Hip Mobility Exercises: Restoring Your Movement the Right Way

If you work at a desk job, spend a large portion of your day sitting down or being generally inactive for big chunks of the week, you probably have tight hips.

Although you can rest assured that almost every person in our hustle and bustle lifestyle has tight hips as well, it’s equally important to learn how to keep your hips moving and to increase mobility.

The usual theme of my guides like these is that prevention is the best medicine, so I hope that I can help you understand why hip mobility is important, what causes it and most importantly, how to treat it.

While not all of us may have dreams of being a salsa dancer or of delivering a perfectly timed hip check in the Stanley Cup Final, having mobile hips is a highly important aspect of regular fitness, good health, graceful aging, maintaining strength and preventing further injury.

Hip Muscles 101

Hip Muscles

It is an understatement to say that maintaining your physical health is an understatement.

Even within that framework of understanding, there are so many muscle groups and bones in our body that are affected by simple and everyday things.

Sitting improperly, bad posture, and repetitive movements with bad form--even chewing wrong can impact your body long term. 

Hip muscles are no different. In fact, you could even say that hips are a little more important because they are located right at the center of your body and are responsible for pretty much any kind of motion that you do.

Technically speaking, your hips are two ball joints that connect your legs to your pelvic bone. Therefore, your hips are important connective joints between your upper and lower bodies.

If your body is a car, your hips are the steering wheel--you can’t have a non functioning steering wheel, and you definitely wouldn’t want a tight one either, requiring 150% of effort for a basic movement.

As you can imagine, healthy hips are directly related to quick and precise movement, as well as your body functioning the way that it should.

With mobile hips, your body can still function as efficiently as a young person’s, you can participate in more fitness activities, you can prevent injuries and you will definitely notice a positive change in your life overall.

What Causes Hip Tightness?

Hip tightness is caused by inactive and sedentary lifestyles, such as ones where you are sitting for most of the day or just staying still for a large portion of it.

In other words, excessive sitting causes the muscles to relax and deactivate, which over time, can make them weaker and less familiar with being active.

With hip mobility exercises in general, hip stretches or any kind of exercise for hip joint mobility, you can best prevent hip tightness and maintain your hip mobility.

Info for Hip Mobility Exercises

Whether you have hip concerns or not, there is something for everyone by doing even the most simple hip mobility exercise.

At most, you could be adding decades to your fitness health and overall healthy lifestyle, at worst, you are getting a simple workout, which is already a night and day alternative to sitting on a chair all day.

In our day and age, there are so many workouts available at our disposal everywhere you look either intentionally or by accident, whether it’s scrolling through your social media feed online, reading a magazine in a waiting room or even during a Sunday morning walk around the block.

Guaranteed, all of them will have different exercises that might not be a fit for you, as they could be dedicated for different fitness levels, they could require workout equipment that you do not have or they are just not a good fit for your lifestyle goals. 

For this reason, it’s important that you know what works best for you and what your limitations are. The last thing you want is push yourself too hard and risk the potential of the exact injury that you are working out to prevent. 

No matter what your fitness goals are or what your physical capabilities are, these exercises are my personal favorites to not only get your body used to working out, but these are targeted to hip mobility exercises that you can easily perform to avoid hip tightness. 

These hip mobility exercises focus on the gluteus maximus, which is the main extensor muscle of the hip, as well as the gluteus medius, which is the main muscle on the side of the hip.

Basically, all of these workouts will focus on the back and sides of the hips, while also working out the tensor fasciae latae, which is the front of the hip joint. It is worth mentioning that you should not overwork the tensor fasciae latae because too much unwanted strain has been linked to injuries located in the knee, back and hip.

Conversely, if you have tight hips or currently suffer from hip tightness, use extreme caution--or completely avoid, if possible--high impact activities like sprinting, jumping, lifting weights, squats, lunges or step ups.

The reason why you want to avoid these is because they can cause flare ups in your hips and unwanted weight dropping onto your hips while they are not in the best shape to function with its usual efficiency.

As always, make sure you are properly warmed up before doing these exercises.

My Favorite Hip Mobility Exercises

Without further ado, here is my quick list for my go to exercises for hip mobility. Definitely note  that stretching alone is not the fix, you have to have a combination of stretching and some kind of strength work.

Hip Flexor

Hip Flexor

This is one of the most common hip mobility workouts because it does not require any workout equipment and can be performed anywhere.

You can feel free to use a yoga mat to provide support for your back, and it is best to keep your arms still--a popular pose is to place your hands on top of your stomach.

Be sure to not crash your leg on the floor on the way down, lower your leg gently.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  2. Tighten your belly muscles and buttocks, and then press your lower back to the floor
  3. Keeping your knees bent, lift and then lower one leg up off the floor until about 90 degrees (thigh perpendicular to your body) and hold for about 5 seconds
  4. Raise your other leg and until about 90 degrees (thigh perpendicular to your body) and hold for about 5 seconds
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times

An alternative is to do the same workout but kneeling. Instead of lying on your back, you would rest on one knee with the other leg out in front of you.

Gently push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the upper thigh of your back leg and hip. Hold the position for about 5 seconds and switch, repeating the whole thing 8 to 12 times.

Butterfly Hip Exercise

Butterfly Hip Exercise

Another common exercise for hip joint mobility, this very easy and accessible stretch will work out your inner thighs, hips and lower back.

This exercise can be performed from anywhere and you can feel free to use a yoga mat underneath your body to give you support and to avoid unwanted injury or discomfort.

