A lot of athletes devote time and energy to incorporating hip mobility exercises into their workout routine. Tight hip flexors can make activities like running, cycling, hiking, squatting, and even walking difficult, as tightness in your hips can limit your stride length.
However, while mobility exercises for hips are certainly important, it is equally important to do exercises to strengthen hips.
Hip stability exercises and the best hip stability workouts ensure that your glutes, hip flexors, pelvic floor muscles, and all of the smaller muscles that control your hips are able to provide a strong, level pelvis.
In this guide to the best hip stability exercises, we will discuss the importance of doing exercises to strengthen hips, how to strengthen hips in terms of increasing hip stability, and step-by-step instructions for the following best hip stability workout exercises:
Let’s jump in!
Why Are Hip Strengthening Exercises Important for Runners?
The hips are the largest synovial joints in the body, and the ball-and-socket configuration makes the hip joint highly mobile.
As such, the hip joint is capable of tri-planar movements, including forward flexion and backward extension, lateral abduction (out to the side) and adduction, and internal and external rotation.
The best hip stability exercises help ensure that your hips are able to provide a stable foundation upon which your upper body and lower body can move or balance, whether performing dynamic exercises or trying to hold static postures in a 360-degree fashion.
Therefore, exercises for hip stability should target the:
- Gluteus medius muscle
- Gluteus maximus muscle
- Piriformis muscle
- Hip flexor muscle group such as the iliopsoas
- Proximal hamstrings and quads
- Smaller hip rotators like the gemellus muscles and obturator muscles
- Deep core muscles
6 Hip Stability Exercises For Stronger Hips
Here are some of the best strengthening exercises for hips:
#1: Clam Shells
This is one of the best gluteus medius exercises because it really isolates the muscle.It also strengthens the piriformis, which lies deep in the glutes, and assists the gluteus medius in abducting the hip and stabilizing the hips in the frontal plane.
Any athletes who are experiencing deep hip or butt pain or notice gluteus medius weakness should start with this exercise in their hips strengthening workouts as it is a beginner-friendly rehab/prehab gluteus medius-strengthening exercise.
Here are the steps to how to strengthen hips with clam shells:
- Place a resistance loop band on your thighs just above your knees.
- Lie on your left side with your knees stacked on top of one another and your knees bent 90 degrees. Prop your head up with your left hand so that you feel comfortable.
- Squeeze your heels together and lift your feet so that they’re hovering about 3-4 inches off the floor. Your feet should remain fixed in this position as if glued in space throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Lift your right knee (the top one) towards the ceiling against the resistance of the band, rotating your hip to open your groin. Remember to keep your feet together and off the ground.
- Complete 10-15 reps, and then switch sides.
#2: Single-Leg Balance
A single-leg balance sounds easy enough, but it can be very helpful in a hip strengthening exercise routine for strengthening the gluteus medius for runners, walks, hikers, and cyclists.
To perform this exercise for hip strength and stability:
- Stand on one leg with a relatively straight knee (though not locked out).
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Close your eyes to make this hip exercise more difficult, and progress to balancing on uneven surfaces like a pillow or wobble board.
#3: Copenhagen Plank
Plus, this exercise for hip strength also works your obliques and deep core muscles.
Here are the steps to perform this one of our hip stability exercises:
- Lie on your side with your legs stacked and shoulders stacked.
- You should be positioned so that your body is on the floor perpendicular to the long side of a weight bench.
- Engage your glutes and abs and place your hand in front of your body on the floor if you need help bracing your body or balancing.
- Rest your top leg on the weight bench. Beginners can place the knee up on the bench, and as you get stronger, remove more of your leg so that just your ankle is resting on the bench. You will need to adjust how far away from the weight bench your body is situated on the floor based on your strength level.
- Press yourself up into the side plank position resting on your forearm on the arm underneath your body and lift your hips all the way up so that your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Your lower leg should come off the floor and press upward on the underside of the weight bench and you should press into the bench on the leg that’s on top (on the bench) to activate your adductors.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
#4: Heel Tap Marches
This is a great exercise for strengthening your hips because it helps increase stability and control of the pelvis while building deep core strength.
It targets the lower abs and deep core muscles like the transversus abdominis and the multifidus while training you to keep your pelvis steady when just one leg is moving.
This makes this a great exercise for functional hip stability because it mimics the reciprocal leg pattern of running and walking.
Here are the steps:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, core engaged, and feet flat on the floor.
- Use your abdominal muscles to draw the right leg up so that your hip and knee are at 90 degrees and your shin is parallel to the floor.
- Slowly lower it back down while simultaneously raising the left leg in the same way such that your legs are moving reciprocally.
- Lightly tap the toes to the floor without fully planting the foot, ensuring you keep the 90-degree bend in the knees.
- As you get stronger, straighten your legs more, so that your feet are tapping further out away from your body.
#5: Single Leg Squats
This is a good hip strengthening exercise for runners because it builds strength and stability in each leg individually, much like the unilateral demands of running.
Plus, it is one of the best exercises to strengthen hips in the frontal plane (side to side) so that your hip on the weight-bearing side doesn’t drop down—your pelvis should remain level if your hip strength is good.
Essentially, when you land on one leg during running, your core and hips have to stabilize and balance the pelvis without allowing the hip on the supporting side to drop down upon impact.
By focusing on loading each leg in isolation, this hip strength exercise helps increase the stability and strength in your pelvis in order to control this movement during running.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright on one leg with your core engaged, holding onto a light medicine ball or stability ball with your arms extended in front of you at chest height.
- Keeping your hips facing forward and stacked over your knees, bend the knee to 90 degrees on your supporting leg.
- Slowly press back up to standing.
- Complete 6-8 slow reps and then switch sides.
#6: Heel Drops
This exercise for hips also helps increase pelvic stability in multiple planes. You can make this hip exercise more difficult by holding weights, if available.
Here are the steps to perform this move in your hips exercises strengthening routine:
- Stand on a low aerobic step or stair with your feet near the edge facing the ground below.
- Lift your left foot off the stair so that your heel is hovering just above the stair and your toes are pointing up towards the ceiling. Your knee should be straight.
- Bend your right knee (on the supporting leg) as if you’re going to step down to the stair below, but just hover the left heel over the ground or stair below without actually touching the heel down.
- Use your core and glutes to stay balanced and then power yourself back up to standing with the glutes on the supporting (right) leg.
- Complete 12-15 reps per side, moving in a slow and controlled fashion.
If you want the best strategy for how to strengthen your hips for running or other activities, make sure you try to perform your hip exercises strengthening routine 2-3 days per week.
If you are looking to also improve the mobility in your hips, click here for four mobility exercises for happy hips!