The muscles of hip extension, which include the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles, are involved in standing, walking, running, jumping, swimming and many other activities. Overuse or underuse of these muscles can lead to a muscular imbalance and cause postural or gate abnormalities, as well as increased risk for injury and low back pain. Because of this, athletes and the general population need to maintain strength in the muscles surrounding the hip joint. When doing hip extensor strengthening exercises, always engage your abdominal muscles by tucking your tailbone under and drawing your bellybutton toward your spine.
Quadriped Hip Extensions
A leg extension works both the glutes and hamstrings. It is a great exercise because it is functionally similar to the leg extension action that happens during everyday activities. To do a leg extension, kneel on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Maintaining a flat back, extend your right leg until you have a straight line from your head to your right foot. Hold one second and then return to all fours. Repeat with your left leg. Do eight to 12 repetitions on each leg. For an added challenge, wear ankle weights.
The glute bridge primarily works the glutes, with the hamstrings and core muscles assisting. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Keeping your knees in line with your hips and feet, lift your hips until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for one second, then slowly lower the hips, one vertebrae at a time, until you return to the starting position. Repeat eight to 12 times. For an added challenge, hold a dumbbell on top of each hip, or try slowly marching one foot at a time while maintaining the straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
Squats and Weights
The squat works all of the muscles of the upper leg, targeting the quads, glutes and hamstrings. To do a squat, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and feet facing forward. Slowly bring your hips down and back, as though you were going to sit in an invisible chair. Simultaneously raise your arms straight out in front of you to shoulder height for balance. When your thighs are parallel with the floor, hold for one second and then squeeze your buttocks as you extend the legs back to the starting position. Repeat eight to 12 times. For added challenge, hold dumbbells in your hands or hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders.
The lunge is a great multimuscle exercise that works your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves all at once. To perform a lunge, stand tall with a straight back and take a large step backward with your left leg. Keeping your torso upright and your right knee behind your right toes, drop the left knee down toward the floor. Hold for one second when your right thigh becomes parallel with the floor. Rise up and push off with your left foot to return to a standing position. Repeat with your right leg stepping back. Do eight to 12 repetitions on each leg. For an added challenge, hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across the back of your shoulders.
Step-ups strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes. To do a step-up, stand behind a stable bench or platform that is 1 1/2 to 2 feet off the ground. Place your right foot firmly on the middle of the bench. Step up onto the bench using only the muscles in the right leg (i.e. minimal assistance with your left calf muscles). Pause for one second at the top and then resist gravity by slowly lowering back down. Repeat with your left leg stepping up. Do eight to 12 repetitions on each leg. For an added challenge, hold dumbbells in your hands.