Top 4 Hip Exercises That Help Back Pain

Written by
October 4, 2016
Updated January 30, 2019

Hip Strength Mobility Workout

The following simple hip strength mobility workout can be performed before a workout or during an off day. You will be performing 12 repetitions of the Forward Leg Swing followed by 12 repetitions of the Lateral Leg Lift.

After performing these two you will be performing Leg Circles, 8 in each direction forward followed by 8 in each direction to the side.

Perform all four drills on one leg before repeating on the other side to complete one round of the circuit. Perform the series from 3-5 rounds to feel the burn.

A1: Forward Leg Swing 3-5 rounds x 12 reps (each leg)
A2: Lateral Leg Lift 3-5 rounds x 12 reps (each leg)
A3: Forward Leg Circles 3-5 rounds x 8 reps (each leg)
A4: Lateral Leg Circles 3-5 rounds x 8 reps (each leg)

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Top 4 Hip Exercises to Increase Hip Strength & Alleviate Back Pain

I have found that to be true in many areas of life. Simple things like eating well consistently, consistently staying in touch with loved ones, and getting enough sleep can all become difficult to accomplish at one time or another.

It seems like adding that simple word, “consistently” to anything can all of a sudden make a simple task very challenging.

One of the greatest detriments towards one’s strength goals is a lack of hip mobility. The number one cause of this lack of hip mobility is sitting. Sitting at work all day, sitting on the couch in front of the television, sitting at dinner, sitting in traffic on your work commute.

Most of your every day life is spent sitting. This causes lack of hip function and mobility, which in turn can contribute to lower back pain. This reality often results in a lack of desired strength gains, or a lack of realization of your current potential strength.

The most effective way to get your clients to perform hip mobility moves is to explain the effect a poor range of motion has on performance.

The commitment to being a better mover with a focus on functional hip mobility and hip strength, rather than on simply performing movements with more weight or more reps is another one of those simple sounding, yet profoundly challenging, tasks.

While it is very hard to quantify movement quality, it is often too easy to measure improvement in reps or pounds. At times, it’s just gratifying; who doesn’t like the feeling of setting a new personal record?

What I have found in my previous years of chasing bigger numbers in reps or pounds, without regard for movement quality, is that you will eventually sacrifice that which you are not aspiring towards. In a simpler way, you will lose those things that are not within your line of sight.

If you only wish to increase the number of reps you can perform of a certain push up, then at some point in time you will likely be sacrificing technique to get those reps.

If you want to move bigger weight, and that is your only measure of success, then you will likely do so, but create a structure that is hyper rigid and lacks the ability to move freely.

In short, you do not have to sacrifice your hip mobility in the pursuit of hip strength. In fact, quite the opposite is actually true: if you wish to realize your greatest strength potential, you need to find a balance between these two seemingly opposing goals: hip strength and hip mobility.

I am not recommending that you spend countless hours working towards achieving difficult postures or mobility sequences. Sometimes keeping it simple is best observed if we want to get results without overwhelming ourselves.

The 4 hip exercises in the hip strength mobility workout provided in this article, that is our goal: to keep it simple, increase hip strength, and alleviate back pain.

There are only four hip exercises to perform which require no equipment and very little space. All you might want to have in order to perform the hip exercises is a wall or a stable prop that will allow you to make small postural corrections while performing these drills as you will be doing so on a single leg.

Though the following hip mobility exercises  may be easy to perform, my goal is to make sure that you find them both challenging and rewarding. I would like you to perform the drills in the sequence and rep scheme provided while paying very close attention to the cues.

You should find that by limiting the amount of accessory movements, you will greatly enhance each drill in creating dynamic stability.

In addition, if you are able to effectively create the intended motion using these hip exercises, while also stabilizing the rest of your body, you will help yourself develop a high level of kinesthetic awareness and coordinated strength.

By training in this manner you will also develop the ability to better refine your positioning in various hip strength skills, thereby improving the likelihood of your ability to perform them successfully.

Hip Exercise #1: Forward Leg Swing

John Wolf performs the forward leg swing to increase hip mobility,hip strength and alleviate back pain

The first drill is a forward leg swing. I would say that most of you would classify this drill as pretty simple and easy. GREAT! Now as you perform the drill, focus on driving your base foot heel into the ground and lifting your crown as high as possible to stand tall.

Neutralize you pelvic position to make sure you are not arching your back as you bring your heel close to your butt on the backswing.

Keep your toes pointing either forward or back to avoid opening the hip into external rotation and swing away while maintaining your tall structure and keeping your naval firmly fixed forward. You will be performing 12 repetitions as part of the hip strength mobility workout.

Hip Exercise #2: Standing Lateral Lift

John Wolf performs the standing lateral lift to increase hip mobility,hip strength and alleviate back pain

The next drill is just as simple but might not be as easy since most people find that their hips are restricted in this range of motion. For this drill you will be doing a standing lateral leg swing, but since I would like to avoid using too much momentum as part of the drill, we will call it a lift rather than swing.

While maintaining the same posture we defined in the first drill, you will lift your leg directly out to the side while prioritizing the ankle projecting upward.

Actively pull the foot back towards you, trying to create a flat horizontal edge with the lifted foot and press hard into the heel of the supporting foot. Do not forget to stay tall and minimize any unnecessary movement!

The rest of your body is to remain as still as can be with the naval still fixed forward while minimizing any spinal flexion to relieve the hip of its duties. Perform 12 repetitions.

Now it is time to take it up a notch. While maintaining all of the postural cues in the previous drills, the following two drills will challenge your ability to remain stable while being challenged in multiple planes of motion.

Though these drills are not harder to grasp, they should prove to be more engaging than the previous drills.

Hip Exercise #3: Forward Leg Circles

John Wolf performs the forward leg circle to increase hip mobility,hip strength and alleviate back pain

First, you will extend your leg forward driving your heel away from you while pulling the top of the foot back towards you. The goal is to envision here is to touch the wall across from you with the heel, but not the toes.

This will be the top position of the drill. From this position you will draw a circle in front of you at approximately shoulder width while resisting any urge to rotate the hips or torso. Perform 8 repetitions in each direction as part of the hip strength mobility workout.

Hip Exercise #4: Lateral Leg Circles

John Wolf performs the lateral leg circle to increase hip mobility,hip strength and alleviate back pain

The last drill of the series will take the circle we just performed to the side. Perform the lateral lift and hold the top position. This will be the top position of this lateral circle.

The motion should also be approximately shoulder width from front to back and terminate with both ankles coming close to touching. Perform 8 repetitions in each direction as part of the hip strength mobility workout.

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John Wolf
John Wolf is Onnit's Chief Fitness Officer, and an expert in unconventional training methods such as kettlebell, steel club, and suspension training. With 15-plus years of experience in the fitness industry, he has worked with rehab clients and athletes of all levels. He moves like Spider Man and can deadlift more than 500 pounds any day of the week.

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