Strong legs and hips help you run faster, maintain your balance and improve your power when playing sports. An agile lower body also helps you with everyday activities, such as playing with your kids. Perform floor exercises that target your legs and hips anywhere with sufficient space, such as at home, in the park, on the tennis court or at the gym. These types of exercises are uncomplicated, yet effective.
The lower body encompasses numerous muscle groups, including the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, iliopsoas, inner thighs and the calves. Along with tendons and ligaments, the muscles support and allow movement in the hip, knee and ankle joints. Though each muscle can be targeted and strengthened individually, all of the components of your lower body work together while moving or engaged in physical activity. Perform compound exercises to foster fluid movement and efficiently work these muscle groups.
Bent Knee Hip Extension
Improve stability and agility in your hip by strengthening supporting muscles; the glutes, outer and inner thighs and abs. The bent knee hip extension works all of these muscle groups simply and effectively. Bring your body to all fours on the floor; stack your shoulders over your hands and your hips over your knees. Gaze at the floor right in front of you to avoid straining your neck. Engage your core during the exercise to help you balance and protect your lower back. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling while maintaining the 90-degree bend in your knee. Lower your knee toward the floor approximately six inches and then raise it toward the ceiling again. Aim for 10 repetitions and then repeat on the left side. Stretch the muscles worked by sitting with your legs in front of you and reaching toward your toes.
The bridge exercise is a classic move that is effective at strengthening your core, hips, outer thighs and glutes. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Rest your arms on the floor by your side. Raise your pelvis toward the ceiling while keeping your shoulders, upper back and head on the ground. Avoid raising your hips to the point where you arch your lower back, which may cause stress and injuries; keep a straight line from knees to shoulders. Take the bridge up a level by raising one foot toward the ceiling. Hold the lift for one count and then repeat on the other side. Stretch the muscles worked by lying on your back and crossing one ankle over the opposite knee. Bring that knee toward your chest and gently stretch before switching sides.
Leg Lifts with a Stability Ball
Utilizing a stability ball adds a challenging element to the side leg lift exercise. You must contract your inner thighs and core to keep the ball stable and your legs lifted. Lie on the floor on the right side of your body with your left hip stacked over the right. Place your right forearm on the floor, with the elbow in line with the right shoulder. Position a medium-sized balance ball between your lower legs. Lift both legs toward the ceiling, keeping the ball securely in place by engaging your inner thighs and glutes. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout the exercise to protect your lower back. Hold the lift for three counts and then return the legs to the floor. Aim for 10 to 12 repetitions. Stretch your inner thighs by sitting with your legs bent, letting them fall open and gently press with your hands to feel the stretch.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.