Are you looking for the best hip strengthening exercises that can help you improve your athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury?
Then you’ve come to the right place
I have always shrugged strength training as a tool for preventing injury and improving performance. Doing regular hip strengthening exercises is no exception.
But that’s a big mistake. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the hips, such as the glutes, adductors, and abductors, are all important if you’re serious about reaching your full athletic prowess.
Hip weakness has been linked to injuries such runners knee, IT band syndrome, piriformis pain, patella tendonitis, and many more injuries common in runners.
Anatomy of The Hips Muscles
Before I get into the many exercises you need to strengthen your hip muscles, let’s first give an overview of the hip muscles.
To get the full picture of the connection and link between your hips and overuse injuries, you must first understand some basic anatomy.
So, what do I mean by the hips?
Located in the upper leg, where the bone connects with the pelvis, the hip is a ball and socket joint, and it plays an important role in many day-to-day activities.
Each time you walk, scale up a flight of stairs, bend down to pick something, or simply sit down, you’re engaging your hip joint.
The hip is also one of the major weight-bearing joints in the body.
The Main Hip Muscles
In simple terms, the hip muscles are those muscle that control movement in the hip. The most important muscles of the hips include :
The Hip Flexors. The hip flexors refer to a group of five muscles located in the pelvic region, surrounding the ball and socket joint that attaches your legs to your upper body. These five muscles are in charge of flexing your hips, consisting of the rectus femoris, TFL, iliacus, psoas, and Sartorius.
Your hip flexors are key for movement in the lower body, especially when running. These muscles help drive up the knees as well as keep the pelvis and legs aligned when running. They also allow you to lift your knee above your hip. For instance, the muscles around your hips regulate the mechanics of your knee, so if you have weak hip flexors, you run a high risk for runners’ knee and iliotibial band syndrome.
Adductors. In charge of moving your legs inward and across your body. These contribute to knee stability. The adductors groups is made up of the adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, pectineus, and gracilis.
Glutes. What’s commonly known as the butt muscles. The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae, make up the gluteal group. These muscles play an important role in almost everything from extension, moving the leg out to the side, to external rotation of the leg.
Why the Hips?
The hips play a significant role during almost every athletic activity.
If you do any serious runner, strong and functional hips are key for efficient and injury free training.
These muscles stabilize each leg throughout the stance phase of the running gait. That’s why increasing strength in that area is of utmost importance—especially if you’re serious about keeping stability in your running gait.
For instance, weakness in the hip flexors can results in hindered performance, bad form, and serious overuse injury.
Studies linking hip weakness to running injuries
Plenty of studies have looked into the link between hip weakness and overuse injuries, and the findings tend to back up the existence of a strong link.
According to research published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, exaggerated hip rotation and inward collapse during the gait cycle may increase the risks of the Iliotibial band syndrome.
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found a strong association between weak hip muscles, including the hip abductor, adductor, and flexors, and a host of overuse injuries in the lower extremities.
Overuse injuries like Runners’ knee have been linked to weaker hip muscles—including weakness in the hip abductor, adductor, and flexor, than those in a control group, according to a study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
This proves that weak hips can drastically contribute to the onset of runner’s knee and other running injuries.
According to another study published in Medicine & Science in Exercise & Sports, women who developed runner’s knee had greater pelvic instability in their gait than the injury-free runners.
Study conducted by Frederickson et al. (2000), looked at 24 distance runners suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome, common in runners.
The researchers examined the athletes’ hip abductor strength of their injured limb in contrast to the healthy leg, and to that of a control group.
To nobody’s surprise, the researchers found that on average Gluteus medius strength was about 2 percent less on the injured limb.
The subjects were also put on a strength training program for six weeks. Following that strength training period, 22 out of the 24 injured runners were to able to return to training with no or little symptoms.
If you’re just like the rest of us, as in, you sit for extended periods, you’re at high risk of developing tight and underperforming hip muscles. This lack of mobility may contribute to lower back and hips issues.
The Evidence is Overwhelming!
For me, this is proof enough that every runner should be spending more time strengthening the hip muscles; otherwise, he (or she) will be setting the stage for a slew of injury.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to prevent these injuries with certain hip strengthening exercises. Strength training for hip region works. Once strength is improved, you’ll be less likely to experience pain or injury.
Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure.
To stay injury-free (or at least reduce the risks), you need to strengthen your hips, helping add more support and stability to the movement of the feet, ankles, and knees.
Without further ado, here are five exercises you need to do to strengthen your hip muscles for better and pain-free running.
Top Hip strengthening Exercises – A 30-Minute Hip Strength Workout for Runners
If you follow this simple hip training program, you’ll start noticing a major improvement in less than two to three weeks.
Start with one set of 8 reps and gradually build on that so that you are doing three to four sets of 12 to 15.
1. Single-Leg Bridge
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Lower back, Calves, Quads, and Hamstrings.
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms pressed against the floor by your sides. Then, lift your hips, engage your thighs, and squeeze your glutes.
Next, raise your right leg in the air as straight as possible, keeping the foot flexed and extend it while raising your lower back and butt. Lift your hip as high as possible by engaging your abs and pressing down through the left heel.
Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds; lower your hips to lightly touch the ground, then switches legs.
Number of sets: Three to four sets
Number of Repetitions: 8 to 12 reps.
