At some point, most everyone will experience hip pain. Just as there are varying levels of hip pain—ranging from that gentle pull reminding you to take it a bit easier at the gym to intense pain that makes walking difficult—there are also varying causes of hip pain. In many cases, exercises for hip pain can help alleviate symptoms and strengthen muscles so you are less likely to have pain in the future.  


FAQ

If you are experiencing hip pain or are just curious about exercises that can help you avoid it down the road, you probably have some questions. Read on to see answers to some of the more common questions about exercises for hip pain.


1. What Are Exercises For Hip Pain?

Exercises for hip pain can vary depending on the type of pain you are experiencing and its causes. Other factors, such as your general health or any health condition you have, will also affect your exercise choices. If you are in doubt about starting exercises or they increase your hip pain, consult your healthcare provider before continuing.


2. Why Should I Do Exercises For Hip Pain?  

Exercises for hip pain can help you in many ways. They can help relieve or lessen pain, increase your mobility, and help you maintain flexibility and range of motion. Also, exercises for hip pain can help relieve lower back pain caused by tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Strong and flexible hips can increase athletic performance and possibly help you get better results from your overall exercise routine.

Better muscle tone and range of motion will also lead to improved balance and stability and may help you avoid falls, which is a leading cause of hospitalization in older adults. Finally, exercise can help you delay or avoid hip surgery, which is an excellent reason to do exercises for hip pain.


3. What Are Common Causes Of Hip Pain?

Some hip pain is based in the muscles and connective tissues of the hip, particularly with the hip flexors, which attach your upper and lower body together through the pelvis. Prolonged sitting and poor posture can cause tightness in these muscles, which often leads to hip and lower back pain. Weakness in the muscles that support the hip can also cause hip pain.

Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, often affects the hip. This bone and joint condition causes deterioration of the cartilage in joints, which causes increased friction, swelling, and pain. Prolonged standing, especially on hard floor surfaces, can aggravate joint conditions like arthritis.


4. Will Exercise Make Hip Pain Worse?

Although some exercises may feel uncomfortable, you should not experience pain during hip exercises. You will definitely be working muscles that tend to get overlooked and neglected, however, so expect some discomfort and soreness in the days following your exercises. The bottom line, though, is that exercise should not make your hip pain worse. In fact, exercise may help alleviate some of your pain. Check with your healthcare professional if you notice worsening pain with exercise.


5. Do I Need Special Equipment?

Most of the exercises we reviewed do not use any special equipment. One requires a resistance band and another can be made more challenging with one. You may choose to purchase an exercise mat for comfort or a foam roller to help relieve stress in the hip area, but these are not necessary to do effective exercises for hip pain.


How We Reviewed Exercises For Hip Pain

The following exercises target the muscles of and surrounding the hip. Some are designed to strengthen the muscles themselves while others offer stretching to increase flexibility. We evaluated the following exercises on their ease of performance, ability to be adapted to varying ability levels, and the overall benefit someone should reasonably expect to get from performing them regularly.  


What We Reviewed

  • Bridge Exercises
  • Straight Leg Raise
  • Pigeon Pose
  • Side Leg Raise
  • Banded Walk
  • Hip Hikers
  • Donkey Kick
  • Fire Hydrant
  • Yoga Squat
  • Hip Flexor Stretch

Bridge Exercises

Bridge Exercises

The bridge is one of the best glute strengthening exercises available. It can be safely performed by people of most ability levels, although it does require you being able to get up and down from the floor. You will still benefit from performing bridges even if you are not able to lift all the way up to a straight position.


Instructions

Place both feet on the floor about hip-width apart while you lay on a mat or other semi-soft surface. Your knees should be pointed toward the ceiling. Let your arms rest alongside your body. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor. You can either lower down on the next inhale or hold the position for several deep breaths. Do not hold your breath.


Modifications

This exercise can be easily adapted to increase the difficulty level. A stability ball can be placed under the feet, increasing the leverage needed to raise up. Additionally, these can be done with one leg extended or raised up, which will really isolate the exercise in the glutes of the planted hip.

                              Pros

  • Very safe exercise
  • Works the entire hip region
  • Effective even if you can't do a full bridge
  • Easily adapted to increase difficulty level

 Cons

  • Can be difficult if the hip flexors are very tight
  • May be uncomfortable for those with neck pain


Straight Leg Raise

Straight Leg Raise

The straight leg raise is not for everyone. People with particularly tight hip flexors may experience pain while performing this exercise.  

Instructions

Lie on your back on the floor or a mat. Bend one knee with your feet firmly planted on the floor and extend the other leg out along the mat. Slowly tighten your quadriceps muscles to raise your extended leg about a foot off the mat, hold for 2-3 seconds, and then lower your foot back to the mat. Repeat 10-12 times on each side.  

Modifications

This can also be done with both legs, although that is a fairly advanced hip exercise and probably not one for people experiencing hip pain.

                              Pros

  • One of the best exercises for strengthening hip flexors  
  • Can be done anywhere with no special equipment
  • Helps stabilize the knee and hip joints

 Cons

  • Can be difficult for people with tight hip flexors
  • May cause “popping” sensation in the hips
  • Can be uncomfortable to execute for people with lower back pain


Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is a favorite of many yoga practitioners for its ability to stretch the entire hip area. It is easily adapted and can even be done seated in a chair for those who are not able to get up and down from the floor.

Instructions

Start in a plank position and slowly raise your right knee up toward your right elbow. Turn your right foot and place it in front of your left hip. Slowly lower your hips toward the floor, keeping the left leg extended directly behind you. You can keep your chest forward and spine neutral, or you can lower down to rest on the right leg. Hold this position for at least 45 seconds to increase flexibility, then repeat on the other side.

