There are 10 muscles in our buttock region on either side that directly act on our hip to provide movement and stabilization. This is without counting the numerous global muscles in the hip flexor, hamstring or adductor groups. Of particular importance are the deep rotator muscles (obturator, gemelli and quadratus muscles) and the gluteus medius and minimus muscles. Through their contraction these muscles help to stabilise the ball and socket joint that forms the hip, and they also help to maintain a stable and level alignment of our pelvis.
Without a stable hip joint and pelvis there can be poor lower limb alignment and poor transfer of forces between our limbs and spine when walking, running or doing resistance based movements. This leads to abnormal biomechanics that can alter joint loading not only at the hip, but also the ankle, knee and lower back. Pain or poor performance may result. A common pattern that presents with such weakness is dropping in the knees during squatting and running, with excessive shifting of the hip from side to side. You may not even have hip pain, but the weakness and changes in biomechanics may be causing symptoms in nearby areas.
In order to address such issues, you need to perform exercises that strengthen the hip rotator and gluteus medius/minimus muscles to improve stability of the pelvis and hip ball and socket joint, and restore more normal biomechanics. You may have been given simple exercises to try to achieve this in the past - such as side lying leg lifts, 'clams', bridges or single leg squats. However, these simple exercises are often not enough to develop strong and stable hips on their own. It is important that the exercises employed are sufficiently challenging and functionally specific to your sporting, occupational or recreational pursuit so that these muscles can adapt to the required demands.
The videos below list a few examples of exercises for developing strong and stable hips in a manner that is functional and challenging, and with appropriate load to provide stimulus for neuro-muscular adaptation. There are many variations and progressions/regressions on the theme depending on your needs and the presence of any injury.
Talk to your physio to learn more about developing your hip strength and stabilitiy for athletic performance or reducing pain and pathology. Strong hips sink ships!
The Gap Physio