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July 19, 2021 9 min read

Want to build a stronger body, prevent pain and injuries, and improve posture all at once? If so, then you need to start strengthening your hip muscles! 

The hip muscle group is one of the most important muscle groups in the entire body. When your hips are strong, your whole body gets healthier as a result.

Thankfully, you don't need to go to the gym to strengthen your hips because most hip-strengthening exercises are simple bodyweight movements!

Therefore, we put together a list of our favorite hip-strengthening exercises for home workouts. Add them to your workout routine today to start seeing better hips and a better body!

3d rendering labeled medical illustration of Female Front Leg Muscles

All About the Hip Muscles

The hips are an all too commonly neglected muscle group.  They don't get the same amount of attention as the chest, back, or leg muscles.  Despite that, the hips are truly one of the most important muscle groups to strengthen. Why is it so crucial to build strong hips

Here are just a few reasons:

  1. Weak hips are a precursor to lower back pain, knee pain, and hip pain, as well as hip and back injuries
  2. Weak hips lead to overall poor posture
  3. Strong hips are needed to support the entire core and pelvic region

Moreover, weak hips can lead to an entire cascade of other health issues.

Basic Hip Anatomy

Not only are the hips neglected in the gym, but few people understand hip structure.  Understanding basic hip anatomy will help you pick out exercises that specifically target the hip muscles.

There are more than twenty different hip muscles.  They are broken down into six groups based on the movement they help initiate from the hip joint. 

The six groups are the:

  1. Hip flexors
  2. Hip extensors
  3. Hip adductors
  4. Hip abductors
  5. Internal rotators
  6. External rotators

Between these six groups, some of the largest, most important hip muscles are the:

  • Gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus)
  • Psoas major and psoas minor
  • Iliacus
  • Tensor fascia latae

Again, while these are not the only muscles in the hips, they are some of the most important ones to strengthen.With that said, here are the best hip-strengthening exercises for at-home workouts:

1. Clamshells

Clamshells are one of the best exercises for strengthening the gluteus medius and the outer thighs.

Here's how to do clamshells with proper form:

  1. Lay down on the right side of your body and create one long line from your head to your toes.
  2. Prop your head in your right hand, place your left hand on your left hip, and bend your knees to 90-degrees. Your feet should be in line with your glutes and your knees in front of your body.
  3. When you're ready, lift and open your left knee while keeping your toes together. As your knee opens up, keep your upper body still.
  4. Squeeze your glutes together with your knee open, then slowly release and lower your left knee back to starting position.
  5. Repeat! Do ten to twelve reps, then switch to the other side.

You know you are doing these right if your opening knee looks like an opening clamshell!

Young athletic woman lifting her hips while doing glute bridge exercise on the floor at home.

2. Glute Bridges

Glute bridges target your glutes and the backs of your legs, including the hamstrings. In terms of the glutes, they work the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

Here's how to do glute bridges with proper form:

  1. Lay flat on your back with a neutral spine, legs straight, and arms by your sides. 
  2. Pull your feet in towards your glutes, so your knees bend to 90-degrees.
  3. When you're ready, exhale and press your heels into the floor to lift your glutes off the ground. Imagine as if there is a string tied to your hips that is suspending your hips in the air. 
  4. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the bridge, then slowly lower them back to the floor.
  5. Repeat! Do three sets of ten to twelve bridges.

To make glute bridges more challenging, try one of these variations:

  • Hold a dumbbell over your pelvis in the bridge position
  • Do the bridges on your toes instead of flat feet
  • Do pulses at the top of the bridge

3. Reverse Lunges

Unlike regular lunges where you step forward, you take a step backward for reverse lunges. It has more of a gluteal strengthening effect than traditional forward lunges.

To add an extra layer of difficulty, if you have a set of small hand weights at home, you could hold one in each hand while doing the lunges.

Here is how to do reverse lunges with proper form:

  1. Stand up tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands either on your hips or holding hand weights.
  2. When you're ready, lift your right foot and step it directly backward about two to three feet.
  3. Then, bend both of your knees so that your right knee hovers right above the floor and your left knee is at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and the muscles in the backs of your legs, then press back up to standing and return your right leg to starting position.
  5. Repeat with the left leg! Continue alternating between stepping your right and left foot backward.

4. Resistance Band Side Steps

Resistance band side steps are a classic, no-fail hip strengthening exercise. They target the hip flexor muscles, gluteus medius, and outer thighs. At the same time, you also pump up your heart rate to get a great cardio workout!

Here is how to do resistance band side steps with proper form:

  1. Wrap a loop resistance band around your thighs, right above your knees. 
  2. Bend your knees slightly, hold your hands on your hips, and step your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. There should be light tension in the resistance band.
  3. When you're ready, take a big step to the right side with your right foot. Then, follow your right foot by stepping your left foot to the right. The left foot should land at a shoulder-width distance away from the right foot. 
  4. Do ten to twelve steps to the right, then go the opposite direction.

If you want to make the exercise more challenging, take larger steps to the side or use a greater-strength resistance band.

5. Single-Leg Hip Lifts

Single-leg hip lifts are a more challenging variation of the glute bridge. They require extra strength from the gluteus medius.

Here's how to do them:

  1. Lay flat on your back with a neutral spine, legs straight, and arms by your sides. 
  2. Pull your feet in towards your glutes, so your knees bend to 90-degrees.
  3. When you're ready, exhale and press your heels into the floor to lift your glutes off the ground. Imagine as if there is a string tied to your hips that is suspending your hips in the air (you should be in a glute bridge position).
  4. From the glute bridge, lift your right leg off the floor and point it straight in the air. Do not let your hips drop!
  5. Hold high in the bridge while keeping your leg pointed in the air for ten to twenty seconds by squeezing your glutes tight.
  6. Slowly lower your right foot back to a bridge position, then lower your hips back down to the floor.
  7. Repeat on the other side with your left leg!

