For the most part, both athletes and adults could use more hip mobility. The way we live day-to-day whether that’s sitting in classes, working at a desk, or taking on long commutes both shorten and weaken our hip flexors, oftentimes leading to a host of other issues. This is most commonly seen in the form of lower back pain but can also cause issues lower down the body including hip and knee pain. In the case of an athlete, before ever having any pain this means lower strength and power outputs in competitions along with a reduction in movement capabilities.
What is Mobility?
At this point you may be wondering, what is mobility and how is it different from the stretches we’ve been doing for years? Static stretching where you reach the end range of a muscle and hold has been around forever and it works on flexibility, causing a change by lengthening muscles.
Mobility on the other hand refers to how a joint moves through its range of motion. Because of the structure of the hip joint and our reliance on the hips for locomotion in life and sport, it is important to gain and maintain as much range as we can throughout our lives in this area. Now that we have covered the difference let’s take a look at four methods to help whether you’re hips are nice and loose or just a little bit stiffer than they should be.
- Mobility- your ability to move a joint through a range of motion
- Flexibility- your muscles’ ability to elongate so you can get into positions
Hurdle Over Unders
If you have access to hurdles these are an exercise every athlete could benefit from. Incorporating hurdle mobility work into your daily field or court warm routine allows you to build up mobility in targeted ranges specific to your sport and they are also a great all-around warm-up movement.
Another benefit here is that the movement doesn’t require much equipment. The movements could be performed with an entire set of hurdles or simply one. Those that don’t have access to hurdles could also use just a band, string, or PVC pipe hanging from a squat rack to do them in the weight room.
The shinbox has grown over the last few years because of its social media popularity and unlike most exercises seen on the gram it works and works well for loosening up tissues that can restrict the hip joint. It’s also known as the 90/90 position. The beauty of this movement is that it trains both internal and external rotation with each repetition. The movement can also be easily progressed or regressed to suit your current mobility level.
To do the shinbox, begin by sitting down in an area with plenty of room. You can place your hands behind you to help keep a tall spine throughout this movement. Bend your legs bringing your knees close to your chest with the feet just outside shoulder width apart. Keeping your spine long, allow both knees to drop to one side. Do your best not to shift your feet around or fold over as the knees begin to move. Lay both knees on the floor. With the knees on the floor think about actively pressing your shins into the ground. Alternate sides. If this feels easy take the next step and perform the movement without placing your hands on the ground.
The Frog Stretch is a dynamic stretch that targets the groin group, hip flexors, and muscles involved in internal rotation. Considering it as a “4 point of contact squat” is a simple way to envision what is happening during this movement.
Set up in a quadruped position, you will need to keep the spine long just like you would when performing a loaded squat. The feet will be set shoulder-width apart with the feet turned slightly out. The knees will be in line with the feet. From here you want to rock the hips back toward the heels and hold that end position for 2-3 seconds before returning to the starting position. That’s one rep. With each rep of this exercise, the goal is to sink closer to the heels and find deeper ranges of motion. The bottom position here will feel similar to the bottom position of the hurdle walk-under drill discussed earlier in the article.
Incline Bench-Assisted Pigeon
Many athletes may be familiar with the pigeon pose through yoga. This alternative to the pigeon allows you to have all the benefits of the famous hip opener but in a more gentle setup for taller or bigger framed athletes who don’t regularly practice on a mat or have lateral knee pain when performed on the ground. Using an inclined bench, place the outside of one leg along the bench’s surface.
For many, just standing in this position will immediately trigger a stretch on the hip. The next step would be to move the back further away from the bench. This is valuable because in this position you can now maneuver your body to place a greater emphasis on either the front legs glute or the rear legs hip flexor. An additional way to get more from this stretch would be to keep the spine tall and lean into the hip from different angles and directions to feel the stretch in different areas.
This movement can also be easily progressed or regressed by adjusting the angle of the bench. Having a higher angle on the bench would make the movement less challenging so my suggestion would be to begin higher than you think you need to and work your way down eventually to the flat position.
Hip mobility deserves some additional attention week to week for many of us because of how much time we spend in the seated position.