The 5 Best Exercises For Hip Pain

Focus on the muscles surrounding the hip joints.

The best exercises for hip pain, straight from a fitness pro.
DjordjeDjurdjevic/E+/Getty Images

While there are many causes of hip pain — including injury to the hip joint — sometimes the culprit is prolonged time sitting. If you work at a desk, drive a lot, or like to hunker down for weekend-long movie marathons, hip exercises may be exactly what you need to find relief.

According to Chloe de Winter, a physiotherapist and founder of Go Chlo Pilates, you’ll want to aim for a combo of stretches and strength exercises to alleviate hip pain, especially if it’s become an ongoing problem. “Both are equally important but have a different purpose,” de Winter tells Bustle. An exercise routine that focuses on the muscles surrounding your hip joints may help correct any imbalances you have due to prolonged sitting, she explains. And if you add in a few stretches designed to open up the hip joints, it’ll help combat that annoying sensation of tightness and pain.

While a quick hip stretch might provide immediate relief, you’ll want to return to these moves — along with exercises focused on strengthening the muscles surrounding the hip joint — on a regular basis to truly kick hip pain to the curb. “Consistency is key when it comes to a movement practice,” de Winter says, which is why she recommends stretching every day and doing strength exercises every other day as part of an ongoing routine. Here, de Winter breaks down the five best exercises and stretches for hip pain you can try for more open, limber hips.

1. Bridge

Go Chlo Pilates

A bridge will feel really good if you spend a lot of time sitting and have sore, achy hips as a result. The reason? “It strengthens the gluteals and hamstring muscles and also opens up tightness in the front of the hips,” de Winter says.

- Begin by lying on your back with your feet hip-width apart, hands resting by your sides.

- Press into your heels to lift your pelvis up towards the ceiling.

- Keep your knees in line with your hips and your tailbone gently tucked.

- Slowly lower your hips back down to the mat.

- Repeat 25 times.

Do this exercise every other day to strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips.

2. Squat

Go Chlo Pilates

This is a staple Pilates exercise for good reason. “Squats are an important functional exercise for the hips,” de Winter says. “They help with both deep stability and global strength of the hips.” Here’s how to do them with good form:

- Begin by standing with your feet under your hips, toes pointing forward.

- Bend your knees and send your hips back, allowing your chest to tip slightly forward.

- Allow your knees to spiral slightly outward to stay in line with your middle toes.

- Once at the bottom of the squat, check to make sure your knees are above your ankles.

- Ground yourself through your heels and push up to stand.

- Try 15 to 30 squats.

Aim to do this exercise every two days to strengthen the hips.

3. Clam

Go Chlo Pilates

“Clams really activate deep into the glute muscles and will give you that Pilates burn,” de Winter says. It works wonders for hip stability, she adds, because it strengthens the sides of your hips to help improve hip, knee, and ankle alignment.

- Begin by lying on your side with your knees bent and your feet in line with your hips.

- Lift your heels so they hover in the air.

- Spiral open your top knee, making sure to keep your pelvis stacked. (Don’t let hips tilt forward or back.)

- Slowly lower your knee back down.

- Continue to lift and lower your top knee while maintaining the stack of the pelvis.

- Repeat 30 times, then switch to the other side.

Do this move every other day.

4. Figure 4

Go Chlo Pilates

Follow up the clam exercise with a Figure 4 stretch. “This one will release tension that builds up in the gluteal muscles, which lie at the back and side of the hip,” de Winter explains. It’s another good choice for folks who spend a lot of time sitting, but also for walkers and runners.

- Start by sitting on the floor with your hands behind you, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.

- Cross your left ankle over your right leg so that the ankle sits just over your knee. This will create a “figure 4” shape with your legs.

- Slide your right foot in as close as you can towards your butt.

- Walk your hands closer to your butt and puff out your chest.

- Feel the stretch in your hips and glutes.

- Hold and breathe for two minutes, then repeat with the right leg.

Do this stretch daily.

5. Hamstring Stretch

Go Chlo Pilates

“This stretch helps to open up through the back of the thigh and hip,” de Winter says, making it an ideal choice if you feel tight or inflexible.

- Start in a kneeling position

- Sweep your left leg forward.

- Straighten your knee so it’s fully extended in front of you, and your foot is flexed.

- Fold your upper body forward. Reach towards your toes.

- Allow your hands to land on either side of your left thigh, on the mat, or on two yoga blocks placed in front of you.

- Feel a stretch in the back of your extended leg.

- Hold for two minutes and breathe.

- Repeat on the other side.

Do this move daily to improve flexibility and relieve hip pain.

Studies referenced:

Demoulin, C. (2016). A comparison of two stretching programs for hamstring muscles: A randomized controlled assessor-blinded study. Physiother Theory Pract. 2016;32(1):53-62. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2015.1091533.

Kim, S-H. (2015). Lower Extremity Strength and the Range of Motion in Relation to Squat Depth. Journal of Human Kinetics.

Rasi, K. (2017). Exercise Training in Treatment and Rehabilitation of Hip Osteoarthritis: A 12-Week Pilot Trial. Journal of Osteoporosis.