Five hip-strengthening exercises (and why you should do them)

Yogis are notorious for developing problematic hips after years of repetitively executing the same yoga poses. Yoga tends to strengthen the quadriceps while stretching the hamstrings and outer hips. This can lead to muscular imbalance: weak hamstrings, tight quads, weak outer hips, weak adductors, and weak gluteal muscles. Lifelong practitioners of yoga may find it necessary to supplement common yoga poses. This will help strengthen the muscles that help knit the legs, hips, pelvis, and low back together.

These exercises helped me in particularly when I was nursing the beginnings of a labral tear in my right hip, and just general unequal distribution of tightness and weakness. I found myself in discomfort regularly, with my hips clicking constantly as I walked. I had to pull back on some of my favorite poses by spending less time with or nixing altogether forward folds and deep psoas stretches. I replaced some of them with the poses below. I tended to do 10-15 minutes hip strengthening any day I did yoga. Sometimes I folded this time into my yoga practice, and other times I let it be a stand-alone experience. Even though my hips are starting to feel normal again, I still regularly incorporate hip strengthening into my physical practice. These are my favorites:

80’s workout video leg lifts

Target: Hip adductors and inner thigh

How: Lay on your right side, propping your head up with your right hand. You will look exactly like you are preparing to take your high school volleyball photo. Bend your left knee and place your left foot in front of your right knee or thigh. Keep the left foot firmly planted on the floor, and your left knee pointed upward. Finally, with the inner right ankle facing the ceiling, lift and lower the right leg. Do 10 reps and repeat on the other side.

Awkward airplane with lifts

Target: Gluteus medius and gluteus maximus

How: Come to a forward fold. Then, lift your back until you find a flat spine. If you like, use blocks under your hands or a chair under your hands for support. Bring weight into the right leg and lift the left foot off the floor while trying to keep the left foot flat. With the left hand, take hold of the left big toe, or, if the hamstrings aren’t having it today, bend your left knee and take hold of it. Flex your left toes toward your face. Press your left foot or knee into your left hand. While standing firmly with the right leg, lift and lower the left leg. Do 5-10 reps and repeat on the other side.

Clam shells

Target: Gluteus medius and piriformis

Optional equipment: Theraband

How: Lie on your right side and bring your knees toward your chest. You won’t quite be in a fetal position, but in a less compressed version of one. Stack your knees. Keeping your feet together, open the left knee. Use your hip abductors (the muscles in the outer hips) to raise and lower the knee open and closed, like a clamshell. For added resistance and additional muscle strengthening, loop a Theraband around the shins. Do 10 reps and repeat on the opposite side.

One legged bridge lifts

Target: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Lie on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling. Bring the feet hip width apart and plant them firmly into the floor. Ensure that the knees are tracking above the ankles. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling and engage throughout the right thigh muscles. Pressing the left leg firmly into the floor, lift your hips and your right foot toward the ceiling. Lower your hips, keeping the right leg lifted. Do 10-15 reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Thigh lifts

Target: Front hip flexors

Equipment needed: Theraband

How: Come to a standing position. Place the ends of the Theraband under your left foot. Lift your right knee enough take the top loop of the Theraband and place it around the right thigh, just above the knee. Point your right toes. Bring your right thigh toward your chest and lower it down. Do 8-12 reps and repeat on the opposite side.

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