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Hip extension exercises work the muscles responsible for extending the hip joint, typically the gluteal muscles or glutes and the hamstrings.
Hip extension exercises emphasize moving the thigh bone or femur away from the torso, effectively increasing the angle between the thigh and the torso.
The exercises are essential for various functional activities, including walking, running, and standing upright. They are also utilized in fitness and rehabilitation programs to target the hip extensor muscles.
Muscles Involved in Hip Extension
Hip extension is the hip joint movement that brings the thigh bone backward relative to the pelvis.
The primary muscles responsible for hip extension are,
- Gluteus Maximus
The largest muscle in the buttocks, the gluteus maximus, is the primary hip extensor.
It helps in various actions, including standing up, walking, running, and climbing stairs.
The muscles at the back of the thigh, including the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus, assist in hip extension.
They are active during movements like deadlifts, lunges, and leg curls.
- Erector Spinae
This group of muscles runs along the spine’s length and helps with hip extension.
They provide support and stability during movements like deadlifts and back extensions.
- Adductor Magnus
This muscle, located on the inner thigh, plays a role in hip extension, particularly during movements that require both hip extension and adduction.
While these muscles are the primary movers in hip extensions, many others contribute indirectly. That is because the hip joint’s movement often requires the coordination of various muscle groups to perform efficiently and safely.
Incorporating hip extension exercises into a workout routine can help strengthen the posterior chain, improve hip stability, and boost lower body strength and functionality.
Best Hip Extension Exercises for Enhanced Lower Body Strength and Functionality
Effective hip extension exercises target the gluteal muscles and hamstrings while minimizing strain on the lower back.
Below are some of the best hip extension exercises
Donkey Kicks are excellent hip extension exercises that involve lifting one leg while on your hands and knees, typically with a bent knee, to engage the glutes and hamstrings as you lift your heel toward the ceiling.
The movement engages the glutes as you extend your hip and the hamstrings as you flex your knee.
Donkey kicks can be particularly effective for isolating and strengthening the glute muscles. They are often used in glute-focused workouts to enhance gluteal strength and aesthetics.
To perform donkey kicks,
- Get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Engage your core, keep your back flat, and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
- Bend your right knee at 90 degrees and flex your foot.
- Keeping the knee bent, lift your right leg upward and backward, leading with your heel. Focus on using your glutes to perform this movement.
- Lift your leg as high as possible, ideally until it is parallel to the floor or slightly higher.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement to maximize the contraction.
- Lower your right leg back to your starting position with control but without letting it touch the floor. That helps to maintain tension in the muscles.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps on one side before switching to the other leg.
Cable Kickbacks are some of the best hip extension exercises that target the gluteal muscles while also engaging the hamstrings to some extent.
The exercise involves using a cable machine to provide resistance as you extend your hip.
Cable Kickbacks allow for a controlled range of motion and provide consistent resistance throughout the movement, making them an effective exercise for targeting the glutes and enhancing hip extension.
You can easily modify the intensity of the exercise by adjusting the weight and the angle of the cable.
Steps to follow
- Attach an ankle strap to the low pulley on a cable machine.
- Strap the ankle strap onto one ankle and face the machine.
- Hold onto the machine or a support for balance.
- Extend your strapped leg backward. Keep your knee straight and lift it as high as possible.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Then, return your leg to the starting position.
Step-Ups target the hip extensors. They also involve the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles to some extent and can be excellent hip extension exercises when performed correctly.
Step-ups involve fully extending the hip during the ascent phase, which heavily engages the glutes.
You can adapt the exercise’s capacity with additional resistance, e.g., by holding dumbbells or wearing a weighted vest, to increase the challenge on the hip extensors.
To perform step-ups,
- Stand in front of a sturdy weight bench or step platform.
- Step up onto the bench or platform with one leg, driving through the heel of that leg.
- Fully extend the hip and knee of the stepping leg to bring your body onto the platform.
- Lower yourself back down with control, returning to the starting position.
Hip Thrusts are highly effective hip extension exercises that specifically target the gluteal glutes and provide an excellent workout for hip extension strength and muscle development.
