Gentle exercise can strengthen hips, says the Mayo Clinic, and may even soothe pain in hip muscles and joints. If you have bad or sore hips, pick low-impact exercises that don’t over-tax your muscles or force you to fully extend your hip flexors, which help pull your knees up. The Mayo Clinic also recommends simple stretches before and after a workout -- or as part of your workout. Check with your doctor before trying a new exercise, know your limits and if something hurts, stop.
Do: Aquatic Exercises
Working out in the water lets you exercise your hips without putting weight on them. The water supports your body and creates enough resistance so you can focus on your range of motion and not on protecting your hips from impact. Swimming, treading water and even light water aerobics shouldn’t over-tax your hips. You can also try lifting your legs. Walking in waist-deep water may be exercise enough, and it is a place to start when you incorporate aquatic exercises into your routine.
If you have bad hips, avoid deadlifts, says fitness expert B.J. Gaddour. Lifting a weighted barbell from a squat position will overload your hips, since they do a lot of the work in lifting the weight. Even trying to lift from your legs can aggravate hip injuries, says Gaddour. Avoid other weightlifting exercises as well.
Do: Plank Pose
According to the Yoga Journal, the plank pose is great for increasing arm and leg strength without working your hips. The plank pose looks like the start of a pushup. Your body is in a straight line, your shoulders are over your wrists and you are on your toes. Press into the ground with your hands, which will activate your arm muscles. Your hips won’t move in this pose, since you balance on your hands and toes.
Don’t: Jumping and Heavy Cardio
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Avoid exercises that require you to jump, since jumping can strain your hips. While some physical therapists and doctors suggest light cardio can help stretch hips and won’t do harm, you may want to avoid heavy cardio and doing cardio exercises every day. Giving yourself a day off between workouts is a good rule of thumb, even if you don’t have bad hips.
Do: Hip-Abduction Exercises
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends hip-abduction exercises, or exercises that flex your hips, if you have bad hips. You can do abduction exercises seated, standing or lying flat on your back. For each type, you slide your leg out to the side as far as you can, then bring it back into place. This type of exercise will stretch your hips and also strengthen them, since they’re moving some part of your body weight.
- Enhanced Fitness Performance: The Seven Worst Exercises of All Time
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Total Hip Replacement Exercise Guide
- Yoga Journal: Plank Pose
- Hip Help: CompletePT’s Aquatic Therapy Program for Hips
- I Have Net: Mayo Clinic: Hip Pain May Be Relieved by Treatments Other Than Surgery
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.