Whether you are a person who thoroughly enjoys active sessions of morning jogs and runs, or someone who would rather be at the gym, you need to have strong hip muscles. For a regular workout, rigorous exercises, running and jogging, it is imperative to steer clear of physical injuries. One simple way to avoid injuries is by strengthening your hip muscles by easy hip exercises. Strong hips make the body resilient and minimize the impact of many injuries. So, it is not enough to purchase those fancy running shoes and accessories, one should devote a few minutes every day for hip strengthening. Let us examine the importance of having strong hips and then have a look at some easy and quick ways to achieve those toned and strong hips that we have always fancied.
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Importance of Hip Exercises for Runners
While strong hips would be beneficial for everyone, they are especially important for athletes and runners because they put their body weight on both hips one by one as they sprint. Since the typical fitness routine of runners does not include hip-strengthening exercises, they are more prone to an injury during a fall or during a workout.
It has been scientifically proven that there is a clear correlation between lower extremities injuries due to overuse and weakness in the hip muscles, which is typical for runners. If they do not regularly perform exercises to boost hip strength, they might be even more prone to severe injuries. You should even involve in hip strengthening exercises for a fitter and stronger body.
Lifestyle and Hip Weakness
One common factor that contributes to the weakening of hip muscles is a sedentary lifestyle. Most of us would agree that we spend more time sitting than we should. Despite knowing the cause of our hip problems, we are unable to find time and motivation to minimize our hip problems.
How to Combat Weak Hips?
It is a myth that we need expensive equipment or a lot of time to strengthen our hips.
What we really need is just a few daily minutes of regular hip exercises and we will put many hip problems to rest. We will now discuss the most effective ways to specifically target the hip area and increase its strength:
Would you believe if we told that just a 10-minute hips workout every day will surely strengthen your hips? Surprised? Well, it is the truth! This workout is suitable for everyone and is sure to give results.
The best part is that these are very simple exercises and do not involve any additional equipment. So, you can do these at home. Here’s what you have to do:
1. Side Jumps
- Stand with your hands on your hips and jump about three feet to your left, landing gently on your left foot while bending your left knee slightly.
- Bring your right leg down to touch the ground. Repeat the above step for your right side now.
- Do the above two steps for fifteen times each side.
2. Squat Kick
- Stand with your hands on your hips and kick the right leg in the air in front or side of the body, then bringing it down and squatting gently.
- Place both feet together and stand straight.
- Repeat for the same leg fifteen times before switching the leg.
3. Standing Side-Kick
- Stand with feet apart at hip width and place your hands on the hips. Gently lift the right leg sideways in three counts so that the thighs are parallel to the ground and hold this position for one count.
- Gradually bring back the leg to the ground in three counts.
- Repeat fifteen times for one leg and then switch to the other leg.
4. Bird and Dog
- Balance your body on all fours and extend one arm in front of the body, and at the same time, extend the opposite leg straight back., without bending either the arm or the leg.
- Bring the body back to its starting position.
- Do this for the other arm and leg, and repeat for about ten times per side.
5. Leg-Raise / Donkey Kicks
- Get down on four limbs and lift your right leg in a way that the inner thigh faces the floor and the knee is bent at right angle.
- Kick your leg so that the heel faces the ceiling.
- Return to all fours and repeat ten times before switching to your left leg.
6. Side Leg Raise
- Lie down on one side and place your legs over each other, straight.
- Lift one leg as high as you can without bending the knee and bring it back to the original position and repeat ten times on the same side before switching the leg.
7. Single Leg Hip-Lift
- Lie on your back and bend both knees so that the feet are fully touching the ground.
- Lift your hips and release the left leg so that the left knee is not bent at all and hold this position for one count.
- Repeat ten times on one side before switching legs.
Repetition of each exercise should be done for a small number of times in the beginning and increased gradually so as to avoid over exertion and injury.
Exercises for Hip Mobility
Like any other joint in the body, the hips also require regular mobility to remain functional. Prolonged periods of sitting or staying in one position adversely affect the mobility of the hip joint, leading to weakness in the hip area and its muscles. One can increase hip mobility by some very simple hip exercises that are described below.
1. Lateral Squats
- Stand straight with your feet about four feet apart and your hand on each side of your waist.