Hip Thrusts isolate and target the glutes, making them one of the best exercises for glute activation and development.
The exercise allows progressive overload by adding weight to the barbell or using resistance bands, enabling continuous strength gains.
Steps to follow
- Sit on the floor with your upper back against a weight bench or sturdy surface and your knees bent.
- Roll a barbell or place a weighted plate over your hips.
- Brace your core and push through your heels, lifting your hips upward until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then lower your hips to your starting position with control.
Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) are excellent hip extension exercises that target the hip extensor muscles. They are one of the best for strengthening the posterior chain, improving hip mobility, and enhancing lower body strength.
Romanian Deadlifts require a significant hip extension to lift the weight from its lowered position to a fully upright position.
The exercise strongly emphasizes the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, which are all heavily involved in hip extension.
RDLs can also help improve hip hinge mechanics which are essential for proper hip extension during various activities and exercises.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright with your feet at hip-width and a loaded barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs.
- Maintain a slight bend in your knees and hinge at your hips, pushing your hips backward as you lower the weight toward the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your core engaged as you lower the weight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
- Reverse the movement by driving your hips forward and standing up straight.
Glute Bridges are excellent hip extension exercises that primarily target the glutes while also engaging the lower back and core to some extent.
They are valuable additions to a lower body or glute-focused workout routine and can help improve hip extension strength, glute activation, and lower body development.
The exercise can also contribute to better lower back stability and core strength.
You can adapt glute bridges by adding resistance, e.g., using a barbell or resistance band, performing single-leg variations, or adjusting the range of motion.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at your sides.
- Press through your heels and lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then lower your hips with control.
Kettlebell Swings are highly effective hip extension exercises that target the hip extensors. They also engage the entire posterior chain and involve the lower back and core for stability.
Kettlebell Swings require a powerful hip extension to generate the needed force to swing the kettlebell. The explosive nature of the exercise makes it an excellent choice for developing hip power and speed, improving strength, and enhancing lower body fitness.
Steps to follow
- Stand with your feet at shoulder-width and a kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
- Bend at your hips and knees to reach down and grab the kettlebell with both hands, keeping your back flat.
- Swing the kettlebell backward between your legs while maintaining a strong hip hinge.
- Explosively drive your hips forward, straightening your hips and knees to propel the kettlebell upward.
- Ensure the kettlebell reaches chest or shoulder level.
- Then, let it swing back down between your legs.
- Continue the swinging motion in a controlled manner, using the power generated by your hip extension to move the kettlebell.
Conventional Deadlifts are a fundamental compound movement that can help improve hip extension strength, lower body strength, and functional fitness, making them potent hip extension exercises for your training regimen.
Conventional Deadlifts require a powerful hip extension to lift the weight from the ground to an upright position. The exercise is excellent for developing the lower body and posterior chain. They can also help boost core stability.
Steps to follow
- Stand with your feet at hip-width and the loaded barbell on the floor in front of you.
- Bend at your hips and knees to reach down and grab the barbell with both hands, keeping your back flat and your arms outside of your knees.
- Push through your heels, engage your hip extensors, and lift the barbell off the floor while maintaining a strong, neutral spine.
- Stand up fully, extending your hips and knees.
- Reverse the movement by bending your hips and knees to lower the barbell back to the floor.
Hamstring Curl With Glute Bridge On Stability Ball
The Hamstring Curl with Glute Bridge on a Stability Ball is a compound exercise that targets the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles.
It is one of the best hip extension exercises that strengthens the lower body and engages the core for stability.
It combines the benefits of the glute bridge and hamstring curl.
This movement involves lifting your hips off the floor while lying on your back, creating a bridge-like position. It primarily activates the gluteal muscles and promotes hip extension.
You roll a stability ball toward your buttocks using your feet while in the bridge position. That action effectively engages the hamstrings as they contract to flex the knee joint.
Performing this exercise on a stability ball challenges your core and stability muscles, contributing to overall balance and core strength.
Required equipment: You will need a stability ball or an exercise or Swiss ball
Steps to follow
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with your arms at your sides.
- Place your heels on top of the stability ball, ensuring your feet are at hip-width and your toes are pointing forward.