Modifications

For people looking for an additional challenge, you can move the left foot forward to deepen the stretch. You may also find that lowering your forehead down to the mat may offer a more thorough stretch through your glutes.  

                              Pros

  • An exceptional stretch for the entire hip area
  • Easily adaptable for varying ability levels

 Cons

  • Position may seem awkward at first
  • Use caution with body alignment if you suffer from sciatica

Side Leg Raise

Side Leg Raise

This is a great strengthening exercise suitable for most fitness abilities.

Instructions

Lay on your right side, propping your upper body up on one arm. Engage your core, then slowly lift your left leg up as high as you can. Repeat 10-12 times on each side.

Modifications

For an extra challenge, add a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.

                              Pros

  • Suitable for any fitness level  
  • Can be done with only body weight
  • Easily adaptable

 Cons

  • May not offer enough of a challenge without added resistance
  • You must be able to get up and down from the floor

Banded Walk

Banded Walk

This basic exercise targets the muscles in your outer thigh, which are key to stability and balance.

Instructions

The banded walk is exactly what it sounds like. Grab a resistance loop and place it around your ankles or just above your knees. Walk sideways several steps in each direction.

Modifications

There aren't any true modifications to the banded walk although increasing or decreasing resistance band strength will change the difficulty level slightly.

                              Pros

  • Simple to perform   
  • Can be done almost anywhere
  • No need to get on the floor

 Cons

  • Must have a resistance band
  • Can be difficult if you have balance concerns

Hip Hikers

Hip Hikers

This exercise offers you the opportunity to stretch out your hip, allowing it to open and fully relax.

Instructions

Stand facing sideways on a step. Make sure you have something sturdy to hold on to and allow your left leg to hang over the edge of the step. Keeping both legs straight, allow the left leg to lower down toward the floor. Raise the foot back up, and repeat 10-12 times. Repeat the set on the other side.

Modifications

There are not any modifications to this exercise although you can vary how far you allow the leg to stretch towards the floor.

                              Pros

  • Excellent way to stretch your hip     
  • Can be done anywhere there are stairs
  • Targets hard to reach tissue

 Cons

  • Can be challenging for those with balance concerns
  • Keeping both legs straight is difficult

Donkey Kick

Donkey Kick

As long as your knees allow you to perform them, donkey kicks are an excellent way to isolate gluteal muscles.

Instructions

Start his exercise on all fours. Without moving your left knee, kick the right leg back and up, then return to the starting position. Make sure you keep your foot relaxed and concentrate the movement in your glutes.

Modifications

We did not review any modifications for the donkey kick.

                              Pros

  • Isolates the glutes
  • Does not challenge balance
  • No equipment needed

 Cons

  • May cause discomfort in the knees
  • May irritate tight hip flexors

Fire Hydrant

Fire Hydrant

This exercise works your hips, glutes, and adductors with its incredibly targeted motion.

Instructions

Kneel on all fours, with hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keeping your knees bent, raise your right leg to the side until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Repeat 10-12 times on each side.

Modifications

We did not review any modifications for the fire hydrant exercise.

                              Pros

  • Targets most major hip muscles
  • Requires no equipment

 Cons

  • Can irritate knees and wrists
  • Core must be engaged during exercise


Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

This stretch is a great way to start a hip-focused workout. It gently stretches the hip flexors and prepares them for deeper stretching or strength exercises.  

Instructions

Start in a lunge with one knee on the ground. Place your hands on your hips and gently push your pelvis forward, stretching the front of your hips and quadriceps muscle. Allow the hip to open as you relax into the stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications

This can also be done in a seated lunge for those who are not able to kneel on the floor.

                              Pros

  • Easily adapted
  • Targets the hip flexors
  • Gentle stretch suitable for most ability levels

 Cons

  • May be painful for people with very tight hip flexors
  • Floor-based version may be uncomfortable

Name

Photos

Modification

Bridge Exercises

Bridge Exercises

This exercise can be easily adapted to increase the difficulty level. A stability ball can be placed under the feet, increasing the leverage needed to raise up. Additionally, these can be done with aone leg extended or raised up, which will really isolate the exercise in the glutes of the planted hip.

Straight Leg Raise

Straight Leg Raise

This can also be done with both legs, although that is a fairly advanced hip exercise and probably not one for people experiencing hip pain.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

For people looking for an additional challenge, you can move the left foot forward to deepen the stretch. You may also find that lowering your forehead down to the mat may offer a more thorough stretch through your glutes.  

Side Leg Raise

Side Leg Raise

For an extra challenge, add a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.

Banded Walk

Banded Walk

There aren't any true modifications to the banded walk although increasing or decreasing resistance band strength will change the difficulty level slightly.

Hip Hikers

Hip Hikers

There are not any modifications to this exercise although you can vary how far you allow the leg to stretch towards the floor.

Donkey Kick

Donkey Kick

We did not review any modifications for the fire hydrant exercise.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

We did not review any modifications for the fire hydrant exercise.

The Verdict

We examined 10 exercises for hip pain for ease of execution, adaptability, and their overall benefit. The hip flexor stretch is a top pick for warming up and getting ready for deeper stretching because of its accessibility and ability to target hip flexors. The pigeon pose is our top pick for deeper stretching because it targets multiple muscles in the hip. Our favorite strength exercise is the bridge. It is easy to perform as long as you can get up and down from the floor, can be made more difficult with minor changes, is incredibly safe, and targets most of the hip and core.

Each of the 10 exercises is highly recommended for either strengthening hip muscles or increasing flexibility in the hip area, and we suggest trying them all to find the ones that work best for you.