Glute, Hip, and Thigh Exercises for Strength
The leg extension is a simple, classic exercise targeting the quadriceps muscles. This exercise is great for anyone who needs to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee to provide more stability and support. You can do this exercise on a leg extension machine, but this seated version can be done anytime, anywhere. Add ankle weights or a resistance band for more intensity. You can also sit on an exercise ball to make the move more difficult.
- Sit tall in a chair or on a ball with the abs engaged.
- Keeping the body stable, straighten the right leg, foot flexed, and try to bring it up until the leg is parallel to the floor.
- Lower the leg back down, lightly touching the heel to the floor, and repeat for 16-20 reps before switching sides.
You'll feel this in the front of the thighs as well as in the hip flexors of the working leg.
Side Step Ups
Step ups are great for the glutes and one way to add some variety to your workout is to do side step ups. While you're still working that glutes, hips and thighs, you'll change the emphasis of the exercise, adding a bit more inner thigh. Anytime you change something, you force your body to use different muscle fibers in response to those new movements.
Watch your step height on side step ups to avoid any knee pain. You might need to work at a lower level than regular step ups.
- Stand sideways on a step or platform (at the highest level, the leg on the step should not bend more than 90 degrees) and hold a medium-heavy dumbbell in both hands.
- Step down with the right leg, lowering into a squat and keeping the back straight, the torso upright and the abs in.
- Focus on the leg that's on the step as you push into the heel, bringing the right foot back onto the step.
- Keep the movement slow and controlled and imagine that the leg on the step is doing all the work.
- Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on both sides.
Seated Inner Thigh Squeezes
Seated inner thigh squeezes are a great way to work the small muscles of the inner thigh to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. You can use any type of ball, although a weighted medicine ball can add intensity to the exercise.
- Sit tall in a chair or on a ball and squeeze a medicine ball or inflatable ball between the knees.
- Keep the abs engaged as you squeeze the ball with your knees, activating the inner thighs.
- Release just halfway, keeping tension and pressure on the ball, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 16-20 reps.
It's tough to work the lower body from a seated position, but ball taps are a dynamic way to get blood flowing to your hips and thighs while focusing attention on the hip flexors and the quads. You also work on balance as you quickly shift from foot to foot.
- Sit tall in a chair, abs engaged, and place a medicine ball on the floor in front of you.
- Lift the right leg, keeping it bent, and tap the toes on top of the medicine ball.
- Take the leg back down and tap the ball with the left foot.
- Continue tapping the ball, alternating feet, and going as fast as you can.
- Keep the abs engaged throughout the exercise.
- Repeat for 1-3 sets of 16-20 reps.
Crossover Step Ups
When it comes to lower body functional exercises, the crossover step up is at the top of the list. This move works the glutes (both the gluteus medius and maximums) through all planes of motion with a focus on lateral movement. This lateral movement engages the hips in a different way than traditional step ups, involving both internal and external rotation while working on your coordination and balance. This is a bit of an awkward move so, if you have knee, hip or ankle problems, you may want to skip it. Starting with a lower platform may also help you perfect your form.
- Stand with your left side facing a step, bench or platform. If you're more advanced, try a height where your thigh is parallel to the floor as you're stepping.
- Hold weights for added intensity, if desired.
- Lift the right leg and cross it over the left, placing the foot flat on the step or platform.
- Keep your hips square to the front of the room as you press up with the right leg, bringing the left foot beside the right on the bench.
- Step back down with the left foot and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
Straight Leg Raise
This deceptive move looks easy, but it's actually quite challenging for the quads and hip flexors. By sitting upright, you limit your range of motion and you'll feel your core engage to keep your torso straight while lifting and lowering the leg. This move is excellent for strengthening the quads and giving your knee joints more support. To make it easier, you can lean back on your hands or elbows.
- Sit tall with the left leg bent and the right leg straight, foot flexed.
- Wrap your arms around the left leg for support and engage the abs.
- Lift the right leg off the floor, keeping the leg straight (but not locked).
- Avoid leaning back, but use your core and the left leg to stay upright.
- Lower the leg, lightly touching the floor and repeat before switching sides.
- Complete 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps and add ankle weights for added intensity if desired.
Video: Glute Medius - The Weakest Muscle in Your Lower Body!
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