- Engage your core muscles.
- Get into a bridge by driving through your heels to lift your hips off the floor.
- Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the bridge movement.
- Begin to roll the stability ball toward your buttocks by bending your knees while maintaining the bridge position.
- Continue to curl the ball in as far as possible, keeping your hips lifted.
- Your feet should be close to your buttocks, and you should feel an intense contraction in your hamstrings at the top of the hamstring curl.
- Hold this position for a moment to maximize the contraction.
- Slowly extend your legs and roll the stability ball back out, returning to your starting position, ensuring your hips stay lifted.
- Lower your hips back to the floor to complete one repetition.
Why Do Hip Extension Exercises?
Hip extension exercises are essential for several reasons.
Hip extension is a fundamental human movement pattern that plays a crucial role in daily activities such as walking, running, climbing, and standing up from a seated position.
Strengthening the hip extensor muscles can help improve your ability to perform those tasks efficiently and with less effort.
Weak hip extensors can lead to imbalances in the lower body, potentially contributing to issues like lower back pain, hip pain, and knee problems.
Regularly performing hip extension exercises can help prevent those problems by strengthening the supporting muscles.
Improved Athletic Performance
Many sports and physical activities rely on powerful hip extension.
Hip extension exercises can help train the hip extensor muscles, helping to enhance your athletic performance by increasing your speed, power, and overall strength.
Hip extension exercises can help sculpt and tone the gluteal muscles, contributing to more shapely and firm buttocks.
It can improve the appearance of your buttocks, which is a goal for many individuals interested in aesthetics and physique development.
Good Posture and Prevention of Back Issues
Hip extension exercises often engage the core muscles. That can help promote a stronger and more stable core.
Strong hip extensors and a stable core can improve posture and pelvic stability, reducing the risk of postural imbalances and associated discomfort. It can also help prevent lower back issues.
Maintaining hip extension strength as you age can contribute to better functional independence.
Strong hip extensors make it easier to perform activities of daily living without assistance.
Who will benefit from hip extension exercises?
Hip extension exercises can benefit a wide range of individuals, including,
Athletes in various sports, such as track and field, soccer, football, and weightlifting, can benefit from hip extension exercises.
It can help enhance their power, speed, and athletic performance.
- Fitness Enthusiasts
Anyone interested in improving their fitness level, strength, and physique can benefit from hip extension exercises.
The exercises can help build a strong, balanced lower body and contribute to more toned and shapely buttocks.
- Injury Prevention
People who want to prevent lower back pain, hip pain, knee issues, or other musculoskeletal injuries can benefit from hip extension exercises.
Strengthening the hip extensors can help correct muscle imbalances and improve joint stability.
Individuals recovering from hip, knee, or lower back injuries often incorporate hip extension exercises into their rehabilitation programs.
They can rebuild strength and help regain functional mobility.
- Aging Adults
Maintaining hip extension strength becomes increasingly important as people age.
Hip extension exercises can help older adults maintain functional independence, prevent falls, and reduce the risk of injury.
- Posture Improvement
People with poor posture or those who spend long hours sitting at a desk can benefit from hip extension exercises.
They can help strengthen the muscles that support an upright posture.
- General Fitness
Those pursuing general fitness and well-being can include hip extension exercises in their workout regimens to improve core strength, balance, and lower body conditioning.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Strengthening the muscles responsible for hip extension can enhance your ability to perform everyday tasks. It can also help boost lower body strength and stability, making hip extension exercises essential.
Whether striving for athletic excellence, aiming to prevent injuries, or simply seeking to lead a more active and vibrant life, the above hip extension exercises can provide a path toward achieving your goals.
- Lewis, C.L., and Sahrmann, S.A. 2009. Muscle Activation and Movement Patterns During Prone Hip Extension Exercise in Women. J Athl Train. 2009 May-Jun; 44(3): 238–248. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-44.3.238. PMCID: PMC2681207. PMID: 19478835
- Neto, W.K., Enrico Gori Soares, E.G., et al. 2020. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Mar; 19(1): 195–203. Published online 2020 Feb 24. PMCID: PMC7039033. PMID: 32132843