Joint mobility and hip exercises may not be the sexiest topics in fitness, but they’re one of the most important. Connecting the lower body to the upper body, the hip joint and surrounding muscles form a highly complex system with many moving parts.
Just about every movement we make and every action we perform includes the hips—making it imperative to keep it in good shape. Unfortunately, life takes a toll on our hips through injuries or bad habits. When they accumulate, it can cause a disruption in the way our hips function. This article will review 5 hip mobility exercises to help you improve your range of motion. If you’re experiencing hip pain or discomfort, you’ll definitely want to check this article out.
Best Hip Mobility Exercises
There are a lot of effective exercises to improve your hip mobility. We’ve put together our favorites below:
A classic hip flexor stretch, the 90/90 is a hip rotator stretch that will also loosen up your flexors and extensors. It’s a relatively simple exercise as you sit on the ground with both knees bent at 90 degrees. As you keep the hips squared, all of the rotation occurs at the hip joint, which will keep everything working in good order.
How to perform:
- Sit on the ground with your feet out in front of you.
- Take your left leg and place it behind your body. Have the left knee bent with the thigh pointing to the left and the foot pointing to the back. The knee should make a 90-degree angle.
- Place the right leg in front with the knee pointing straight ahead. The hip should rotate externally so the foot can point to the left.
- Sit with your torso straight and tall. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
- Switch your legs to target the other side.
- You can then lean forward or the rear to alter the movement. While keeping your hips straight, bend at your hips to let your torso come down forward.
- Another variation will have you switch legs in a repetitive manner.
2. Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis is a lateral rotator that’s notorious for getting tight. While the piriformis is a small muscle, it’s often the culprit for injuries, especially in athletes.
How to perform:
- Lay on your back.
- Bring one leg up so that the foot is on the ground and the knee bent.
- With the help of your arms, grab the other leg towards the shin and ankle and place the foot on the thigh of your bent knee.
- Grab the bent leg behind the knee and pull it toward your chest.
- Perform this movement setting in a chair.
- Sit with one foot flat on the floor and place the ankle of your other foot on your thigh
- Use your hands to press the raised knee down so that it becomes parallel with the floor.
- You can also bend down and come back up to add some movement to the this position.
3. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch is a classic exercise that needs little introduction. It uses your hands to facilitate external hip rotation and open up your hips. Various variations exist, which we’ll address as well.
How to perform:
- Sit down on the ground with both knees bent outward.
- Use your hands to hold your feet so both soles are touching.
- Your elbows should then be placed on your lower thigh to assist in pushing your knees down to the ground, which requires external rotation.
- Hold in the lower position for 20-30 seconds.
- Keep one leg bent but extend the other leg at a 45-degree angle. Sit with your torso tall while you push down the knee of the bent leg. Switch legs.
- While in the single-leg position, flex your hips to bring your torso down.
- Start in a quadruped position on your hands and knees.
- Open your knees and allow your legs to spread open as your bodyweight pushes your body weight down.
4. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The kneeling hip flexor stretch is one of our favorite exercises due to its simplicity. It uses your body weight to help increase the range of motion in your hip flexors while in a lunge position. Extremely simple yet extremely effective.
How to perform:
- Assume a lunge position stop with one leg out in front and settle on the rear knee. Both knees should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Keeping the rear knee planted, sit tall and lean your torso forward by pushing your body forward.
- Be sure to keep your forward leg flat on the ground the entire movement.
- Switch to the opposite leg.
5. Cossack Squat
The Cossack squat is a great resistance exercise for building strength but it can also be used as hip mobility exercise. It’s essentially a unilateral movement that has you squat laterally down to one leg foot which places a higher percentage of your body weight on one leg. This movement requires maximal opening in the hips to allow the body to get low.
How to perform:
- Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. This is not exact, so you can adjust as necessary.
- Allow your body to lower to the right laterally by bringing your butt to your right foot.
- Keep your left leg straight for the whole movement as you go down. If you need, you can pivot the foot onto the heel.
- Be sure to keep your right foot flat on the ground and your torso erect. Do not allow your torso to bend forward.
