Even if you often perform total-body workouts, chances are you’re overlooking a muscle that’s super important for preventing injuries and pain in women: your hip cuff. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone: "The hip cuff is important for men and woman to work, and it is one of the most commonly overlooked muscles by both genders," says Mark Verstegen, president and founder of Core Performance. "Having weak hips can create poor mechanics with movement and lead to hip, back, or knee pain and injuries."
It's especially key for women to work their hip muscles, Vergesten says, because we tend to have wider pelvises and slightly greater angles between our hips and knees than men—both of which put us at a higher risk for injury than guys.
"The hip cuff is also connected to your pelvic floor muscles, which can be stressed by events like pregnancy, menopause, or childbirth," he adds.
Luckily there are some easy ways to strengthen your hip muscles.
"You want to ensure that the hip cuff muscles are doing their job as a foundation for stability, so to strengthen them, we typically recommend some basic exercises that activate the muscles and help you improve your external and internal hip rotation movement," Verstegen says.
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The next time you're working your glutes, add a couple of these exercises to your routine. Not only will you look great from behind, you'll also be stabilizing your muscles and guarding against injury—always a plus!
Remember too that quality matters more than quantity, Verstegen says. "You want to make sure that each movement is controlled and that you're working the right muscles, not just rushing through the motions."
You'll need: A resistance band or loop (we like SKLZ multi-resistance training bands) and a medicine ball
1. Quadruped Hip Abduction: Begin on hands and knees (quadruped position), with belly button drawn in and shoulders pushed down and away from ears. Keeping knee bent and core muscles engaged, lift right leg to the side and slightly back. Return to start position and repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions. Switch sides and complete 8 to 12 repetitions on the left side.
2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge: Lie faceup on the floor with right knee bent at a 90-degree angle (make sure to keep heel on the ground) and left leg held to chest. Lift butt up and off the ground, trying to maintain a straight line from head to knees and placing your weight on right heel and right shoulder. Hold, then return to starting position. Complete 8 to 12 repetitions; then switch sides.
3. External Hip Raise: This move can be done either with or without a resistance band or loop. Lie on right side with hips and knees bent, maintaining a straight line between head, torso, and hips. Open hips by rotating left knee up toward the sky while maintaining contact between heels. Lower knee back to starting position. Complete 8 to 12 times and repeat on the other side.
4. Lateral Band Walk: Stand with a resistance band or loop around ankles. Bend knees and sit back slightly into hips until you're almost in a squat position. From there, step sideways 8 to 12 times, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Repeat, going back to the other side 8 to 12 times. You can also tie the band or loop above your knees, as demonstrated here.
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5. Rotational Medicine Ball Throw: Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall holding a medicine ball at waist level. Rotate torso to the right away from the wall, taking medicine ball behind hip. Rotate quickly back to the left and simultaneously throw the ball at the wall. Keeping one hand behind the ball and one under it and arms slightly bent, catch the ball and immediately throw it back to the wall. Do this 8 times, then switch sides and repeat 8 times.