5 Moves for Strong Hips and a Stable Pelvis

When was the last time you thanked your hips (or even thought about your pelvis)? They quite literally carry your body throughout the day, after all, bearing the weight of your upper body and transferring it to your lower limbs—allowing for all kinds of functional movement.

Strong hips and a stable pelvis are crucial for walking, running, jumping, standing, you name it! Even being able to sit down and stand back up (something that can become difficult with age) requires proper hip strength and stability.

Without it—whether from injury, day-to-day repetition or poor posture—the body starts to compensate elsewhere, relying on the wrong muscles to make movement happen, thus creating imbalances (and faulty movement patterns) in the body. The result is often not only cranky hips but also an unhappy lower back, as well as knees and ankles.

If you want to move and perform better, prevent injury or address minor aches and pains, strengthen your hips and stabilize your pelvis. It’s that simple.

Think you don’t need to? Think again.

Even the seemingly strongest athletes can use a pelvic stability “tuneup” from time to time, ensuring that their larger, bulkier muscles aren’t completely overcompensating for the smaller, deeper stabilizing muscles. One tell-all sign is the incessant need to stretch, foam roll or otherwise release the buttocks and hip flexors, which tend to overwork when the deep hip stabilizers aren’t doing their job adequately.

The lumbo-pelvic hip complex

When the conversation turns to hip strength and pelvic stability, what we’re really talking about is the lumbo-pelvic-hip (LPH) complex—the area where the lumbar spine, pelvis and top of the legs (forming the hip joints) come together. The muscles, connective tissues and joints that make up the LPH complex (commonly referred to as the core, or lumbo-pelvic-hip core complex) play a huge role in the body’s kinetic chain.

Simply put, the kinetic chain is an anatomical term used to describe the corresponding groups of muscles, connective tissues, joints and nerves that work together to create movement in the body. Instability in the LPH complex, therefore, affects the entire body’s ability to move efficiently, creating imbalances elsewhere as different parts of the body overcompensate for the lack of core strength and stability.

Whether weak or tight hips, pelvis or core, imbalances in the LPH complex may lead to injuries, such as IT band syndrome, SI joint dysfunction and lower-back pain. In other words, if your hips, knees, lower back, groin or feet hurt, check the stability of your LPH complex.

Take the stability test

While there are a few different techniques used to assess pelvic stability, the marching bridge test is one of the most straightforward, effective tools. It also happens to be a great corrective exercise for stability and strength while addressing any imbalances in the LPH complex.

Try it a few times, marching in a bridge position. Go slow enough to pay attention to what happens in the pelvis. If you’re able to keep your pelvis perfectly level as you march, then you pass the stability test. Meanwhile, if your pelvis rotates downward on either side as you lift your foot, then you know you’ve got some stability work to do.

Stability exercises

The systems responsible for LPH stabilization are a combination of local (deep) and global (superficial) muscles, including the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, piriformis, inner thighs, hamstrings and deep hip-core stabilizers.

Below are a handful of exercises to help develop and maintain proper lumbo-pelvic-hip core stability. These exercises aren’t meant to replace one-on-one rehabilitative medical care. If you have severe or consistent pain, please consult your health professional.

3 Bridge Variations

Double- and single-leg bridges are the gold standard as far as glute activation goes.

Next, try single-leg bridges, repeating the steps above.

Or walk your bridges out. As mentioned above, walking bridges are also a fantastic corrective exercise, requiring all the correct stabilizing muscles to fire in order to maintain a level pelvis.


Hamstring Raise

Bird Dog

Side-Plank Lift

Photo credit: fizkes, Getty Images