When asked to think about a “strong body”, one of the following images might instantly come to mind: tight, defined abs, large quadriceps, bulging biceps, or perhaps a sculpted back.
But nobody ever even considers the strength of the hip muscles. In fact, hip muscles are often neglected, forgotten, and left to shrivel and die. (Okay, that last part might have been a bit of a stretch.) But then again, when was the last time you did–or ever heard of–a trendy “hip workout”?
But why care about the hips? I mean, there has to be a reason why no one else seems to care about them. Wrong! In fact, research studies suggest that there is a correlation between weak hips and knee pain (1, 2). Nurses are especially at risk for developing knee pain with weak hips due to prolonged periods of standing, walking, and running. Let me explain in more detail.
What do the hip muscles look like anyway?
(Images above are from Wikimedia Commons)
- hip adduction (bringing the leg closer to the middle of the body)
- hip abduction (bring the leg away from the middle of the body)
- hip flexion (driving the thigh upward)
- hip extension (driving the thigh backward)
- hip medial rotation (rotating the leg inward)
- hip lateral rotation (rotating the leg outward)
Knowing that your hips are responsible for all this helps to put things into perspective. See how much your hips are working for you?
Furthermore, research also suggests that weak muscles around the femur can affect the forces acting on the knee, thus leading to increased stress at the distal aspect of the femur (2). If your hips are not stable (unable to be leveled) when you are walking or running, that can lead to misalignment of the joints in your lower leg as you go about doing typical nurse duties throughout the shift–over, and over, and over. In a nutshell–weak hips can lead to painful knees.
But there is hope!
Okay, I’m convinced. I need to work on my hips!
Now, on to the good stuff. What exercises should you do to strengthen the hips? Below I have 5 hip exercises that target various hip movements at once (adduction, abduction, flexion, extension), thus giving you plenty of bang for your buck!
What do I need?
For these exercises, you will need an exercise mat and loop resistance bands. I personally recommend the BalanceFrom Go Yoga Exercise Yoga Mat and the Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands for their durability, portability, and affordability!
How do I do the workout?
Repeat each exercise for 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets at least 2 times a week to improve your muscle strength. You will want to progress with more resistance when you are able to perform the exercise with proper form and at ease for 15 reps.
Finally–Here are the moves!
Banded Glute Bridge
- Loop the resistance band around your thighs. Then lay with your back on the mat and your knees under your ankles (start position)
- While in the start position, take a deep breath in.
- Next, lift your pelvis, butt, and back into the air to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (end position).
- Exhale as you lift into the end position and hold for 2-3 seconds. As you are in this position, attempt to push your thighs outward to abduct your hips.
- Inhale and return to the start position.
- Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Side Lunge with Knee Drive
- Start in a standing position, then take a wide step to your side.
- As you step to your side, sit your hips backward and lean into the side that you are lunging into so that your knee is directly above your ankle (but not past your toes). Your knee should not cave in or collapse outward.
- From the lunge position, slowly lift the knee of the opposite leg so that your hip is flexed to at least 90-degrees.
- Hold this standing knee drive position for 3-5 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Repeat on both sides for 10-12 repetitions.
Banded Plank Jacks
- Loop the resistance band around your ankles, then go into a high plank position (same position as the top of a push up) with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your heels in alignment with your hips all the way up to your head.
- From high plank, hop both of your legs outward into a wider stance. Try to maintain the imaginary straight line from your feet to your head while moving.
- Afterwards, hop both feet in to starting position. Avoid sagging your hips or rounding your back throughout the movement.
- Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive
- Stand tall with feet about hip width apart.
- Next, take a big step backwards into a lunge position. The knee bending behind you should not touch the ground, but instead hover an inch or two above the ground.
- Ensure that both knees are bent at about 90-degree angles with the front knee above the ankle and the back knee under the hip.
- From the lunge position, carefully lift the knee bent behind you up into a standing knee drive.
- Hold the standing knee drive position for 3-5 seconds.
- Repeat on both legs for 10-12 repetitions.
Banded Lateral Walk
- Loop the resistance band around both lower legs at mid-shin level.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart. From the standing position, sit back to a half squat and hold this position.
- Carefully take a side step (whatever side you choose to start with) with your leading foot, then follow with the other foot. Be careful not to drag any of your feet during this exercise.
- Hold the half squat stance throughout the entire movement to target your glutes.
- Take about 10-15 steps towards one direction before changing directions and walking the other way.
Give this workout a try and let me know what you think in the Comments section below! Thank you so much for reading, and do not forget to tag #UnbreakableNurse in your social media posts to raise awareness in this movement to fight nurse burnout!