Pretty much every woman has tight hips, thanks in large part to all the time we spend sitting. You might feel this tightness when you lunge or even when you stand up after sitting for a long time. Or you might notice that you can’t do a full squat (that is, you can’t squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, which is considered proper squat form).
While you might think that hip stretches will ease the tightness, they’re only one part of the solution. Strong glutes (butt muscles) are key to happy hips. “If the glutes are not strong, other muscles in the hip tend to compensate the lack of strength in the glutes, which can cause the other muscles in the hip to become tight and overused,” registered clinical exercise physiologist Kelly Drew tells SELF.
Strong glutes keep your hips, thighs, and pelvis in the proper position as you run and during exercises such as squats and lunges. They also help keep your knees from going too far to the front, back, or side during these exercises, which can place undue stress on the knee and cause knee pain.
The problem: A lot of the best exercises for your glutes, like squats, are hard to do properly if your hips are tight. Many common glute exercises require bending in way that just isn’t comfortable—and may even be painful—if you have tight hips. So what’s a woman to do?
If your hips feel tight during squats, lunges, or deadlifts, try adding the butt exercises below into your fitness routine. All of them are good options for people with tight hips, allowing you to perform the exercises with good form and maximize your results.
Begin on the floor, lying on your back with knees bent and your feet flat. Lift your hips about six inches, then slowly lower, pausing just short of the floor. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps. Tip: If you have one, squeeze a soft, non-weighted ball between your knees during the exercise.
2. Single Leg Chair Squat
Sit in a chair with your arms at your chest. Raise your left leg out in front of you. Stand up out of the chair using your right leg (keep your left leg off the ground). Reach your butt back to return to start. Do 12 reps on one leg, rest, and then switch legs.
3. Single Leg Deadlift
Stand on your right leg. Hinge forward at your hips, keeping your right leg relatively straight. Reach both hands forward to touch your right knee. To make it harder, hold a weight in your right hand as pictured. Allow your left leg to kick out behind you for balance. Return to start. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps on one side, rest, and do 12 reps on the other side.
4. Step Up
Stand facing a step or stable platform about six to 10 inches high. Step up with your right foot, lifting your whole body up on top of the step. Follow with your left foot, raising your left knee up like you’re marching. Step down with your left foot, then your right. Do 12 reps on each leg.
5. Wall Squat
Stand with your back against a wall. Place both feet about 12 inches away from the wall, hip-width apart. Bending from your knees and hips, slide down the wall, lowering your body about 12 inches. Keep your weight on your heels. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then pause. Repeat for 5 to 8 reps.
6. Reverse Lunge
Begin standing. Take a big step back with your right foot. Bend at both knees to lower your body down until your right knee is about six inches off the floor. Push off your right foot to return to standing with feet together. Do 12 reps on one leg, then switch sides. Perform the movement in a slow and controlled fashion to really target the glutes.
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