Your hips are built to support your body weight, which makes them stable and strong—but they’re not immune to weakness, injury or chronic pain, either. The hip joints and the muscles encasing them (called hip flexors) are vital for functional mobility and overall health.
It can be easy to forget about this area of your body and yet it’s critical for your overall health and wellness. Learn about how to care for your hips in order to maintain your ability to move with strength and enjoy an active lifestyle.
Why hip health is so important
Mobile, flexible hips should be able to move and rotate without stiffness, inflammation, pressure or tightness. Joint and muscle stability in this area will make daily activities easier and pain-free while elevating athletic or fitness performance too. In fact, a team of researchers in Brazil found that when endurance runners focus on conditioning exercises to boost isokinetic hip strength, torque and balance, this can, in turn, improve their running economy.
On the flip side, unstable hip joints or flexors can diminish wellness and quality of life. Hip flexor weakness is the main predictor of low mobility in older adults, points out the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. This makes sense, considering the hip flexors connect to several parts of the body—the pelvis, groin, lower back, and thighs. Weak flexors can cause spinal misalignment, muscular imbalance or difficulty moving.
What causes hip weakness
Hip weakness is often the result of sedentary behaviors. When you exercise too infrequently or remain seated for long periods, the hips can lock in an unnatural bent position. Over time, sitting like that will also compress the spinal vertebrae, which connect to your hips.
This is known as adaptive shortening, the BMJ Open Journal explains, and it restricts the range of motion in the affected joints, muscles, and tissues. As a result, you might feel discomfort in the hips when you’re active, which can also affect your motivation to exercise.
Physical exertion (especially resistance training) helps to maintain strong bone mineral density, reports the Nutrients Journal. Without resilient bones, you are more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis or osteosarcopenia, which turn your bones weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures.
Strong hips will make you less vulnerable to chronic pain or injuries, boost your functional movement and fitness performance, and help you maintain a vibrant quality of life for as long as possible.
How to care for your hip health
Sedentary behavior is the main culprit of weak, unstable hips, which means consistent exercise is an important part of the solution.Tthe right kind of exercise, however, is key. Over-training with too much intensity can actually stress or injure the hip flexors as well, points out the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
Use these low-impact movements to stretch and strengthen your hip joints and flexors. These exercises apply the ideal amount of resistance without causing strain, so you’ll feel loose and flexible.
For even more hip health benefits, use a foam roller on this area afterward. Frontiers in Physiology indicates that foam rolling can help stimulate post-workout tissue repair, alleviate muscle soreness and promote a better range of motion.
5 Hip Strengthening Exercises
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Roll the shoulders back, activate the core muscles, and straighten the spine. Take a wide step forward with the right foot, bend the right knee deeply, then sink down as far as you can until the left knee rests on the floor.
Place the right hand on the floor, outside of the right foot, and reach the left arm overhead, leaning both hips to the right. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to standing. Repeat the same movements with your opposite leg. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
Lie flat on your back with both legs on the floor and arms at your side. Raise both legs upward to the ceiling. Flex the feet, toes pointing to the ceiling, straighten the knees as much as possible, and activate the hips until you feel a stretch.
Pull your core muscles up and in to engage and resist the urge to arch your spine. If your low back starts to arch, bring a slight bend to your knees. Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower both legs back down. Do 10 repetitions of this movement series.
Lie flat on your back with both knees bent, feet planted on the floor, and arms at your side. Activate the core muscles to raise the hips off the floor, pulling your knees over your feet and lifting from your glutes, not your lower back.
Squeeze the glutes, pull in the core, and hold this position for a few seconds, then lower the hips back down. Do 10 repetitions of this movement series.
Begin in a push-up stance, with both hands stacked on the floor beneath the chest, and the legs stretched out behind you. Straighten the knees, plant the toes on the floor, make sure the spine is in alignment, and loosen the shoulders.
Activate the core muscles, and lower down onto the forearms until both elbows are resting on the floor. Maintain a straight spine, squeeze the glutes, push through your upper back and pull in the core. Maintain this isometric hold for 30 seconds. Return to the starting position, then repeat for another 30 seconds.
Begin in a plank stance, with both hands stacked on the floor beneath the shoulders, and the legs stretched out behind you. Activate your core muscles, then bend the right knee and pull it in toward the chest. Return to the starting position, then repeat the same movements with your left leg. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
Protect your hip health
Your hips play an essential role in your life, sustaining all the actions you take, from standing and walking to exercising, and more. It’s important to treat this area of the body with care to ensure it will continue to provide you with strength and stability. One way to do that is to work hip-strengthing exercises and stretches into your workout routine often so you can continually support the hips while releasing tension.