To make these even more challenging, try pulsing your hips up while your leg points in the air!

6. Donkey Kicks

Next up, donkey kicks are a classic lower body Pilates exercise. As a hip extension exercise, donkey kicks primarily target the gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae.

Here's how to do donkey kicks:

  1. Start by getting on your hands and knees on a soft surface. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, knees under your hips, and back in a neutral position.
  2. When you're ready, keeping your right knee bent to 90-degrees, kick your right foot straight back and into the air. All of the leg movement should come from your hip joint.
  3. Kick your right foot up until your right quad and sole of your right foot are parallel with the floor.
  4. Squeeze your right glute at the top of the kick, then slowly drop the right knee back to starting position.
  5. Repeat! Do ten to twelve reps with your right leg, then switch to the opposite side.

If you want to make donkey kicks more challenging, do them with a loop resistance band wrapped around your thighs.

Also, keep in mind these crucial form tips when doing donkey kicks:

  • Do not arch your back as your leg kicks up and back
  • Do not open or drop your hips as your leg kicks up and back
  • Only lift your leg as high as you can without arching your back or moving your hips out of place

7. Side Leg Raises

Side leg raises are another classic Pilates move. They are a lateral abduction movement, so they require the most work from the hip abductors, including the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. They also draw strength from the inner thighs.

Here is how to do side leg raises with proper form:

  1. Lay on the right side of your body and create one long line from your head to your toes.
  2. Extend your right arm long and lay your head on it. Place your left hand on your hip.
  3. When you're ready, exhale and raise your top leg straight in the air. As you lift your leg, it should stay in line with the bottom leg.
  4. Lift your left leg only as high as you can while keeping your hips stacked, your upper body facing forward, and with a straight leg. Do not twist your upper body or hips!
  5. Feel the pinch in your hip abductors, then slowly lower your left leg back to the bottom leg.
  6. Repeat! Do ten to twelve reps raising your left leg, then switch to the other side.

Not only are side leg raises an ideal exercise for hip strength, but they are also a great indicator of hip mobility. The higher you can laterally raise your leg, the more flexibility in your hip joint. If you can't raise your leg very far, you may have tight hips and could use some hip stretches!

8. Lateral Step-Ups

Step-ups are a classic hip flexion exercise. To do them, you'll need a chair, stair, or small step box. Whatever you use, you want it to be at a height where your thigh is parallel with the ground as you step on it.

Here's how to do step-ups:

  1. Stand about one foot behind your step box and face it.
  2. Lift your right foot so that your right knee bends to 90-degrees, then step straight onto the box and straighten your right leg.  Once your right foot is on the box, step up with your left foot.
  3. Stand on the top of the box for a second, then slowly step your left foot to the floor followed by your right foot.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side, then continue to alternate stepping with the right and left feet.

For step-ups to be effective, you have to get the technique down. Therefore, keep these important form tips in mind:

  • Step your footstraight onto the box
  • Do not twist your hips as you step onto the box
  • Keep your back straight as you step up and down

9. Fire Hydrants

Next up, fire hydrants are another hip abduction exercise. They are one of the best exercises for overall glute and hip strength. Here's how to do fire hydrants:

  1. Get on all fours on a soft surface. Place your palms flat on the floor directly under your shoulders and knees right under your hips. Keep your back straight in a neutral position.
  2. When you're ready, from your hip joint, lift your right knee off the floor and raise it directly out from the hip joint. Lift it until your knee is in line with your hip.
  3. Squeeze your hip and glute muscles, then slowly lower the knee back to starting position.
  4. Repeat on the other side!

You will know you are doing fire hydrants correctly if you look like a dog opening their leg to pee on a fire hydrant! When you do the exercise, keep these form tips in mind:

  • Do not arch your low back
  • Keep your back and hips completely neutral
  • All of the movement should come from your hip joints; everything else stays still
Bird dog pose

10. Yoga Poses

In addition to traditional strength training exercises, you should do yoga for extra hip strength. Yoga not only helps further strengthen the hips but it also improves flexibility. With more hip flexibility, you can reach a greater range of motion in each of these exercises. Here are some of the best yoga poses for the hips:

  • Bird dogs
  • Single-leg dogs
  • Half-moon pose
  • Bridge pose
  • Tree pose

The half-moon pose is particularly effective at both strengthening and stretching the hips. Here's how to do it with proper form:

  1. Start in a triangle pose with your right leg forward.
  2. Bend your right knee, hold your left hand on your left hip, and drop your right hand to the floor. 
  3. Straighten your right leg while lifting your left foot up to hip level; your body should begin to open up to the left side.
  4. With your body open to the left, lift your left arm in the air, turn your gaze towards the ceiling, and hold the pose by squeezing your hips and glutes.
  5. Balance on your right leg for about twenty seconds, then repeat on the opposite side!

People often underestimate yoga as being ineffective for strength building. However, yoga's unique movement patterns challenge the muscles in new ways to help build strength!

Final Thoughts

Most people's hips don't get enough activation these days. Be one of the people that stop that cycle by integrating these top at-home hip-strengthening exercises into your workout today!

Strengthening your hips is one of the best things you can do for better health. Activate your hips to activate a healthier and stronger life!

Bonus tip: Your glutes intricately interconnect with your hip muscles. Therefore, give our top butt exercises a try to build both stronger glutes and stronger hips at the same time!