The hips are one of those body parts that most of us don’t really think about until they’re bothering us. When you hit the gym, strengthening your hip muscles specifically probably isn’t high on the agenda. But if you’re someone who spends most days sitting, you’re likely familiar with that hip ache and tightness that comes along with it. Maybe you’ve even started doing some hip stretches to combat that. But actually strengthening the hip area is something that will not only make you feel better, but help you move better, too.

Quick anatomy lesson. When we talk about the hips, we’re talking about any muscle that crosses over the hip joint, says Laura Miranda D.P.T., M.S.P.T., C.S.C.S., a New York City-based trainer and creator of the Pursuit training program. Which, there are many, including all of the glute muscles, the hamstrings, the inner thigh muscles, and the psoas muscles (deep core muscles that attach your pelvis to your spine). Each of these muscles has some specific roles, but overall, the hip muscles stabilize your pelvis and thighbone as you move. They also allow you to bend at the hips, lift your legs out to the side (abduct), and bring your legs back in toward one another (adduct). Basically, they do a lot, and when they’re weak or tight or otherwise not working in an optimal way, you can not only end up with cranky hips, but other body parts may overcompensate and take on too much work—leaving you with other, seemingly unrelated, issues, like knee pain.

Most functional exercises—ones that mimic everyday movements such as squats, hip hinges (deadlifts, for example), lunges, steps-ups—stretch and strengthen your hip muscles in some way. So if you strength train and do a variety of these sorts of movements, you’re probably working these important muscles without even realizing it. On the other hand, if you mostly focus on exercise methods that have you doing the same movement over and over again, like running or cycling, there’s a good chance your hips aren’t as strong as they should be. And that can have a negative impact on not only your workouts, but how you move through life in general.

To help you strengthen these important muscles, Miranda put together a list of exercises, below. They include dynamic warm-up moves, meant to activate your hip muscles and prep them for the bigger movements to come; functional moves that train basic movement patterns, like the squat, hip hinge, and lunge; functional plyometric exercises that train explosive power; and a few moves that get you moving in different planes of motion, or directions.

You could do these moves all together as a single workout, or, as Miranda suggests, split them in half and do the first part one day and the second part another—”but do the warm-up with each one,” she says. Those first three moves are meant to not only “wake up” the muscles, but also get your brain ready for the movement patterns to come. For that reason, she says that doing the first three moves “would be a fantastic warm-up before any workout.”

Equipment needed for some moves: one medium-weight looped mini resistance band (like this), one medium-weight long resistance band (like this), a set of medium-to-heavy dumbbells, one heavy kettlebell, and a step or bench.

Dynamic Warm-up:
Do this circuit before any of the other exercises. You can also use this warm-up before your next cardio or regular strength workout.

Double Banded Pull Through — 12-15 reps
Side Plank With Knee Drive — 5-8 reps each leg
Banded Hip March — 5-8 reps each leg
Do 2-3 times.
Hip-Strengthening Exercises:
Choose a few of these exercises to do as a circuit—Miranda suggests doing half one day and half another. Do 3 sets of each. You can also do all of these exercises for a full workout if you’d like.

Bulgarian Split Squat — 12-15 reps each leg
Step Up to Reverse Lunge — 12-15 reps each leg
Dumbbell Sumo Squat — 8-10 reps each leg
Kickstand Romanian Deadlift — 5-8 reps each leg
Explosive Sprinters Lunge — 5-8 reps each leg
Banded Jump Squat — 5-8 reps each leg
Kettlebell Swing — 10-12 reps
Lateral Lunge — 10-12 reps
Banded Marching Hip Bridge — 10-12 reps

Here’s how to do each move:

1. Double Banded Pull Through

Attach a long resistance band low to the ground behind you. Or, you can also use a cable.
Stand in front of the band with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a looped mini resistance band just above your knees. Push your legs apart slightly to actively maintain tension in the band and prevent your knees from caving in.
Hinge forward at the hips and push your butt back as you bend your knees to reach down and grab the long band between your legs. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
Keep your chest lifted and back flat as you stand back up, driving your hips forward and squeezing your glutes at the top. That’s 1 rep.
Do 12-15 reps.

2. Side Plank With Knee Drive

“The dynamic action of the moving leg adds an even greater challenge to the bottom glute working to isometrically hold the body weight in that solid position,” says Miranda.

Start in a side plank with your left elbow under your shoulder, legs extended, and hips, knees, and ankles stacked. Engage your core, tuck your butt, and make sure your lower back is flat.
Slowly drive your right knee up toward your chest. Pause for a second, and then slowly extend the leg back out to starting position. That’s 1 rep.
Do 5-8 reps on each leg.

