21 Hip Mobility Drills to Improve your Squat

Hip movement without control is a recipe for an injury. These exercises will improve your mobility and control.

Tired of looking through YouTube for different hip mobility drills to improve your Squats?

Look no further. This video covers 21 of the best hip mobility exercises, spending about 30 seconds on each. I included a few patterning drills as well as passive, active and dynamic stretching drills. I would strongly suggest if you do choose to use the passive drills, you should follow them with a drill intended to gain control of that new range of motion.

New range of motion (within normal ranges) is awesome, but hip range of motion with no control is a recipe for an injury.

True mobility is movement of a joint through range of motion with complete control. Let's use this video accordingly to attain true mobility.

Hip Stretch

1. Hip External Rotation/ Flexion with a Hip Hinge

I know the name is long-winded, but it works. This is a hip hinge, not a Pigeon Stretch.

You'll notice a different sensation into the hip when properly hip hinging. This can be useful for those who have attempted to stretch themselves into deeper Squats or Deadlifts without results.

Key Points:

  • Hold for over a minute and explore the "corners of hip."
  • It shouldn't be painful in the front of the hip.
  • Lower the box if it's too challenging.

2. The Couch Stretch

The Couch Stretch targets the anterior aspect of the thigh and the hip flexors. Stabilization of the core is extremely important in making this stretch functional. The hip flexors (iliopsoas) attach to the front side of the lumbar spine, and if the spine isn't stabilized the low back will begin to sway.

Changes in trunk position are exactly what therapists and chiropractors are targeting to decrease when people report with back or hip pain.

Key Points:

  • Engage the abdominal wall to prevent arching the back.
  • Advanced: Add hip hinging movement.

3. The Pigeon Stretch

This is an oldie but goodie. The Pigeon Stretch is normally performed while on your back but it can be done while seated as well.

Key Points:

  • Pull the knee toward the opposite shoulder.
  • Stop when the back begins to round.
  • Don't rip too hard on it.
  • Keep your pelvis on the floor.

4. The Spiderman Stretch

The Spiderman Stretch can be used to "open up the hip" into better external rotation and flexion. We are doing this in a lunging pattern because it's easier to isolate one side at a time.

In my years working with people's back and hip conditions, it's extremely common to find single-sided lack of movement in this position. Let's work for symmetry.

Key Points:

  • Drive the front hip externally with the elbow.
  • Keep a long spine; rounding will only add to poor posture when squatting.
  • The intention is for the front hip, so don't over stretch the back one.

5. Quadruped Rocking

The Quad Rock is a great drill for driving in the patterning for a proper squat. Note the knees can't track forward excessively and it forces us to sit the hips between the heels. We can improve the pattern by adjusting the feet higher on the wall.

This is perfect for someone who says they can't squat deep. Driving in the proper patterns will carry over into complex exercise movements.

Key Points:

  • Keep the feet flat on the wall
  • In the deepest part, drop the chest toward the ground
  • Don't allow the low back to round

6. The Frog Stretch

The Frog Stretch assists us in keep the hips from internally rotating with squatting motion. I would use this with people who actually have passive range of motion restrictions not allowing them to get into a proper squat. I wouldn't use it for people who knees cave their knees from purely lack of form. For those people, I would use the Quad Rock drill or add more trunk stabilization to their program.

Key Points:

  • Stack the shins under the knees
  • Keep a long spine
  • Don't over do this one

7. Self Myofascial Release of the Quads (Rectus Femoris)

Self myofascial release is a great way to increase hip mobility via decreasing fascial restrictions within the muscles crossing the hip. When working on the quad group, we are specifically interested in the rectus femoris, which is the only muscle in the quad of group that crosses the hip.

Key Points:

  • Get a lacrosse or baseball
  • Don't go till the point of bruising
  • There should be no numbness or tingling created
  • Move the joints above and below the balls contact for added benefit

8. Self Myofascial Release of the Gluteus Medius

Self myofascial release of the gluteus medius assist with proper function of the hip ball and socket mechanics. Ensuring health of the gluteus medius helps drives the femoral head into the acetabulum center point.

Key Points:

  • Get a lacrosse or baseball
  • Don't go till the point of bruising
  • There should be no numbness or tingling created
  • Move the joints above and below the balls contact for added benefit

9. Self Myofascial Release of the Gluteus Maximus

Self myofascial release of the gluteus maximus oftentimes will decrease pain into the sacral area. The musculotendinous origin of this muscle is very short and resides at the top portion of the iliac crest and lateral borders of the sacrum. Although you can have tendonitis of the glute max at the femoral attachment, it's much more common at the origin.

Key Points:

  • Get a lacrosse or baseball
  • Don't go till the point of bruising
  • There should be no numbness or tingling created
  • Move the joints above and below the balls contact for added benefit

10. Self Myofascial Release of the Hamstrings

Self myofascial release of the hamstrings assist greatly with hip range of motion. Increasing relative slide between the hamstrings can improve pain-free depth within squatting and hip hinging movements. One of the easiest and most effective ways to get into the hamstrings with a ball is from the seated position.

