Our hips are the power source for so many athletic activities. It's no secret that Squats, Lunges and other similar exercises help us to get stronger and perform better. But we can also be putting the brakes on our best efforts if our hip mobility and range of motion is sub par.
Strength and power can only be expressed if we can move in and out of athletic positions quickly and easily. Sometimes that's a matter of muscle strength, but more often there are restrictions from tightness. From a runner's best stride to jumping technique, to being able to extend your leg while rock climbing, adequate flexibility plays a key role in performing our best.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to take hours of dedicated practice time to remedy most of our issues. Most of us aren't training to be contortionists. We just need to get our hips moving in the best range of motion for our chosen sport.
The comprehensive hip mobility routine I'll share with you today can either restore what you've lost, or much preferably, prevent those losses from happening.
Full Hip Mobility Routine
The following series of 8 hip stretches hit the major muscles that are tight on most people.
The key to practicing the sequence for the maximum benefit is to use a steady and gentle intensity and progression.
One of the important things to know about stretching in general is that most of the gains you achieve are from simply training the muscles to better tolerate the stretched positions. It's just as much about practicing as any other skill. You learn to relax, and your muscles ease off from that natural tendency to hold tight.
With practice you are working on convincing your body that nothing bad is going to happen in these new stretched positions. That's why slow, easy and controlled is better.
- Move in and out of the stretch several times.
- Hold the stretched position for 10-30 seconds.
- Shake it out and do it again.
These are the exercises in this hip mobility sequence, with the key points of each one to help you get the most out of them.
Lying Hip Rotations
- Lie on your back with both knees bent.
- Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
- Move in and out of the stretch by rotating the hip in and out.
- For the hold, use your hand for assistance to press into the knee.
This exercise starts the sequence as an easy first movement to warm up and build toward the rest of the series.
Be aware of any tightness or soreness on the outside of your knees in this one. If you experience any of this, move the rotating leg so it's resting higher up on the shin
- Cross one leg fully over the opposite thigh.
- Pull the crossed knee toward your opposite shoulder, stretching the piriformis muscle.
In the same position as the first exercise, cross the leg farther, then shift your hips fully to the other side, pulling your knee up to the opposite shoulder. Remember to go gently into and out of the stretch, and use a little pressure from your hands to resist against the muscles you want to stretch. In this case it's the piriformis and other hip rotators.
- Sit up with feet together, moving the knees down toward the ground.
- Use your hand to press into the ground and move your groin closer to your heels.
This classic stretch is very useful for the groin muscles, and for improving hip rotation to the side. Pay close attention to your back and keep it straight and upright as you move through the stretch. Work on one side at a time as Ryan demonstrates in the video, and then do both knees at once as you feel comfortable and warmed up.
- Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable.
- Rock back and forth in that position.
- Keep the balls of your feet on the ground, with toes pointed outward.
At this point in the sequence, we are ready for a bit more intensive stretching for the hips, adding some more weight bearing into the exercise. Again, take it slow and easy and don't force a range of motion you may not be ready to achieve.
The action here as you move in and out of a stretch is squeezing the knees together as you rock backward and relaxing as you rock forward. After a few repetitions, you can sit back and relax into the stretch for upwards of a minute.
- Get into a lunge position, with knee and foot about hip width apart from the elevated leg.
- Keep the chest tall and the hips square.
- To make the stretch harder, you can pull the back knee up off the ground.
This exercise is somewhat deceptive in terms of how it can affect your hips. You may need some trial and error to find the best front foot positioning, which happens when your shin is upright when you lean forward, rather than being angled down or back.
Keep your hips square and your upper body tall, and you'll be in the right position. Don't be afraid to adjust the back leg positioning to get the most out of the stretch to release your hip flexors.
- Sit on your butt with feet straight in front of you (longsitting.)
- Use your hands to push the hips forward toward your heels, so you wind up in the butterfly position.
- Move between the long sitting and butterfly positions.
This movement goes from long sitting (on your butt with your legs straight out in front), to the butterfly stretch position. It's meant to be a dynamic motion, and you won't hold any position here for more than a few seconds. This is a great way to improve circulation and get the hips moving after the stretching you did in the last five moves.
Squatting Internal Rotations
- Start in a deep squat position (as deep as you can go.)
- Rotate one knee inward, down toward the ground.
- This stretch can be done sitting on a small stool if you cannot get into a comfortable squat position.
This is another dynamic movement like the Traveling Butterfly, which I've put toward the end to encourage blood flow and circulation after all the previous stretches. Don't hold the end position very long at all.
Just keep moving and give yourself some time to work through the movement.
- Start with your front knee bent to a 90-degree angle. The back knee can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you.
- Rotate the back hip toward the front heel, and then toward the back foot.
- Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as you can comfortably.
Move Your Hips and Unlock Your Best Performance
The hip region includes several large, overlapping muscle groups and tightness in any one of them can cause problems. This routine takes your hip muscles through their full range of motion, ensuring they are functional and capable to get you efficiently transitioning from position to position in your athletics.
Invest in consistent work on your hips and you'll reap the dividends with new personal bests!
- 4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips
- A Treatment for Tight Hip Flexors That Works Better Than Stretching
- A Complete Guide to the Hip Hinge