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New Research Reveals the Best Exercises to Target Your Hip Muscles

I often see people with back and knee pain who, when I begin to test their hip strength, will say “oh, but my hips don’t hurt!”, to which I answer “maybe they should!”.

Sometimes the place that hurts isn’t the “problem” – the painful knees or lower back might be bearing extra stress that should be handled by the hip joints and the muscles that surround them. When the hips have appropriate strength and they are recruited to do the work they are meant to do, the results can be remarkable – reduced or eliminated back or knee pain.

NewExercisesWhen targeting the hip muscles for strengthening, we are generally interested in selecting the muscle groups behind (the gluteal muscles) rather than in front or to the side (the hip flexors, quadriceps, or tensor fascia lata (TFL)).

A recent research study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that some hip exercises are better than others at targeting the gluteal muscles and minimizing recruitment of the TFL1. The study used small wires placed in the muscles of healthy volunteers to track the muscle activity during commonly prescribed hip exercises. The best exercises to focus on the desired muscles are shown below, with thanks the JOSPT for the illustration.

It is always best to have a physical therapist evaluate your back, knee or hip problem prior to using these exercises to treat yourself. Let us help you whip your hips into shape and get them doing the work they were made to do!

Wishing you good health,

1J Orthop Sport Phys Ther 2013 43(2) 54-64