2. Donkey Kicks
Targeted muscles: All three butt muscles — gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, plus the lower back
Get on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under the hips, wrists aligned under shoulders. Next, draw your abdominals in you gradually lift your leg behind you until it’s almost parallel to the floor, with knee bent and foot flexed
Hold the position and pulsate your flexed foot toward the ceiling by engaging and squeezing your glutes. Keep the motion small and controlled with the muscle doing most of the work.
Focus on the muscle, and avoid using momentum. And make sure to keep your back straight and spine in a neutral position.
Last up, return to starting position to complete one rep.
Number of sets: Two to three sets
Number of Repetitions: 12 to 15 reps
3. Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Targeted muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus and Tensor Fascia Lata.
Lie down on your side on the floor or the mat.
Make sure your hips and feet are stacked in a neutral position—Meaning right hip directly over the left hip (or the other way around). And keep your body in a straight line from ankles to head.
Next, place your lower hand on the floor in front for support, and upper hand is resting upon your upper hip. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Engage your core muscles to support and the spine.
Then, exhale and extend and raise your top leg off the lower while keeping the knee straight and foot in a neutral position. No hip rolling—forward or back—is allowed. Raise the top leg as high as possible.
Inhale and slowly return the leg to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. After finishing the set, roll over and repeat on the other side.
Number of sets: Two to three sets
Number of Repetitions: 8 to 10 reps
4. Bird Dog Hip Strengthening Exercise
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Lower Back Muscles, and Rectus Abdominis Muscle.
Get down on all fours on your hands and knees with palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart, with knees directly under the hips and hands beneath the shoulders. Make sure to keep your lower back and abdomen in a neutral position.
Next, engage your core to keep a good balance, raise your left arm and extend it straight out in front of your body as you raise your right leg and straighten it behind you. Hold the position for 3 to 5 seconds, return to starting position and repeat.
Number of sets: Two to three sets.
Number of reps: 6 to 8 reps.
5. Single-Leg Deadlift
Muscle engaged: Glutes, Hamstrings, Spinal Erectors, and Abs
Stand on your left leg with your right leg behind your and in the air. Then, while keeping your shoulders back and back straight throughout the movement, hinge forward at the waist and raise the right leg behind you, then reach your hands toward the ground.
Last up; come back to starting position by engaging your glutes and hamstring of the left leg.
For more challenge, use weight or a medicine ball for added resistance.
Number of sets: Three to four sets
Number of reps: 10 to 12.
Bonus Hip Strength Exercises
Seated hip Flexion
This simple move activates the hip flexor past a 90 degrees angle to condition the muscles throughout their range of motion.
Begin by sitting on a chair with good posture. Make sure your feet flat on the floor, core engaged, and back flat.
Next, while bending your right knee to about a 90 degrees angle, raise it toward your chest without letting your thigh roll in or out nor leaning back, pause, then slowly lower it to start position.
Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side. Add weights for more challenge.
Another fantastic move for strengthening the hip muscles as well as the lower body. To make the most out of lunges, make sure to include different variations of this standard lunge, including static, backward, and plyo versions.
Begin in standing position, feet just slightly apart, looking straight ahead with back flat and core engaged.
Next, place your hands on your hips then take a giant step forward with your right foot. Make sure your hips are hanging straight on either side of your body. Then, once you ensure heel contact with the floor, bend the right knee over the ankle while bending the left toward the ground.
Last up, press back into the starting position, pushing off the ground with your leading foot. Changes sides to complete one rep.
This is one of my favorite squat variations, focusing specifically on the hips instead of every muscle in the lower body.
Begin by performing a mini-squat, bending from the hips and knee and lowering your butt toward the floor while keeping your chest lifted and back flat, then trnsition your weight to the right side and lift the left leg slightly off the floor, toes pointed ahead. This is your starting position.
Next, slowly squat by pushing your hips and butt backward. Keep squatting until your right knee is bent to a 90 degrees angle, if possible.
Perform 10 to 12 reps on each side to complete one set. Shoot for three sets.
You’ll often find this move on most lower body rehabilitation programs: the reason being it works.
Not only does it strengthen your hips and glutes, but it also stabilizes your pelvis muscles and helps soothe tightness in the lower back, which is key for injury-free training.
Begin by laying on the mat on your side, hips stable, heels together, legs stacked up on top of each. Your shoulders, hips, and heels should form a straight line. If it’s uncomfortable to lay in this position, lie with your back against a couch.
Next, open your top knee so that it points at the ceiling. Keep your feet stacked together and allow for no rolling backward throughout the movement.
Raise the top knee as far as possible without rotating your hip or lifting your bottom knee off the floor, then pause for a moment.
To complete one rep, close the leg. Perform 16 to 20 on each side to finish one set. Shoot for three sets.
For more resistance, wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs.
Standing hip flexion
Another excellent move for isolating the hips flexors while improving muscle control and balance. The movement is easy to perform but provides the lower body a good workout.
Begin by assuming an athletic position, back straight, core engaged, and feet hip-width distance apart.
Next, while keeping your left foot planted in the ground, raise your right leg off the ground, ben ditto that you form a 90 degrees angle at the hip.
Then hold for a count of five to ten, then slowly lower the leg. Switch sides to complete one rep. Perform five reps to complete one set.
For more challenge, use weight or slowly flex your hip forward.
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There you have it!
The above hip strengthening exercises should make a huge part of your resistance training if you’re serious about improving performance and preventing injury.
Whatever you do, make sure to stay within your fitness level the entire time. Doing regular exercises to strengthen your hips is a good thing, but overdoing it is not the way to go.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong
Featured Image Credit – Darren Stevenson Through Flickr.