How to Do External Hip Rotation: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do an external hip rotation exercise to help with hip pain and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Jun 13, 2023

What do putting your socks on, getting in and out of your car, squatting, and sitting cross-legged all have in common? They all involve moving your thigh and knee away from your body, which challenges your hip strength and mobility. If the muscles involved in this motion become weak, it can contribute to joint and muscle pain and also make it harder to perform everyday activities. The solution? Strengthening exercises. Exercises that target the hips and surrounding muscles help to reduce hip pain and improve mobility. 

Here, we’ll discuss one exercise that can be highly effective for that — external hip rotation — as well as ways to modify it to suit your needs.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is an External Hip Rotation Exercise? 

External hip rotation helps to improve strength and mobility in your hip and butt muscles, which in turn can prevent pain and make day-to-day functioning easier. It’s especially useful for managing pain and limited mobility related to osteoarthritis, sitting for long periods of time, and some hip injuries. 

What Muscles Does the External Hip Rotation Work? 

External hip rotation exercises activate several muscles in your hips, pelvis, butt, and legs that help your hips rotate outward. It targets small muscle groups, such as the piriformis, gemellus and obturator, and quadratus femoris muscles that start at the hip bone and connect to the femur. These muscles work together to help your leg move sideways during exercise and daily activities. External hip rotation also involves your gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your butt, which provides power and helps you rotate your hips. 

External Hip Rotation Benefits 

Hip muscles can weaken for a number of reasons, including injuries, arthritis, or having to sit frequently. Increasing strength and mobility in your hips and surrounding muscles can prevent injuries to your hips, knees, and ankles. Working these muscles can also help reduce pain in everyday activities, such as:

  • Getting out of your car

  • Putting on shoes and socks

  • Kicking a soccer ball

  • Pitching a baseball

External Hip Rotation: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

External Hip Rotation

External Hip Rotation

External Hip Rotation

External Hip Rotation

To do an external hip rotation: 

  • Start by sitting in a chair with one foot tucked under the chair and the other flat on the floor. Your knees should be about hip-width apart. 

  • Lift one foot off the floor by sliding it toward your opposite knee. Keep your thigh and the back of your knee on the chair as you move. 

  • Hold this position, focusing on engaging your hip and butt muscles. 

  • Relax your foot back to the floor.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify the external hip rotation to meet your needs. 

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External Hip Rotation Modifications

External Hip Rotation Modifications

External Hip Rotation Modifications

External Hip Rotation Modifications

To make the external hip rotation easier:  

  • Rather than moving your foot toward the opposite knee, keep both feet on the floor and move one knee out to the side. 

  • Decrease your range of motion by reducing how far you lift your foot toward the opposite knee. 

To make the external hip rotation harder: 

  • Loop a resistance band around your ankle and the chair leg, then lift your foot toward your opposite knee. 

  • Increase your range of motion by increasing how far you lift your foot toward the opposite knee. 

  • Increase the number of repetitions or how long you hold your foot in the air to help build strength and stamina in the hip muscles.

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the exercise easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. McGovern, R. P., Kivlan, B. R., & Martin, R. L. (2017). Length Change of the Short External Rotators of the Hip in Common Stretch Positions: A Cadaveric Study. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 12(7), 1068–1077. doi:10.26603/ijspt20171068

  2. Piran, R. J., Babakhani, F., alouchi, R., & Hatefi, M. (2022). Effect of external isometric hip rotation force on lower extremity muscles activities during pelvic drop with different hip positions. Scientific Reports, 12(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26472-9

  3. Bremner, C. B., Girouard, T. J., Samuel, M. N., Turner, C. L., Santo, A. S., & Mercer, J. A. (2015). The Acute Effect of Hip External Rotator Stretches on Hip Internal Rotation Range of Motion. International Journal of Exercise Science 8(1), 75-84.

  4. Macadam, P., Cronin, J., &Contreras, B. (2015). An Examination of the Gluteal Muscle Activity Associated with Dynamic Hip Abduction and Hip Rotation Exercise: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 10(5), 573-91.