your foot further toward the ceiling. 
  6. Stay there for about 30 seconds. 
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side for a total of 3 sets on each side. 

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