3. Banded Hip March

Stand upright with your feet about hip-width apart, core engaged, and chest lifted, with a looped mini resistance band around the balls of both feet.
Slowly drive your right knee up and out in front of you, stopping when it reaches hip height. (You may not be able to lift that high depending on your current mobility.) You should feel your hip flexors in the lifted leg working, and your glutes on the stabilizing leg working.
Focus on keeping your foot directly under your knee, your pelvis level, and your standing-leg knee, hip, and ankle in line.
Slowly lower your leg back down. That’s 1 rep.
Do 5-8 reps on each leg, alternating sides.

4. Bulgarian Split Squat

Stand with your back to a bench or similar elevated surface. With your left foot on the floor a few feet in front of the bench, place the top of your right foot on the bench, shoelaces down. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.
Brace your core and bend your knees to lower down into a split squat. Your left knee should ideally form a 90-degree angle so that your thigh is parallel to the ground, and your right knee is hovering above the floor. (Quick position check: your left foot should be stepped out far enough that you can do this without letting your left knee go past your left toes—if you can’t, hop your left foot out a bit farther away from the bench.)
Driving through your left heel, stand back up to starting position. That’s 1 rep.
Do 12-15 reps on each leg.

5. Step Up to Reverse Lunge

Miranda calls this a “compound combination” move. “It’s a term and modality that I designed that involves stacking together two distinct multi-joint exercises and combining them into one movement.” It’s a great way to increase the intensity of an exercise without adding weight, she adds.
Stand facing a box, step, bench, or chair.
Step onto the box with your right foot and drive through your right heel and glute to bring your left leg up to meet the right. Let your left foot hover, and keep most of the weight in your right foot.
Step back down with your left foot, then step your right foot back about two feet behind the left and lower immediately into a reverse lunge.
Push through your left foot to stand back up (that’s 1 rep) and move right into the next step-up.
Do 12-15 reps on each leg.

6. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

Choose a dumbbell that lets you squat with proper form but makes you feel fatigued by the end of each set.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Hold the dumbell with both hands at your chest.
Bend your knees and lower down into a squat.
Push through your heels to return to standing and squeeze your glutes at the top. That’s 1 rep.
Do 8-10 reps.

7. Kickstand Romanian Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, one foot about six inches in front of the other. Place a dumbbell (or kettlebell) next to both feet.
The majority of your weight should be in your front leg. Rise onto the toes of your rear foot, using it as a kickstand to help maintain balance but only putting a little weight on it.
Hinge forward at the hips, push your glutes back, and lower the weights toward the floor. Keep your back flat and shoulders retracted; don’t round forward or arch your lower back.
Press through your front foot to return to starting position. That’s 1 rep.
Do 5-8 reps on each leg.

8. Explosive Sprinters Lunge

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
Step your right foot back a few feet into a lunge position.
Push through your left foot to explosively jump into the air, driving your right knee toward your chest.
Land with a soft knee (that’s 1 rep) and step back immediately into another lunge.
Do 5-8 reps on each leg.

9. Banded Jump Squat

Place a looped mini resistance band just above your knees. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Hinge forward at your hips and sit your butt back into a squat. Squat as deep as your mobility will allow, but not further than parallel to the ground.
Jump up into the air as high as you can and straighten out your legs. Swing your arms down by your sides for momentum, and keep your back straight and chest lifted.
Land back on the floor with soft knees. That’s 1 rep.
Do 8-10 reps.

10. Kettlebell Swing

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, a kettlebell on the floor in between your legs.
Hinge forward and bend your knees to squat down and grab into the kettlebell handle with both hands.
Swing the kettlebell between your legs, and then stand back up and use the momentum from your hips to swing the weight to chest height. Squeeze your butt at the top of the movement.
Immediately lower back down as you swing the kettlebell between your legs again to start the next rep.
Do 10-12 reps.

11. Lateral Lunge

Stand with your feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by your sides.
Take a big step (about 2 feet) out to the right. When your foot hits the ground, hinge forward at the hips, push your butt back, and bend your right knee to lower into a lunge. The weights should frame your right knee, and your left leg should be straight.
Pause for a second, and then push off your right leg to return to starting position. Repeat on the other leg. That’s 1 rep.
Do 10-12 reps.

12. Banded Marching Hip Bridge

Loop a mini resistance band around the balls of your feet and lie faceup in front of a bench, chair, or step. Place your heels on the bench.
Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips of the floor. Keep your back flat and core engaged.
Slowly drive your right knee toward your chest, pause for a second, and then place your foot back on the bench. Repeat with your left leg. That’s 1 rep.
Do 10-12 reps.