Hip conditioning isn’t sexy — but it is essential. This is especially true for women, as your hips are an integral part of your powerhouse, the lumbo pelvic hip complex (LPHC). The LPHC is the largest joint in the body; it’s responsible for initiating so many movements, both in and outside of the gym — sitting, walking, running, squatting, bending over to pick something up off the ground (a child, grocery bags, what have you). So, keeping it healthy, strong, and functioning properly needs to be a top priority.
The best hip exercises are going to be ones that increase strength and mobility. That means they’ll help to boost muscle endurance and mass, plus train your hips to go through their full range of motion. Hip strengthening exercises don’t need to involve any equipment, making them easy to do at home or while travelling, as well as at the gym. They include hip flexor exercises (ones that target the muscles on the front of your hips), as well as moves that target your glutes, thighs, and hamstrings. Because these muscles work with and support your hips, it’s important that they’re also strong and functioning optimally; otherwise, they can put unnecessary stress on your hips and cause hip pain, muscle imbalances, compensations, and injuries.
Below, you’ll find a list of the 12 best hip exercises for strength and mobility and instructions for how to perform each. Each move is suitable for all fitness levels. The first 10 moves work great as a dynamic warm-up before strength training sessions. Complete as many reps as possible of each move for 30 seconds and then continue on to the next. For exercises that work one side of the body at a time, perform 30 seconds of the move on each side.
Finally, the last two moves are a great combo to tack on to the end of any workout as a finisher to rev your heart rate. Complete both moves back to back for 30 seconds each, then rest for 30 seconds and repeat them both a second time.
How to: Start standing with feet under hips, shoulders back, core engaged, and arms by sides. Drive left knee up to chest, return foot to floor, and repeat with right, switching feet as fast as possible and pumping arms similar to running motion. That’s one rep.
How to: Start standing with feet just wider than shoulders, toes turned slightly out, and arms at sides. While keeping core engaged, sit hips back first then let knees bend. Keep knees tracking over toes, chest and shoulders back, and maintain a neutral spine. Aim to get thighs parallel to the floor, then drive through heels to stand back up, squeezing glutes at the top. That’s one rep.
How to: Start standing at back of mat with feet under hips and arms by sides. Hinge forward at hips and place your palms on the floor (you can do this with straight legs or use a slight bend in the knees if needed). Walk hands out to a high plank position, so shoulders are directly over wrists, and hips are in line with the rib cage. Pause, then reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start standing at back of mat facing sideways with, right side facing top of mat, feet together and arms by sides. Take a large step out to the right, sinking hips back and bending right knee to lower down into a lunge position, bringing hands to clasp in front of chest. Keep right knee tracking directly in line with right foot and keep left leg straight but not locked, all ten toes facing forward. Drive into right foot to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start standing with feet together and arms by sides. Take a big step back with your left foot and lower down until both legs form 90-degree angles. Press through right heel to return to start and repeat on opposite side. That’s one rep.
How to: Start in an all-fours position on the floor, shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked directly over knees. Engage core, and at the same time, extend left leg straight back by lifting from hip and engaging glute (try and get leg as close to parallel with the floor as possible while keeping hips level) and reach right arm out straight in front of body, again aim for parallel with the floor. Reverse motion, bringing elbow and knee to touch below body and then re-extend both limbs. That’s one rep.
How to: Start on all fours, shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked directly over knees. Keeping right knee bent at 90-degree angle, flex foot and lift knee to hip level. Engage core to maintain neutral spine, and keep both shoulders and hips facing the floor. Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start lying on back with legs bent and feet flat on floor, arms are extended by sides with palms face down. Lift hips up off the ground so that you create a long diagonal line from shoulders to hips to knees, squeeze glutes at the top and draw abs in to avoid overextending the spine. Lower hips to return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start in a squat with feet shoulder-width apart, toes angled slightly outward, thighs parallel to floor, and hands clasped in front of chin. Drive through heels to jump of floor explosively. Land softly and sit right back into next squat. That’s one rep.
How to: Start on all fours at back of mat with toes tucked and knees hovering off above mat. Maintain the 90 degree angle of legs and level hips while walking right hand forward, immediately repeat movement with left hand and right foot. Continue alternating until fingers reach top of mat. Then, reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start standing with feet under hips and arms by sides. Crouch down and place hands on the floor. Jump back into a high plank position, shoulders stacked over wrists, hips in line with rib cage. Jump feet forward outside of hands, landing in a deep squat position. Stand up. That’s one rep.
Seated Knee Tucks
How to: Start seated, balancing on tailbone, with arms bent, palms on floor just behind butt, fingers facing body, and legs bent and lifted into the air, knees close to chest. Simultaneously bend elbows deeper to lower torso toward mat while extending legs to straight and lowering them toward floor too. Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com