Key Points:

  • Get a lacrosse or baseball
  • Don't go till the point of bruising
  • There should be no numbness or tingling created
  • Move the joints above and below the balls contact for added benefit

11. Self Myofascial Release of the Adductors

Self myofascial release of the adductors can be nearly impossible except when in a seated position. I personally found working the musculotendinous attachment deep into the groin area assists with pain associated with hip impingement and minor labral tears. Obviously you should go to your doctor to investigate your injuries.

Key Points:

  • Get a lacrosse or baseball
  • Don't go till the point of bruising
  • There should be no numbness or tingling created
  • Move the joints above and below the balls contact for added benefit

12. Good Mornings ("Dowel Hip Hinges")

This is a great exercise to assist us in keeping proper posture when hip hinging or deadlifting. I personally use it to warm up hip flexion.

Move slowly through this drill and keep all three points of contact throughout the entire motion. As you become more advanced you can increase the speed, which will prep the hamstrings for eccentric loads within your program.

Key Points:

  • Keep the dowel in contact with the back of the head, midback, and between the glutes
  • Keep pressure into the heels or better yet "tripod" foot contact
  • Increase speed to prep the posterior chain for eccentric loading

13. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts are awesome for increasing length of the hamstring and adductors on the stance leg. They are also great for increase in functionality of the stance leg hip. Improved functionality will directly improve the mobility of the hip.

Before you jump straight to weights, make sure you can do it with complete balance without weights.

Key Points:

  • Balance is first
  • Don't add weight if you can't perform complete motion without weight
  • Drive "long" with the leg and the torso will follow

14. The Lateral Squat ("The Lateral Lunge")

The lateral squat assists us to move the hip properly within the frontal plane. This is one of the more challenging drills for people to get but when mastered it greatly improves the functionality of your hip, which in turn increases relative mobility.

Key Points:

  • Drive through the heel or tripod foot contact
  • Move slowly into new depth
  • The drive upward is "forward through the hips" not "toward the other side"

15. Leg Swings (Forward)

Leg swings are a great dynamic way to warm up the muscles of the hip.

Although most people believe the moving leg is the one we are warming up, the stance leg is being subjective to eccentric loads and warming up for proper single-leg stance.

Key Points:

  • Brace the abdominal wall and keep it rigid
  • It's as much for the stance leg as the swinging leg

16. Leg Swings (Across)

Just as with forward leg swings, leg swings across the body can warm up muscles of the swinging leg, as well as single-leg stance ability in the stands leg. Make sure you're properly engaging the abdominal wall and keeping good posture through your warm up.

Key Points:

  • Brace the abdominal wall and keep it rigid
  • It's as much for the stance leg as the swinging leg

17. Active Straight Leg Raise via Wall Bug

It's extremely common to find hip mobility issues in people with poor ability to stabilize their trunk.

An Active Straight Leg Raise often yields more range of motion than a Passive Straight Leg Raise; the reason being is that the person is required to stabilize proximally to the moving joint.

Use of the wall, as in the wall bug exercise, can greatly assist the person in learning to engage the abdominal wall. This exercise can assist in patterning and improving habits through complex movements such as squatting and deadlifting.

Key Points:

  • Engage a rigid trunk through diaphragmatic breathing
  • Move slowly
  • Keep the low back in the same position through the motion

18. Hip Circumduction

The next few hip mobility exercise are targeted at those people who feel their hip is "compacted." Often times they ask friends or workout partners to pull on their leg.

Hip circumduction when standing can assist in decompressing the hip joint similarly to the Codman exercise for the shoulder. In this example, we are not using a weight but a weight can be used.

Key Points:

  • Stand tall
  • Keep both feet on same level
  • Relax

19. Axial Distraction

In a clinical setting, axial distraction can greatly improve people's hip mobility within seconds.

Use of a band to pull the hip long ways is a great way to warm up the hip before requiring large range of motions out of it. I would strongly suggest any time you are doing some type of decompressive drill that you have it followed up with a stabilization drill for that local joint.

Key Points:

  • Create more tension by moving further away
  • Create more tension by increasing the band tension
  • Go slowly through full rotation of the hip

20. Posterior Distraction

Posterior distraction can assist when the hip joint needs to clear a certain range of motion but it is hindered with a "pinch." The reason for the pinch can be multifactorial, and I strongly suggest you go see a doctor if you have a pinch in the hip.

Key Points:

  • Adjust the band for skin comfort
  • Make this an "active motion" rather than a passive stretch
  • We are enhancing a movement not stretching a structure

21. Lateral Distraction

Lateral distraction is the way I suggest improving range of motion of the hip when we are clearing a "pinch." Not everybody will require all three types of distraction but we may find your hip responds best to one type.

Key Points:

  • Adjust the band for skin comfort
  • Make this an "active motion" rather than a passive stretch
  • We are enhancing a movement not stretching a structure

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Topics: SQUAT | BUILD MUSCLE | EXERCISES | HIP MUSCLES | MOBILITY WORK