There’s nothing better than going on a long snowshoe adventure in the crisp winter air with all the powdery snow you can imagine. But one thing that can hold us all back is our hips either because of lack of balance, endurance, or strength to keep on going until it’s just you and that incredible blue sky.
This study found that hip abduction strength positively impacted performance on balance (which we know is important in snowshoeing). So try these hip exercises at home to help increase your hip strength, and improve your balance and endurance to keep plowing along on your next adventure.
Of the at-home hip exercises listed here, this exercise targets the gluteus medius muscle, which provides pelvic stability while walking and standing. It’s also responsible for the rotation and abduction of your hip. Unfortunately, this muscle tends to be underactive and weak in most people.
- Lie down on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other, and your knees bent.
- Use a pillow or arm to support your head.
- Raise your top leg, keeping your feet touching while you raise your leg. This motion looks like opening a clamshell when viewed from the front, which is where the exercise gets its name.
- Perform the exercise on both sides.
The key is not to rotate your body while raising your leg. Instead, keep your entire body perpendicular to the ground. Wrap a resistance band around your upper legs for an increased challenge. The closer the band is to your knee, the more resistance you’ll feel.
Side-Lying Hip Abductions
This exercise also effectively targets the gluteus medius muscle. Again, it’s done in a very similar manner to the clamshell movement.
- Lie on your side as you would for the clamshell exercise, only without bending your knees, keeping your legs straight.
- Raise your leg, keeping your leg straight.
- Lower it back down slowly. Again, avoid rotating as with the previous exercise.
This exercise can also be done with a resistance band for an increased challenge. You can place the resistance band around your legs anywhere you like. Just remember, the closer to your ankles you put it, the more challenging the exercise becomes.
Standing Hip Abductions
You can perform the hip abductions standing up as an alternative to the exercise above. Perform whichever movement is comfortable for you.
- Stand up straight, next to a chair or a wall if needed for support.
- Extend your leg to your side, standing on one leg while doing so.
- Do not rotate back or forward. Instead, keep your body straight while you perform the movement. Focus on lifting your leg with the “side” part of your hip.
- Use a resistance band to increase the difficulty.
Try both exercises and choose the one which feels best to you. Or do both!
Of the hip exercises here, this one, in which you walk side to side, is very simple and can be done at home and without any equipment,
- First, stand up straight with knees slightly bent in an open room.
- Extend your leg to one side (One Step) and then step with your opposite leg, so you’re standing straight again.
- There’s no forward or backward movement with this exercise. Instead, just “walk” from side to side, stepping sideways (laterally) 3-5 steps and then back to your original position.
This exercise is similar to a standard defensive basketball drill in which a player bends their knees and moves their feet quickly from side to side, trying to cover as much ground as quickly as possible without moving forward or backward.
If done at a quick pace, this can provide a great addition to your cardio workout and your strength routine. You can also increase the challenge by adding a resistance band and wrapping it around your ankles. Increasing the amount of knee bend can also increase the intensity of the exercise while also targeting and improving your overall leg strength.
This movement targets the gluteus maximus muscle (your butt), one of the strongest muscles in your body but also one of the most underused.
- Lie down on your back, arms to your sides.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Using your legs and arms for support, use your butt to raise your hips off the floor.
- Stop when your body is in a straight line, hold for 5-10 seconds, then slowly go back down. Focus on using your butt and not your lower back to perform the movement.
- Keep your hips parallel to the floor and avoid dipping on one side.
For a more advanced version of this exercise, try using only one leg when performing the movement. Again, focus on keeping your hips parallel with the floor throughout the exercise.
Standing Hip Adductions
Not to be confused with the hip abduction exercises, the movement below targets the hip adductor group, another weak area for many people.
- Wrap a resistance band around the leg of a chair or table.
- Use the opposite end to wrap around your ankle.
- Stand with a shoulder-width stance with knees slightly bent.
- Place your weight on the opposite leg and “pull” the band toward you with your other leg, focusing on using your groin or inner thigh muscles to perform the movement.
- Use a chair or wall for support.
- Avoid tilting and stand up straight while performing the exercise. Your leg should only move in a sideways direction. Avoid moving forward or backward when performing the exercise.
Stand On One Leg
This is a great balance exercise that is great for hip strength and is simple to perform.
- Stand up straight with knees slightly bent. Stand next to a wall, chair, or table for support if needed.
- Slightly raise one foot off the ground. It doesn’t need to be raised very high; just slightly off the ground will do.
- Focus on keeping your hips parallel to the floor while balancing on one leg. Avoid letting your hip drop to the unsupported side. This is a clear indication of weakness in your hips, specifically your gluteus medius muscle.
- Try balancing on both sides for 5-10 seconds.
- To increase the challenge, look up and down, and then side to side while maintaining your balance on one leg.
This is a very basic exercise that anyone can do regardless of their ability level when using the proper support. If you have trouble with this exercise, use a chair or other solid equipment to help you maintain your balance and keep your hips in a nice parallel line. It can also be quite surprising how difficult it can be to maintain your balance when looking from one direction to the next. This can make it challenging without any added equipment and a lot of fun at the same time.
Strengthen Those Hips
As with any exercise routine, if you feel any pain or discomfort during any of the exercises, stop immediately.
With continued practice (at home or in the snow), these exercises can help improve your hip strength, which will improve your balance and overall health. So now it’s time to enjoy those beautiful snow globe days!
Which of these hip exercises do or will you do at home to improve your strength and balance? What other exercises are part of your routine? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.