Best Weight Training Exercises for Hip Osteopenia

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What is osteopenia?

Before we get into the osteopenia hip exercises, let’s look at what osteopenia is and how exercise can help. Osteopenia is lower bone density than normal, but it is not a disease.

Exercise is recommended to both prevent and treat osteopenia. Regular exercise can prevent further bone loss and may improve bone density.

Is osteopenia in the hip painful?

You can’t feel osteopenia in your hip. If your hip joint is painful, it is likely due to muscle soreness or arthritic changes.  Osteoarthritis, degeneration of the joint cartilage and the underlying bone, is not to be confused with osteoporosis, a disorder in which the bones become porous and weak. Although the two conditions often occur together with age, they are distinctly different.

Why is the hip at risk of fracture?

The femur or thigh bone is the largest bone in your body. The neck of the femur, the femoral neck, is a thin shaft that connects the femur to the hip joint and is composed of soft, spongy bone (trabecular bone). The bone density test measures the femoral neck, which is a strong predictor of hip fracture risk, as well as the “total hip.” Many people confuse the femoral neck with pain in the neck, but it refers to the neck of the femur.

How do you stop osteopenia of the hip from progressing?

You can slow down bone loss and strengthen the hip bone, by exercising the muscles that surround the hips. As the muscles pull on the femur, it gets stronger, causing a parallel hypertrophy of muscle and bone.

The femur is the only bone in the upper portion of your leg, and it is completely covered by your thigh muscles. These include the quadriceps (quads) in the front of your thigh, hamstrings in the back, gluteal muscles, and groin muscles (adductors). A well-rounded workout includes exercises for all these muscles.

What are the osteopenia hip exercises?

Two types of exercise build bone density:

  • Weight bearing low impact cardio exercise

  • Weight training with caution to protect the joints

What is included in weight bearing cardio exercises?

Weight bearing refers to standing exercises where you are resisting the force of gravity.  To avoid jarring the spine or other vulnerable joints, switch to low impact activities, those where one foot is always on the ground.

Low impact weight bearing cardio exercises for osteopenia include:

  • Brisk walking and treadmill striding

  • Cross-country skiing and ski machines

  • Elliptical trainers

  • Stair climbers

Is walking enough?

To create enough overload to stimulate bones, you have to walk at a brisk pace, faster than normal, and make it effortful.

Include hills, inclines, and stairs to create resistance, meaning you have to exert yourself more than usual.

What are the best weight training exercises for osteopenia of the hip?

If you are just beginning, perform one set of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise. As you progress, add 2-3 sets or add resistance (weights, stretch bands, etc.).

  1. Squat

  2. Plie Squat

  3. Straight Leg Lifts, 3 ways

  4. Stationary Lunge

  5. Calf Raise, Leg Stretches, Balance

1) Squat The Squat is the #1 functional exercise for life, the movement that we need to get up from a seated position. It works the major muscles of the legs, the glutes, hamstrings, and quads,

  • Stand with your legs parallel, slightly wider than hip width apart.

  • Shift your weight back onto your heels and bring your arms forward for balance.

  • Keep your spine straight, eyes forward.

  • Inhale, as you bend your knees and reach back with your hips.

  • Exhale as you squeeze your glutes to return to a full stand.

Squat: Osteopenia Hip – Video 1

The Squat is the #1 functional exercise for life. Keep your spine straight as you bend your knees and hinge forward from the hip.

2) Plie Squat In the turned out position, the plie squat engages the adductors in the inner thigh, as well as the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. This 4-part version also includes pelvic tilts to work the deep abdominals.

  • Taking a wide stance, shift your weight back onto your heels and turn your legs out from the hip to a 45 degree angle.

  • Bend your knees right over your toes, then straighten your legs for 10 full range of motion plies.

  • Bend your knees to the lowered position, stay low, and pulse 10 times.

  • Still in the lowered position, do 10 pelvic tilts.

  • Hold the pelvic tilt and pulse the knees back 10 times.

  • Squeeze your glutes and inner thighs to come up to standing.

Plie Squat: Osteopenia Hip – Video 2

3) Straight leg lifts, 3 ways If you have any knee issues, this series of front, back, and side leg lifts works all the muscles around the thigh without putting any pressure on the knees.

  • Stand near a support and internally rotate one leg from the hip joint.

  • Do 10-15 side leg lifts.

  • Externally rotate the leg from the hip, and do 10-15 back leg lifts, moving the leg back on a diagonal.

  • With the same leg externally rotated, cross the leg in front of your supporting leg to target the inner thigh 10-15 times.

  • Repeat on the other side.

Leg Lifts, 3 Ways: Osteopenia Hip – Video 3

f you have knee issues, this series of three leg lifts works all the muscles around the thigh without putting pressure on the knees.

4) Stationary Lunge This is a classic lower body exercise that works the major muscles of the legs – the glutes, quads, and hamstrings – and strengthens the femur.

  • Stand with your legs parallel, a giant step apart, with the back heel lifted.

  • Keep your hips square to the front, with your weight centered evenly between your feet.

  • Inhale as you bend both knees, keeping the front knee directly over the ankle.

  • Exhale as you straighten your legs.

  • The motion is up and down, not forward and back.

  • Do 10-15 reps, then switch legs and repeat.

Stationary Lunge: Osteopenia Hip – Video 4

The Stationary Lunge is a classic lower body exercise that works the major muscles of the legs – the glutes, quads, and hamstrings – and strengthens the femur.

5) Calf Raise, Leg Stretches, Balance Strengthen your ankles, stretch your legs, and work on balance to reduce your risk of falls and fractures.

  • Standing near a support, wrap the toe of one foot around the ankle of the other.

  • Lift the heel of the working leg 10-15 times.

  • Switch sides and repeat.

  • Now do one set raising both heels together.

  • Take a giant step back with one leg and press the back heel into the floor to stretch the calf.

  • Step forward and bring the foot up towards your buttocks in a quad stretch, keeping your thighs aligned in front.

  • If you can safely, try to balance on one leg.

  • Repeat the calf stretch, quad stretch and balance on the other leg.

Calf Raise, Leg Stretches, Balance: Osteopenia Hip – Video 5

Strengthen your ankles, stretch your legs, and work on balance to reduce your risk of falls and fractures.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article should not be construed as medical advice. It is not intended to replace consultation with your physician or healthcare provider.


  • Joan Pagano

    Joan Pagano has specialized in strength training for women since 1988 – training, teaching, and writing books on the subject, including Strength Training Exercises for Women (DK, 2014). When the health benefits of strength training started making headlines in the 1990s, and in particular how weight training could protect the bones and prevent osteoporosis, it was a natural segue for her. At that time, Joan was developing and delivering fitness training guidelines for osteoporosis to national audiences of exercise professionals. Currently Joan is recognized by the industry as a leading authority on exercise program design for osteoporosis. She is certified as an Exercise Physiologist by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and is on the Ambassadors Leadership Council for the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Visit Joan at:

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