- Come down until your butt touches your ankle or as far as you can go
- Press up laterally until both legs are extended. Repeat for desired reps and then repeat.
Variation: Cossack Hover
The Cossack Hover is a variation of the Cossack squat. As the name implies, instead of performing a squat, you will simply hover at the bottom of the movement.
How to perform:
- Perform the movement in the exact same manner as the Cossack squat but stop at the bottom.
- Concentrate on keeping your torso up and attempt to go as low as possible.
- Move around some and you can add some tiny bouncing. To be clear, this is not jumping up and down but rather a minimal amount of motion to work the joint.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs.
Understanding Hip Mobility
The term “mobility” gets thrown around a lot in the fitness community, often connected with the term “flexibility.” In fact, they’re grouped together so much that many people will use them interchangeably. This would be incorrect.
When we think of the term “flexibility,” we describe the full range of motion through which a joint can be put. This includes both passive and active stretching in which you cause a joint to open as far as it’s capable of, such as in the splits. While you can stretch your joints to extreme lengths, however, you can’t actually produce force when in the split position or use your limbs—nor are you trying to. It’s simply concerned with how far you can open a joint without getting injured or experiencing extreme discomfort.
In comparison, mobility can be considered “functional flexibility” or “flexibility in motion.” Not only is mobility concerned with having a free range of motion in the joints and loose muscles, but it’s also concerned with maintaining good posture under movement or a load.
Once you have your hip mobility down, get working on your shoulders with these 11 killer shoulder exercises.
Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility
Why is hip mobility important? Well, first, tight hips aren’t fun. They can limit your performance and mitigate progression while being highly uncomfortable. Further, loosening up your tight hip flexors can actually prevent future injury. Let’s look further at why you should improve hip mobility.
Reduce Back Pain
As you know, our body parts don’t work in isolation. Rather, our muscles and joints are connected, so a weakness in one area can be felt elsewhere. As the hips essentially connect the lower body to the upper body, this is especially true for a tight hip joint.
Multiple studies have seen an association between back pain and reduced mobility in the hips.
For example, A 2004 study discovered that hip disorders were frequently found in patients with pain in their lumbar spine. Further, the back pain would be alleviated after treating the hip disorder.
Improve Physical Performance
The hip joints are of utmost importance due to their role in biomechanics. Hip flexion and hip extension play pivotal roles in various physical movements, making it imperative that you fix tight muscles and joints that may hinder your performance.
The good news is you can rest assured that regularly performing hip exercises can independently improve your performance. A study from 2018 found that 8 weeks of stretching the hip flexor muscles improved sprint and agility performance. One reason is that hips with greater freedom of movement can take large strides which facilitate longer strides.
How Do You Fix Hip Flexor Mobility?
Like most issues in life, poor hip mobility isn’t going to fix itself. Here are two tips to help you get your hips back in shape.
Follow A Hip Mobility Specific Routine
Adding a regular hip mobility-specific routine is the best thing you can do. To be clear, these add exercises to your current program designed to improve hip mobility—they shouldn’t replace your current regime. Above, we listed our favorite exercises, so perform these two to three times a week on a regular basis.
Perform Resistance Training With A Full Range Of Motion
When resistance training, make sure you work through your full range of motion to aid in mobility. Training a movement with only partial range of movement may decrease range of motion over time.
Tips and Precautions
Mobility training is similar to any other type of training in that you need to go slow. You’ll risk injury if you attempt movements or intensities you’re not ready for. Therefore, don’t try to rush the process. Improving your mobility includes much more than just stretching your muscles such as loosening your ligaments and tendons so take your time.
In addition, you need to be consistent. Your mobility won’t fix itself if you train once or twice every other week. Therefore, make a plan and stick to it. Luckily you can do these exercises at home so you should be able to get it done even if you don’t make it to the gym.
Hip Mobility Improves Fitness Performance and Everyday Aches & Pains
Having poor hip mobility can cause a lot of issues that can be detrimental to your performance or even cause discomfort. The good news is this is easy to avoid as long as you’re specific with training. Add the 5 hip mobility exercises above to your training and keep our tips in mind to keep your hips healthy and mobile.
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