You can also skip the resting portion and hold the position for a longer time. If you find this exercise difficult, then the resting part is encouraged.

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and abs engaged
  2. Push the soles of your feet together in front of you. Let your knees bend out to the sides
  3. As you pull your heels toward you, relax your knees and allow them to inch closer to the floor
  4. Take a deep breath and hold this post for 20 to 30 seconds
  5. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times

An alternative is to keep this position, but then gently pressing your knees down toward the ground by using a hand or resting on your elbow, placed on your knee.

Bring your heels in as close to your groin as you can.

Lying Hip Rotations

Lying Hip Rotations

For those who are doing multiple exercises, this is a great workout to start the sequence because it is a great warmup that doesn’t require your body to have too much movement.

Feel free to use a yoga mat to support your back and if you need to, you can use your hand to assist your leg to get into position.

While holding the position, you can also use your hand for assistance to press into your knee; otherwise, keep both hands on your stomach.

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  2. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee (you can use your hand to assist the cross over if needed)
  3. Rotate your hip side to side until you feel a light stretch on your hip and thigh (you can use your hand to press into the knee to help you rotate)
  4. Hold for about 2 to 5 seconds before switching
  5. Repeat for 8 to 12 times

An alternative is to sit on a chair or bench and place your leg on a higher surface. Slowly turn your leg side to side until you feel a stretch on your hips and thigh. Hold for about 2 to 5 seconds before switching legs and repeat for 8 to 12 times.

Knee to Chest Stretch

Knee to Chest Stretch

Another popular stretch, this hip mobility exercise is a great workout at any point of your exercise routine.

It can be done anywhere and does not require any workout equipment.

Feel free to lie down on a yoga mat to support your back. If you need to, you can use a small cushion to support your head and neck as well.

It is also worth mentioning that you should not crash your leg down into the floor, gently let your leg get back to the floor when switching.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  2. Slowly bring one knee into your hands and gently let your arms pull your knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch on your hips, knee and thigh
  3. Hold for about 3 to 6 seconds before switching legs
  4. Repeat for 8 to 12 times

An alternative is to sit on a chair or bench and slowly bring your leg up onto the chair or bench, pulling your heel close to your groin and holding that position for about 3 to 6 seconds before repeating for 8 to 12 times. For this, you might want to remove any footwear to avoid any unwanted damage to your chair or bench.

Pigeon Stretch

Pigeon Stretch

This hip mobility exercise is more on the advanced side as it is a common yoga pose.

While it can be done anywhere, it is best to keep this pose confined to a wide space with a yoga mat underneath.

It is worth mentioning that a moderate degree of flexibility is required as well. If you find this pose difficult, you can feel free to modify it as you please.

The idea is to have your foot touching your opposite hand, but as you can imagine, that position depends on your level of flexibility.

  1. Begin in a push up position--arms extended, palms faced down and resting on the balls of your feet
  2. Lift your left foot off the floor and bring your left knee toward your left hand
  3. Rest on your left knee and turn it inward so that your left foot is close to your right hand
  4. Slide your right foot as far back as you can while keeping your hips square
  5. Lower your arms until you are resting on your elbows
  6. Hold the position until you feel the stretch on your thigh, hip and knee for 10 to 20 seconds before switching
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times

An alternative is instead of resting on your elbows, you can simply extend your arms forward so that your palms are still on the ground, except this time they are just far in front of you. 

Sidestep Exercise

Sidestep Exercise

Another common exercise for hip joint mobility, this workout can be done anywhere and is a great way to add some intensity to your workout.

This can be more high-impact, so if you already suffer from severe hip tightness, be sure to exercise caution and extra care.

No yoga mat is required, but workout shoes or gripped footwear is highly recommended. 

You can also use workout bands or step platforms for this exercise.

  1. While standing, place your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Get into a squat position--knees bent and buttocks extended (knees should not be ahead of your toes)
  3. Staying at this height, shuffle side to side by moving one leg at a time and keeping a constant rhythm
  4. Constantly moving, continue shuffling for 20 to 40 steps

This workout is pretty straightforward, but alternatives for this can be to include workout bands (attached to your ankles) for resistance, or to include a higher surface to step on and off of.

Side Leg Raise

Side Leg Raise

This is a very common hip mobility exercise that can be performed anywhere and is very low risk in terms of injury potential. Feel free to use a yoga mat to support your side and elbow.

This is a favourite for any type of workout and can be performed at any point of your exercise routine.

It is worth mentioning to lower your leg slowly and to avoid having it crash down forcefully on your bottom leg

  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other
  2. Extend your arm and fold your arm so that your head rests on your palm
  3. Raise your top leg as high as you can and hold until you feel a stretch on your thigh, and hip and hold for 3 to 5 seconds
  4. Repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions and change sides

An alternative here could be to sit on a chair or bench, extend one leg fully, and then move it to its side (ex: right leg moved to the right, left leg moved to the left), holding for 3 to 5 seconds and then bringing it back.

Conclusion

Hip mobility is so important for your general health, fitness lifestyle and injury prevention. Your hips are the connectors between your upper and lower bodies and are therefore crucial to how your body can perform.

By doing these simple exercises for hip mobility, I hope that you can find a purpose in the workout whether you are treating these as warmups or the main workout event.

For all of the workouts that I provided, there are simple alternatives that you can use to slightly change up the workout.

I hope all of these help and that you can have some healthy hips!

Denver Matheson
 

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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