Movements at the Hip Joint

The movements at the hip joint can be seen in this diagram. They are listed below along with the muscles responsible for each action and a sample exercise.

Flexion – iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, pectineus (range increases when knee is flexed)

The hundred (prep)

Extension – gluteus maximus; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris (limited by the joint capsule and ligaments)

Prone double leg lift

Abduction – gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, piriformis and tensor fascia latae

Side-lying leg lift in parallel

Adduction – adductors longus, brevis and magnus, pectineus and gracilis (avoid if you have had a hip replacement)

Side-lying underneath leg lift in parallel

Lateral rotation – biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, piriformis, assisted by the obturators, gemilli and quadratus femoris


Medial rotation – anterior fibres of gluteus medius and minimus, tensor fascia latae

Sitting hip mobilisation

We can also combine movements such as lateral rotation with flexion and abduction.

Side-lying leg lift in turn-out

Note that the trunk and other joints maintain their position in all of the above exercises.

Since the structure of our joints and length of our ligaments limit our movement, a ‘full’ leg lift needs us to move other joints as well. In the exercise below there is lateral rotation with flexion and abduction of both legs. Although a good exercise for dancers, we do not usually do this one in Pilates. This is because we are aiming to use the movement of one joint to challenge the stability of other joints.

Side-lying leg lift in turn-out – ‘full’ range