Hip strengthening exercises can be beneficial for both athletes and casual exercisers, improving balance and performance for a variety of sports and activities. Essentially, hip strengthening exercises boil down to movements that strengthen and stretch any or all of the flexor, extensor, adductor, and abductor muscles of the hip. Within these four basic categories of exercises, however, a large range of positions and other options opens up. For instance, an individual with weaker hips may use only the resistance of his or her own body weight to perform these exercises, while someone who already has adequate hip strength might benefit more from adding resistance from weights or exercise bands.
Movements that strengthen and stretch the front muscles of the hip are called hip flexor exercises. These are the same muscles that raise the leg forward and up, out in front of the body. A simple way to strengthen these muscles that is suitable for beginners is to lie flat on the floor, face up, and raise and lower the legs slowly, keeping the knees as straight as possible. To add more difficulty, perform these leg lifts while lying on a bench with the legs dangling lower than the body, perform them standing upright and try to lift the legs to a 90 degree angle in front of the body, or add resistance with ankle weights or an exercise band. To stretch these muscles before and after the exercises, sink into a lunge position, keeping the back leg as straight as possible and facing directly forward over the front leg until a stretch is felt at the front of the back leg's hip.
Hip extensor exercises are movements that strengthen the muscles that pull the leg backward. These hip strengthening exercises can essentially be performed in the same manner as the hip flexor exercises, except in the opposite direction. For instance, start by lying face down on the floor or a bench, and then lift the legs up, or stand upright and pull the leg backward against the resistance of an exercise band.
Abductor and adductor muscles in the hip focus on moving the leg either inward toward the center of the body during adduction or out to the side of the body during abduction. These simple hip strengthening exercises can be performed either standing up using resistance bands or lying down, on either side, using ankle weights. Side leg lifts work the abductor muscles, while inner thigh squeezes, such as squeezing a ball between the knees, work the adductor muscles.