- Move your body weight to your right leg and bend your waist and knee so that the knee reaches close to the left ankle.
- Hold this position for one count before returning to your original position.
- Repeat eight times on one side before switching legs.
2. Traditional Split Squats
- Stand with your feet at about one feet distance and place your left foot ahead of the right foot by about two to three feet.
- Placing your hands on each side of your waist, bend down so that your right knee touches the ground, just before your left foot, and then stand up.
- Repeat for eight times before switching the legs.
Increasing General Body Flexibility
Admit it, your hectic lifestyle has made your body inflexible!
It is a great practice to increase the flexibility of the full body along with performing area specific exercise. This can be done by some very easy yoga postures that involve stretching of hips and improve their flexibility. Few of these yoga postures are described below:
1. Hip Flexing Pose
- This pose involves sitting on both legs such that both knees are bent at right angle and the upper side of the feet touches the ground.
- Slowly lift your right leg towards the front so that the knee remains bent at ninety degrees but the sole touches the ground.
- Place both hands on the right knee and hold this pose for about thirty seconds.
- Go back to the starting posture and repeat for both legs alternately for a up to five times per leg.
2. Making the Digit 4
- Lie down on your back with legs and arms extended downwards.
- Bring your right leg up so that the knee is bent in a way that the thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Support the thigh with both hands and place the left foot on the right knee.
- Hold this position for about thirty seconds before returning to the starting position.
- Repeat for up to five times per side.
3. The Butterfly Pose
- Sit on the ground such that both the knees are bent in a way that the soles of both feet touch each other and the ankles are as close to the hips as possible.
- Hold the feet with both hands and gently flap both knees up and down together for about thirty seconds in total.
- Repeat after pausing for ten seconds and do up to five cycles.
Modifications to Traditional Exercises
While traditional hip exercises make the body work out in one direction at a time, a more holistic workout can be developed by modifying the exercise so include motion in more than one direction. For professional athletes, hip strengthening exercises work better if they are combined with some kind of equipment like foam rolls, foam balls, weight and resistance bands. In this section, we will discuss the different variants of hip exercises for professional runners.
1. Modifications in Lunges
Rotational lunges and lateral lunges can be made more intensive by holding weight in the arm while doing them. Similarly, adding a TRX to the lunges will make the work-out heavy duty.
2. Modifications in Step-ups
Lateral and rotational step ups can be made to flex more muscles if we hold weights in our hands while performing them.
3. Single Leg Hip Lift with Weights
The single leg hip lift exercise that is explained above can be modified for runners to provide a high-intensity hip workout by carrying weights.
Exercises for Hip Problems
In case you already have a hip problem like inflammation or soreness of the muscle, it should not stop you from exercising.
So what can you do about the hip pain?
Gentle exercise for hip problems helps in getting relief from pain and discomfort. One thing to keep in mind when doing any exercise while having an underlying physical problem is not to exert yourself. One should refrain from doing any strenuous exercise and stop if the body doesn’t feel good. Here are some easy exercises that can be safely done when you have an existing hip problem:
1. Knee Bending while Lying Down
As the name suggests, you lie down on the back and bend your knee of the side where you have soreness. This position should not be maintained for more than two seconds before bringing the body back to the starting position.
2. Knee Lifting while Lying Down
This is the next step after the above hip exercise where you lie down on your back and bend the knee of the sore side while pulling the knee towards the chest. Maintain this position for a maximum of three seconds before returning to the starting position.
3. Leg Press while Sitting Down
This exercise is a variant of the butterfly pose described above. The difference between this exercise and the butterfly pose is that the ankles are not pulled too close to the hips but left at a distance that is comfortable. Also, instead of flapping the knees up and down, you only have to gently press the knees towards the floor and release.
4. Leg Raising Exercises
These exercises should be done with the help of a chair. Hold on to a sturdy chair for support and keeping your knee straight, lift out your leg on the sore side of the body as much away from the body as you can, before returning to your starting position. You can extend the leg backward instead of sideways too.
Hip strength is crucial for maintaining overall fitness and making the most out of our workouts and exercise regimens. There is a right hip strengthening exercise for all of us according to our age, physical fitness levels and intensity or workout desired. Which hip exercises would you like to include in your routine? Let us know.