Did you know that lower back stiffness can result from tight hips? The hips are the most heavily used muscles for general sports movements like running, squatting, twisting and jumping. It's important to routinely work to strengthen this large muscle group—which includes the gluteus maximus (biggest in the body), gluteus medius and gluteus minimus; but you must also keep your hips loose. And the best way to do so is to perform static stretches during your cooldown after practices, games and workouts.
Below are three essential post-activity hip stretches—seated, standing and supine (lying on your back). No matter what position you choose, be sure to follow these four guidelines.
- Slowly and gradually stretch yourself into a comfortable range. Stretch without rushing or quickly exceeding a range that causes pain.
- Breathe in and out while stretching and exhale at the peak of the stretch. Don't hold your breath!
- Hold stretches for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Slowly return to start position, rest about five seconds and repeat two or three times.
Seated Hip Stretch
Sitting on a chair or bench with your back straight, place your right ankle on your left knee. Place your left hand on your right ankle. Then, slowly and gently press down on your knee with your right hand. Do this until you feel a stretch in your outer right hip. After holding the stretch, gradually return to start position and perform again. Next, place your left ankle on your right knee and repeat the sequence.
Standing Hip Stretch
Stand near a balanced surface like a table or desktop. Place your right hand on the surface for balance, lift your left leg and put your left ankle on top of your right knee. Your lower left leg should be resting horizontally on your knee. Place your left hand on the side of your left knee and press the knee back until you feel a stretch in the groin and left hip. Repeat two or three times, then place right ankle on left knee to stretch right hip and groin.
Supine Hip Stretch
Lie on your back with knees raised and feet flat on the floor. Place your left ankle on your right knee. Slowly raise your right foot while pressing down on your left knee until you feel a stretch in your left hip. Return to start and repeat twice more. Next, place right ankle on left knee, raise left foot and press down on right knee to feel stretch in right hip. Repeat twice more.
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