You might not be familiar with the term "hip stabilizers" – unless you've run into a problem with yours.
Our hips are one of the most essential parts of our bodies. Humans are bipedal mammals that exclusively stand on two feet, so our hips take us everywhere. We need them for standing, sitting, bending - most of our day-to-day movements involve our hips.
Your hip stabilizers include any muscles that help to keep your hips stable while you move your body. In our modern work-centered culture, we sit for too long at desks and don't move as much as our bodies need to naturally. As a result of this inactivity, you may end up with hip instability, pelvic instability, weak hip flexors, and weak hip abductors.
If you're not currently suffering from hip issues, should you do anything?
Yes! As a preventative measure, you should practice hip flexion and extension to strengthen hip flexors and keep them healthy. Use our guide to learn more about hip stability, test your hip strength, and practice pelvic stability exercises.
Why is hip stability important?
As we mentioned, you use your hips for every bodily movement. Your hips provide a more potent force than your body uses to generate power in your movement, from running and walking to sitting and hinging to bend down.
If your hips are strong and stable, your body starts to rely on other muscles and joints to compensate for this weakness - quickly, weak hips can turn into knee, ankle, or back injuries and tightness.
It is imperative to keep your hips healthy with hip mobility exercises a few times a week not only for basic functioning but also to improve your athletics performance when it comes to running, jumping, and explosive movements!
Testing for hip mobility and strength
Before you start a strengthening routine, test your hips to get a baseline of your hip strength and muscle activation. There are two exercises you can use as a hip stability drill to test for hip strength.
Test #1: Single-leg glute bridge
- Get on your back on an exercise mat.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor underneath them, close to your glutes. Lift your pelvis into a bridge. Keep your back in line as your hip raises.
- Lift your right leg in line with your bridge. Return it to the ground, and lift the left leg.
Your goal is to keep your hips from dipping when you lift your legs. If your hips do dip down, you have weak hip abductors and external rotators.
Test #2: Single-leg squats
- Stand on one leg. Hold both arms out directly in front of you.
- Hinge at your hips and squat down, keeping your knees over your toes.
- Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
If you find these difficult to perform, keeping your knee straight without wobbling or turning inward, you have weak hip stabilizers.
Which muscles stabilize the hips?
Many muscles work together to stabilize the hips. Stabilizers refer to any muscle that crosses over your hip joint. Here are the most important ones:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Deep core muscles
- Inner thighs
A solid routine of hip strengthening exercises will focus on working all of these muscles so that they can work together to be stable and strong support for your hips.
Hip stabilizers exercises
We've built a routine full of hip stabilization exercises to assist you in strengthening your lower body. Categorized by equipment, you only need a few inexpensive pieces to get started - a resistance band and some light 5-10 lb weights.
Perform these hip balance exercises 2x/week, waiting at least 48 hours between workouts to ensure your muscles have ample time to recover.
Exercises with no equipment
Start your routine with these hip exercises that require no equipment at all, just your bodyweight for resistance.
Side plank with leg lift
Reps: 15 on each side
- Lie down on your right side on an exercise or yoga mat. Stack your legs on top of each other. Prop yourself up on your right elbow without sinking into it, keep good posture. The outside of your right foot should be supporting your lower body. The left foot stacks on top of it.
- Place your left hand on your left hip.
- Maintaining your body's position, lift your left leg in the air, keeping it in line with the right. Keep your body lifted and stable. Don't let your hips collapse down toward the floor.
- Return to the starting position and repeat. Switch to the left side.
Reps: 15 on each leg
- Get onto your hands and knees on an exercise mat. Keep shoulders directly over wrists and hips over knees.
- Lift your right leg behind you until your upper thigh is in line with your torso. Keep your foot flexed and activate your glutes. Pause.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat. Once you complete a set on your right leg, switch to the left.
Exercises with bands
Next, we have a few exercises you can perform with a resistance band, like a hip circle. They will be a little more challenging than bodyweight work alone. Graduate to a thicker band for more resistance as you grow stronger.
Banded hip flexor march
- Lie flat on your back on a yoga or exercise mat. Bend at your knees and bring them into your chest.
- Place a hip circle around the arches of both of your feet. Keep your left knee in at your chest while you extend the right leg down and away from you. Keep your abdominals tight to support your lower back.
- Now switch to bring your right knee into your chest and extend the left leg out. Keep the movement slow and controlled.
Sidestep with band
Reps: 30 steps in each direction
- Place a hip circle resistance band around your ankles. Put your hands on your hips.
- Hinge down into a squat position, keeping abs tight and head in line with neck and spine. Keep your chest up in good posture.
- Step out to the right into a wide squat stance, then bring the left leg to meet the right at shoulder-width apart. Don't let your knee bend further than your toe.
- Step to the right 30 times, or as space allows, and then switch directions to the left. One set is complete when you step to each side 30 times total.
Exercises with weights
Last, we have a few exercises that require a set of dumbbells. Try out a set of 5- to 10-lb dumbbells, and progress to heavier weights as the work gets more comfortable.
Bulgarian split squat
Reps: 15 per side
- Get a box, chair, or step that is approximately knee height. Pick up your dumbbells, one in each hand.
- Stand in front of your box, facing away from it. Place the top of your right foot on the box behind you and gently hop out on your left foot until you're in a modified lunge position with the right leg up.
- Keeping your weights at your sides, bend down into a lunge position. Most of your weight is in your left leg.
- Keep your left knee behind your toe while you bend. If it goes over the toe, you need to readjust and put your left leg a little further out in front of you.
- Return to the start and repeat.
Single-leg Romanian deadlift
Reps: 15 on each leg
- Grab one dumbbell in your right hand. Put all of your weight into your left foot, keeping your right foot loose but close to the floor.
- Keep a very slight bend in the standing knee throughout this move. Tighten your core and slowly hinge forward at your hips, allowing your right leg to float back behind you for balance.
- Your dumbbell will travel along your left leg as your upper body hinges in line with your hips. Stop just shy of touching the floor.
- Return to the starting position, keeping an upright posture. Head and neck should be in line with your spine throughout the exercise.
- Repeat to complete the set. Switch to the right leg.
Use these exercises to help keep your hips stable and balanced while building up some serious lower-body strength. Once you've been doing the routine, perform your hip stabilizer tests every month or so to see how your hip strength progresses.
These exercises, along with a full-body training regimen, will keep you in fighting shape today and help to avoid hip issues in the future.