3 of the Best Hip Exercises to Try During Your Next Gym Visit

woman doing hip exercise
The muscles in your upper and inner thighs are a crucial element of hip support not only in your workouts, but for everyday activity (like sitting, standing, and walking).

by Catherine Santino

On leg day, it's easy to focus solely on obvious leg muscles like the quads (the front of your upper legs) and hamstrings. But in order to do their jobs, these muscles rely heavily on the hips!

You might be thinking, "But wait, the hips are not muscles." And that's true. But there are a number of muscles surrounding the hip joint that help your legs support and transport your body — like the flexors, extensors, adductors, and abductors. This is why it's a good idea to try some of the best hip exercises next time you head to the gym.

The Importance of Hip-Focused Movements

The muscles in your upper and inner thighs are a crucial element of hip support not only in your workouts, but for everyday activity (like sitting, standing, and walking). It's a team effort, and your hip flexors can feel really left out when you don't give them proper attention in the gym.

OK, so they don't actually have feelings, but it's still important to engage these muscles so that you get the most out of your workouts and avoid injury.

Squats are great for hip strength, but there is so much more you can be doing! Here are three of the best hip exercises that will aid in stabilizing (and strengthening) the surrounding muscles.

1. Single Leg Hip Lift

Find a quiet corner of the gym and lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Next, lift one leg vertically with your toes pointed upward. Then slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling, hold for a moment, and lower them back down to complete one repetition. Try to perform 10 reps before switching sides.

This exercise works to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes, which are crucial muscles when it comes to proper hip support. After getting comfortable with this movement, you may find it easier to quickly stand up from a seated position.

2. Standing Side Kick

Stand with your feet at hip-width distance and place your hands on your waist. Now extend one leg out to the side at a 90-degree angle or to the extent that you're capable. Aim to keep your leg at hip-height and your inner thigh parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a moment, and then lower your leg. Attempt to complete a set of 10 reps with each leg.

This move not only works your inner thigh muscles but also tests your balance, which, in turn, helps improve hip stability. Your hard work will also pay off on the treadmill, as this exercise can improve your form and endurance while running and walking!

3. Donkey Kicks

This exercise might look a little silly, but it's pretty fun. Get on all fours, taking a moment to make sure that your weight is distributed evenly. Next, lift one leg out to the side, keeping your knee bent. Rotate your inner thigh so that it's facing the floor (or to the extent that you're able to do so comfortably). Then extend your leg behind you, bringing your heel toward the ceiling. Finally, place your knee back on the floor to return to the starting position. Try to perform 10 reps on each side.

This move will seriously kick your glutes into high gear, as well as target your lower back muscles, helping you to feel more agile. As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.