The Best and Worst Exercises for Hip Pain

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Hip pain can be debilitating. The hips play a huge role in any lower body movement, whether you’re walking, running, jumping, standing, or sitting, you’ll feel that pain.

You may be tempted to continue pushing through your exercise despite your sore hips. Or, you may feel that exercising aggravates it and take some time off. The truth is, some types of exercise can be helpful for hip pain and others can make it worse.

The key is choosing which to do. We’ve covered the best and worst exercises for hip pain, including both stretching and strength exercises.

Learning these will help you build strength and muscle in the hips, which can reduce pain. Incorporate the good exercises into your routine and avoid the bad ones and you should start feeling a noticeable reduction in pain in a few weeks.

Can You Exercise With Hip Pain?

You can exercise with hip pain if you do it correctly and carefully.

For example, if you do resistance training, you can strengthen the muscles in the hip which can prevent injuries and improve hip pain.

Stretching the muscles can relieve pain and improve flexibility, reducing your chance of developing worse pain.

However, it is best to visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis so that you can make sure you’re doing exercises that will support and strengthen your hip instead of making it worse.

Good Stretches and Exercises for Hip Pain

Stretching

Stretches are essential for muscle health. You should be doing dynamic stretches every day to maintain mobility.

Make sure you don’t cause worse pain while you stretch. Stretch as far as you can without an increase in the pain or discomfort.

You should hold these stretches for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Then, take a short break and repeat two to three times for each stretch.

Here are the best stretches for hip pain that you should be doing:

Butterfly Stretch

This exercise targets the adductors, which are located on the inner thigh. When these muscles are tight, it can contribute to hip pain and discomfort when running, walking, or sitting.

Begin by sitting on the ground with your back straight. Put the soles of your feet together and pull your feet as close to your body as you can.

Make sure to keep your posture upright throughout this exercise. Place your palms on your knees and gently push down. You should feel a stretch in your inner thigh.

Once you feel the stretch stop pushing but hold the position for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat this stretch three to five times.

Seated Hip Stretch

This stretch targets the thigh and buttocks muscles. When they’re tight, they can limit your movement and radiate pain throughout the hips.

Begin by sitting on the ground with both legs straight out in front of you. Make sure your back is straight and that you keep your posture throughout this exercise.

Bend your left leg and place your sole on the inside of your right thigh. Your knee should be lying on the floor to your left-hand side.

Keeping your back straight and your legs flat, lean forward until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings and buttocks. Hold it for a few seconds and then sit up straight again.

Switch legs and do the same on the other side. Repeat two to three times on each side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

This is an easy stretch to do anywhere and it helps to ease tightness in the front of the hip. It’s ideal for during your lunch break when your hips are painful from sitting for long periods of time.

Stand in the “lunge” position, with one foot ahead of you and one behind. Bend your knees until your back knee touches the ground.

While you’re in this position, shift your center of gravity over your front leg, so your back leg stretches out fully.

You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip on the back leg. Hold it for a few seconds and then shift your center back to the middle and stand up. Switch legs and do the same.

Do this stretch three to four times on each side to loosen up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the front of the hip.

Strength Exercises

Building strength in the muscles around your hips can help to reduce pain and lower your chance of developing hip injuries.

You should do these strength-building exercises 2 to 3 times a week.

Lateral Squat

This can be a tricky exercise. We recommend doing it near something you can hold onto so you don’t lose your balance.

Start by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be pointing slightly to the side—around 45 degrees.

Shift your weight onto your right leg. Push your hips backwards and down as if you’re sitting in a chair, while you bend your right leg.

Lower yourself as far as you can, keeping your left leg straight. Keep your torso upright, making sure you don’t lean forward and lose your balance.

Then lift yourself back up to the starting position and do the same on the other side. Try to use your leg muscles to push yourself up, rather than dragging yourself up if you’re holding onto something!

Do 8 to 10 reps on each side.

Glute Bridge

This is an easy exercise to do. Begin lying on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Place your hands palm-down by your sides.

Keeping your shoulders on the ground, tighten your glutes and your abs to lift your bottom off the ground. Push your heels into the ground at the same time. You can lift your toes if it’s comfortable.

Hold this position for a few seconds. You should feel the stretch in your glutes and your hamstrings. Then return slowly to the starting position.

Make sure to keep your back as straight as possible and keep your shoulders on the ground. You should not be straining your neck with this exercise.

Do 8 to 10 reps in total.

Squat

Squats help to build the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, or a little wider or narrower if it feels more comfortable to you.

You can stand next to a wall or chair to provide support if you need it.

Keeping your back straight and your chest forward, push your hips backwards and downwards as though you’re sitting in a chair.

Lower yourself as far as you can go while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Try to prevent your knees from moving in front of your toes as you lower yourself.

Hold this lowered position for a second or two and then engage your glutes and push yourself back up to the starting position.

Do 10 to 20 reps of these squats with perfect form. If you find that you can’t keep your form, do as many as you can until your form starts to go and then stop. Build your way up to more reps every time you do this exercise.

Considerations

While building muscle and strength in your hips can help to reduce pain caused by overuse, it won’t necessarily help you to ease pain with underlying causes.

If your pain is intense, you should wait for it to ease up before starting to exercise. If your hips begin to hurt more during exercise, stop what you’re doing and rest.

Make sure you warm-up and cool down before doing strength-building exercises. This will prime your muscles for the movement and reduce your chance of being injured.

Your stretches can be your warm-up. The longer you spend stretching, the easier your strength exercises will be.

If your pain persists through exercise and even when you rest, it’s advisable to see your doctor to get a diagnosis of what’s causing the pain.

This will help you to understand how to treat the hip to reduce the pain. Once you have treated the problem and start to feel a difference in the pain, you can begin incorporating exercises.

Hip Pain Exercises to Avoid

When you’re suffering from hip pain, there are certain exercises that you should avoid in order to prevent excess strain from being placed on the hips.

While you should avoid these while you’re healing from hip pain, you can continue to do them when your hips are healthy and strong. However, make sure you’re always doing them with proper form to reduce the chances of injury.

Standing Exercises

Standing exercises like squats and lunges can be helpful to reduce hip pain. But you should try to avoid standing while doing other exercises.

For example, rather than doing bicep curls while standing, do them seated. This will take strain off the hips, even though the hips are not directly involved in the exercise.

Many exercises can be easily modified to do seated. We recommend avoiding exercises that can only be done standing until your hip pain has eased up.

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Standing puts strain on your hips, but so does extra weight. Holding and moving heavy weights around can also put pressure on your hips, so it’s a good idea to use light weights or resistance bands to work out until your hips are feeling better.

Once your hip pain has improved, you can use weight-bearing exercises to build muscle and strength. However, while your hip pain is happening, it’s best to go light to avoid overdoing it and possibly injuring yourself further.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.