The hips are large, weight-bearing joints that are subject to significant stress each day. If you have hip pain, some simple stretches and exercises may be enough to help decrease or eliminate your pain. Occasionally, you may require more advanced hip strengthening exercises to help maximize hip strength and improve functional mobility.
Some repetitive strain injuries of the hip, knee, and ankle may be caused by weakness in the hip and core musculature. Many common running injuries and athletic injuries may be caused by weakness in the hips. Advanced hip strength exercises may be one component of your exercise program that can help improve hip strength, decrease pain, and improve your overall athletic performance.
Before starting any exercise program, be sure to check with your healthcare provider and physical therapist to ensure that exercise is appropriate for your specific condition and to learn the best exercises for you.
Single Leg Bridge
To perform the single leg bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles, straighten one leg and lift it up about 15 inches. While keeping your stomach tight and your leg up, slowly lift your buttocks until you make a bridge with your body. Hold this position for 2 seconds, then slowly lower down. Repeat this exercise for 10 total repetitions on one leg and then perform 10 repetitions with the other leg.
This exercise is great to work the gluteal muscles that extend and abduct the hip. The abdominal muscles and hamstring muscles are also challenged during the single leg bridge.
To perform the ball bridge, you first need to obtain a therapy ball. You usually can purchase one at a local athletic store. If you are having trouble finding one, contact your physical therapist and he or she may be able to help. Therapy balls come in several different sizes. The most common sizes are 55, 65, and 75 centimeters.
The ball bridge is performed by lying on your back with your legs resting on the ball. Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly raise your buttocks until you create a bridge with your body. The ball creates an unsteady surface, so be prepared to feel your hip and core muscles working. Hold this position for 2 seconds, then slowly lower down. Repeat this exercise for 10 repetitions.
The ball bridge challenges the hip extensor and abductor muscles, as well as the abdominal muscles.
After you master the ball bridge, you can challenge the hip muscles more by performing the next exercise: Ball bridge with knee flexion.
Ball Bridge With Knee Flexion
Once you master the ball bridge, adding knee flexion can further challenge the muscles that support the hip. This exercise is effective at causing co-contraction of the hamstring, hip, and core muscles and is great for hip and core stability.
To perform this exercise, perform the ball bridge and hold the bridge position, then slowly bend your knees and allow the ball to roll toward your buttocks. Be sure to keep your abdominals engaged. Once the knees are bent, hold this position for 2 seconds, then return to the ball bridge position. Repeat the knee flexion 10 times. After 10 repetitions, slowly lower your body down to the resting position.
Lateral Band Walk
The lateral band walk exercise strengthens the muscles on the side of the hips known as the gluteus medius. These muscles are important for maintaining stability when walking and running.
You will need to obtain a latex or rubber therapy band to perform this exercise. It is usually available at your local sporting goods store, or your local physical therapist may offer a few feet for a small fee.
Tie the therapy band in a loop. Place both feet inside the loop and stand up. Open your legs wide to put tension on the band. Be sure to keep tension on the band, engage your abdominals, and take small steps sideways. You should feel a strain on the outside of your hips and legs. Walk sideways about 10 steps, and then walk the other way for about 10 steps. Repeat for three laps back and forth. (you can also perform this exercise while maintaining a squat position. I find that it gets the glutes more this way, instead of the outside of the thighs.)
Hip Abduction With Therapy Band
To perform this exercise, tie your rubber therapy band around a stable object. The foot of a bed or a table are good places. Place one foot inside the loop, then slowly lift your foot and leg out to the side, making sure to keep your toes pointed forward. Hold 2 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times, then switch legs.
To make this exercise more challenging, try it without holding onto anything to challenge your balance. Make sure your trunk doesn’t lean away towards the side. The trunk should be kept straight up and down, which will challenge your core muscles as well.
The exercises as described here suggest 10 repetitions each. When your strength improves and the exercises become easier, you may continue to challenge yourself by performing up to three sets of each exercise or increasing the repetitions to 15 or 20.
Since these are advanced strengthening exercises, they should only be performed three times per week to allow for appropriate muscle recovery. Again, check with your healthcare provider or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.
The advanced hip strengthening exercises are designed to help improve the strength and stability of the hips and legs. By keeping the hips strong, you may be able to maintain pain-free functional mobility.