If you want to move more powerfully and prevent injury, it’s time to incorporate hip extensions into your exercise routine.
So, what is a hip extension?
It’s any movement powered by your hip extensors—the muscles that lengthen the front of your hip during movements like walking, rising from a chair, running, and jumping.
“The stronger these muscles are, the more powerful these movements can be,” says Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS, a strength and conditioning specialist and physical therapist in Ithaca, NY.
Also, having strong hip extensors ensures that these muscles are able to do their job without relying on other muscles to kick in, which can ultimately help prevent pain and injury.
What muscles does hip extension target?
There are two star players involved in hip extension exercises: the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles, Marcus says.
The gluteus maximus is your meaty butt muscle. It is the largest and strongest muscle in your body.
Its main function is to extend your hips, although it also works to externally rotate your thighs.
The hamstrings, meanwhile, consist of three muscles at the back of each thigh.
Their primary function is to flex the knees and extend the hips, so they play a major role in locomotion and lower body power generation.
Here are four of the best hip extension exercises you can do to strengthen these core muscles.
1. Quadruple hip extension
Also known as donkey kicks, the basic hip extension is a tried-and-true hip extension exercise that primarily targets the gluteus maximus.
However, two smaller glute muscles (gluteus medius and minimus) and the hamstrings kick in to help.
- Start on all fours in a tabletop position.
- Keeping your arms straight and both knees bent 90 degrees, squeeze your glutes and press your right sole toward the ceiling as you lift your right thigh. Maintain a 90 degree bend in the knees.
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower your right knee down to the ground. Do all the repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.
2. Glute bridge
As the name suggests, the glute bridge is zero… glutes. Plus, it offers an excellent hip flexor stretch at the top to unlock greater mobility.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Alternatively loop a band around your thigh as shown in the video above.
- Press into the ground with your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor.
- Pause at the top before lowering your hips back down to the floor with control. Repeat for reps.
- To get more glute medius activation, loop a resistance band around your leg just above the knee.
3. Walking lunges
Like other lunge variations, the walking lunge works your quads (muscles in the front of your thighs) and glutes. However, the walking lunge progression also targets the hamstrings and calves.
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your side.
- Take a big step with your right foot and bend both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is bent 90 degrees.
- Pause briefly. Then, push off with your left leg to go into your next lunge. Continue alternating legs with each step, making sure to complete an equal number of steps/reps on each side.
4. Standing hip extension
This simple exercise will fire up the glutes and hamstrings. As a bonus, you can do the bodyweight version virtually anywhere.
- Stand tall with hands on hips (or, if necessary, place your hands on a counter or chair for support). To make the move harder, wrap a resistance loop around your ankle.
- Keeping both legs straight, squeeze your right glute and push your right leg back until your foot is a few inches off the floor.
- Hold briefly, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Do all the repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.