One way to get curves is to pack on fat by eating junk food -- but these are not usually the curves most girls consciously want. The other, healthier way is to build muscle surrounding the hips, including the hip flexors and abductors, as well as the gluteus maximus, which is known more affectionately as the butt. Among the exercises that can build these muscles and help you get bigger hips are side leg lifts, which have a number of variations.
Basic Side Leg Lift
The first type of leg lift is probably the one you already know. Lie on your right side and bend your right arm. Rest your head on this arm. Extend and rest your left arm on your left leg, and stack the legs on top of one another. Then lift the left leg to about a 45-degree angle, lower it back down, and repeat for a total of 10 times with that leg. Take a 30-second break and then repeat for a second set. Do another set and add variation to work another part of the hip by lifting the left leg a few more inches above the ground or at a greater angle. Then do it all over again by flipping over and doing the right leg.
Bridge Leg Lift
Another side leg lift is a bit tougher on the upper body, since you have to hold more of it off the ground while doing your leg lift. For the "bridge" leg lift, stay in the side-lying position on your right side, but this time, support your upper body on the right forearm, creating a triangle of empty space between your hip, armpit and elbow. The hand of the left arm, meanwhile, can rest on your left hip. Lift your left leg to a 45-degree angle and at the same time, raise the right hip and shin off the ground. Do a set of 10 on one side, take a 30-second break, and then do a second set. Then flip over and do two sets with the right leg.
Angled Side Bridge
The next variation, called the angled side bridge, requires you to have access to a bar, table or other solid object that is slightly lower than chest height, which you can hold onto with one hand. Grasp the bar with your right hand and extend the right arm fully. Lean inward toward that right side, making an angle with your body in relation to the floor. Essentially, this should feel something like the position you were in for the bridge leg lift, but your right arm is straight and the hand is holding onto the bar, instead of your elbow being bent and resting on the floor. Press your hips to the right and in toward the floor; you should feel a stretch in the right hip. After the stretch, swing your hips outward to the left and lift the left leg to about a 45-degree angle from the body. Repeat the exercise by pressing back to the right to feel the hip stretch, and then lift the left leg again. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions with each leg.
Add Weight and Repetitions
Over time your muscles are going to become adapted to these weight-bearing exercises, and you may stop making the muscles gains that you saw at the outset. At that point, add more intensity to continue building muscle. Try doing more repetitions on each set or decreasing the amount of time you rest in between sets. Also consider adding ankle weights, or using a cable machine that mimics the side leg lift, but allows you to add more weight.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.