While not everyone can have those supple hips like Shakira, you can all benefit from working on and strengthening muscles that support those agile hips.
Although often ignored and uncared for, your hips are the fulcrum point for all the movements in your lower body. Sitting at work or home for most of the day leads to tight hip flexors that causes troubles like hip pain, lower back pain and injury.
Moreover, weak hips can lead to an antalgic gait, causing knee, ankle or foot injuries that can leave you resting in bed for days or months at a stretch.
And this is just the beginning, hip problems don’t stop here. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 2.5 million Americans today are living with an artificial hip. In fact, hip replacements are on the rise in the United States, peaking specifically among adults in early middle-age.
A 2005 study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine discovered an association between overuse injuries in the lower extremities and poor strength in the hip abductor, adductor and flexor muscles around the hip region.
So, it’s worthwhile to take a look at your hip troubles and work to improve their strength and flexibility.
While nothing can beat walking, jogging and running, compound hip-specific strengthening exercises like squats, bridges and lunges are important to make sure your hips stay strong.
Here are some great hip flexor exercises that will help strengthen your hips and improve flexibility.
This exercise works on your hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, lower back and glutes, for strengthening and reducing pain.
- Lie down on your back.
- Bend your legs and bring your feet in toward your bottom.
- Slowly, pushing through your feet, lift your bottom.
- Make sure your hips are in line with your shoulders and knees.
- As you do this, tighten your glutes and hamstrings.
- Hold for 2 seconds and slowly sink your bottom to the ground.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times daily for effective results.
2. Lying Lateral Leg Raise
Lying lateral leg raises help strengthen and develop your iliotibial bands that are responsible for your side-to-side leg motions. This exercise works on your gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, obliques, hamstrings and quadriceps.
- Lie on your right side.
- Extend your right arm out for balance.
- Lift your left leg up as far as you can, keeping it straight while you lift it.
- Slowly, bring your leg back down so that it is in line with the right leg.
- Complete 15 repetitions with that leg.
- Roll over to the other side and repeat with your right leg.
- Practice this every other day to get rid of hip pain.
3. Lying Leg Circles
Lying leg circles work on your gluteal muscles and hip flexors to promote flexibility, strength and range of motion in all the muscles that make hip and leg rotation possible.
- Lie down on your back.
- Extend your legs straight out.
- Elevate your left leg to about 3 inches off the ground.
- Make small circles, keeping your whole leg straight and aligned.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat the process.
- Perform 3 sets of 5 rotations on each leg, for 15 total reps on each leg daily.
Eventually, as you practice the exercise daily, you may raise your leg higher.
4. Single-Leg Squat
Also known as pistol squats, single-leg squats are a great exercise that work primarily on increasing the resilience in your legs. It targets your glutes, hips and quad muscles to improve your balance and stability.
- Extend both arms out in front of you, and interlock your fingers.
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, firmly planted on the ground with your toes pointing forward.
- Extend one leg out in front of you. (Make sure you do not bend the knee.) Do not let this leg or foot touch the ground.
- Lower your body by sitting back and bending the knee of your other leg (as if sitting in a chair).
- Squat down as low as you can.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds.
- Press down on your foot and slowly stand up.
- Repeat 15 sets on each leg daily.
You may increase the number of sets gradually as you acquire strength.
5. Seated Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch primarily works on your hips, inner thighs and lower back to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles.
- Sit on the floor, knees bent to the sides, soles of your feet in front of you, back straight and your hands on top of your feet.
- Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine.
- Exhale and gently pull your heels toward you.
- Simultaneously relax your knees toward the floor, as far as you can.
- Breathe deeply and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Finish with leaning forward from your upper body. (Make sure you keep your back straight and push your knees toward the floor, as much as you can.)
- Initially, practice this 15 to 20 times every day. As you acquire strength and flexibility, you may increase the number of sets performed.
6. The Clam
The clamshell exercise works on balancing the muscular effort between your pelvic floor and your inner and outer thighs, thus strengthening your hips and lower body. It primarily aims at your gluteus medius, a muscle in your hip abductors.
As the name suggests, think of a clamshell opening as you do the exercise. Your glute should do all the work, so keep the rest of your body completely still as you lift and lower your leg.
- Lie on your side.
- Bend your knees at 90 degrees.
- Bring your heels together and in line with your bottom.
- Without rotating your back or pelvis, lift your leg to open your knees as far as you can.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return to the resting position.
- Repeat 15 times on each side for stronger hips.