Why are my hips getting bigger with exercise? Shouldn’t they get slimmer instead?
The truth is when it comes to our body – nothing is quite as straightforward as we would wish.
Today, I’ll tell you everything there is to know about your hip area – and also what steps you need to take to make them harmonize with the rest of your body.
Why Are My Hips Getting Bigger With Exercise? The Disheartening Start For Beginners
You decided to make a positive change in your life, so you began eating better and exercising consistently. Everything went well for a few weeks, and you felt proud of yourself for being consistent and doing something good.
But then, one day, you noticed something. Despite looking and feeling better, some of your clothes didn’t fit like they used to before. Sure, your stomach, arms, and thighs were smaller, but you felt a more snug fit around your hip area. So, you… panicked. You were doing so well, so why were your hips noticeably bigger? What gives?
If you’re in this situation right now or have been in such before, read on. This ‘problem’ might not be as bad as you imagine.
What Is The Hip Area, Anyway?
Your hip area represents the pelvic bone, but there is nothing we can do about its size or shape.
Aside from the bone, the hip area is also covered by subcutaneous body fat and muscles. Specifically, the hip area is home to various muscles, including:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal and external obliques
- Rectus femoris (one of four quadricep heads)
- Gluteus medius
- Tensor fascia lata
There are also other muscles in that area, but most are too small to bother with.
Why Your Hips Grow In Response to Exercise (And What That Means For You)
If you train for a while and want to get slimmer, it can feel a bit disheartening to place the tape measure over your hips and find that they’ve grown in size. But as with most things, the devil is in the details.
When a specific area of the body grows in size, we typically pin that on fat gain. Subconsciously, we’ve come to hate growing in certain areas because we see that as something negative.
The good news is, your hips growing in response to exercise can also be a good thing. Specifically, as you train, the muscles we mentioned above have to work. Some aid upper body movement, others aid hip flexion and extension, and some work isometrically to keep us stable and secure (1). For example, your abs flex your torso and keep you stable (2). Your obliques assist torso rotation and also keep you stable, alongside your abs and transverse abdominis (2).
These muscles strengthen and can grow in response to training stress. As a direct result, we can see a temporary increase in hip size. Why temporary? Because muscle growth can increase hip size. But as we lose the fat in the area, the size will go down, and we’ll eventually find ourselves slimmer and lean.
The great thing about muscle growth is that the tissue is more dense than fat. In other words, a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat. So, even if we gain a significant amount of muscle in the hip and midsection area, our body fat percentage will be what primarily determines hip size.
What Should We Do Then?
Hip size can be a sensitive topic for many people, especially men. Having larger hips can get in the way of achieving the desirable X physique – a built upper body, a narrow waist, and built legs.
Women also feel self-conscious because we’ve been conditioned to see a narrow waist as inherently more desirable.
But as we mentioned above, hip size primarily depends on body fat percentage. So long as you eventually lose the fat around your midsection, your hips will look great. Pelvic bone size is also important, and some people have a wider bone than others. Sadly, you can’t do anything about that, so there is no use in getting frustrated.
If your hips are naturally wider, the best thing you can do is build your shoulders, arms, chest, upper back, and glutes. By making these muscles more prominent, your hips will appear smaller in comparison.
If you’re a woman, you should embrace your hips as they are. Women naturally have a wider pelvic bone and typically store more stubborn fat in the butt and thigh area, further contributing to the broad hip look. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Look at any female fitness model, and you’ll see that most sport wide hips. But because they’ve built some muscle mass and are decently lean, their hips look more proportionate.
In any case, you shouldn’t avoid training your midsection and hip area to prevent hip growth. All of these muscles play an essential role in athletic ability and functionality (1, 2). So don’t avoid specific exercises for fear of getting a blocky midsection. For one, muscle is more dense than fat and takes up less space. And second, muscle growth is a slow process, so don’t expect to build huge amounts with some recreational training.
Our hip size depends on body fat percentage, pelvic bone width, and muscular development in the midsection. The best thing you can do to optimize how your hips look is to embrace muscle growth and control your body fat percentage.
We can’t do anything about pelvic bone width, so there is no point in getting frustrated. If you’re a man, build up your upper body musculature and glutes to make your hips appear more proportional.
If you want to learn more about body sculpting, bookmark my strength-building resource – LOADED with science, hacks, and professionally made exercise routines.
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Other Helpful Resources
- What are The Best Glute Machines For Home? Reviews and Top Picks
- What Exercises Lift Your Buttocks at Home? 5 Killer Glute Exercises
- Allstar Innovations Squat Magic Reviews
- How To Get a Nice Buttocks For Guys: The Man’s ABC to a Tight and Firm Butt
- The 5 Best Exercises for Growing Glutes: The ABC to Strong Glute Muscles
- How to Get a Bigger Buttocks Fast With Exercise: The Beginners ABC
- How to Build A Bigger Booty: The Beginners ABC
- Pressel T, Lengsfeld M. Functions of hip joint muscles. Med Eng Phys. 1998 Jan;20(1):50-6. doi: 10.1016/s1350-4533(97)00040-4. PMID: 9664285.
- Flynn W, Vickerton P. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Abdominal Wall. [Updated 2024 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-.