A lack of hip mobility is frustrating; you feel unable to move freely and may experience discomfort when you push beyond your limits, which can lead you to feel more pain and become less mobile over time. While a lack of mobility in one hip can lead to muscular imbalances in the body, a lack of mobility in both hips can cause other major muscles and tendons to become stiff.
In other words, doing what you can to improve your hip mobility will greatly improve your quality of life. Today we’ll guide you through 11 exercises you can incorporate into your stretching routine to improve your hip mobility.
11 Best Hip Mobility Exercises
1. Prone Hip Rotation
To do this stretch, lie on your stomach with your knees together bent at a 90-degree angle, so the soles of your feet are up to the sky. Carefully, let your feet fall out to the side as far as you can, pause and hold at the lowest you can go, and return to the starting position.
2. Frog Stretch & Child’s Pose
A frog stretch can be a fairly intense stretch, so warm up properly and consider doing a knees-out Child’s Pose first to loosen the hips. If you’re very tight, you may need to stick with Child’s Pose for a few days until you are ready to try a frog stretch.
To do Child’s Pose, get down onto all fours and put your feet together behind you, pushing your knees out to the side, about as wide as a yoga mat. Then sit back into your hips, stretching your arms out in front of you, until you’re sitting on your calves with your chest to the ground.
Don’t worry if you can’t get your chest to the ground - prop yourself up on your elbows and focus on the stretch in your groin and hips. You may also need to do this if you find your shoulders too tight to allow you to stretch your arms out in front of you.
To advance to frog stretch, start on all fours and carefully work your knees and feet out until you feel a stretch in the groin and hips. Hold the pose as soon as you feel the stretch, keeping your upper body in the air on your elbows (as you would in a plank), hold for 10 - 30 seconds, then move out of the stretch by bringing one knee underneath you, then the other.
3. Glute Stretch
Tight glutes can contribute to tight hips, so we need to keep them supple to ensure we have as much flexibility in the hip as possible. Lie on your back and bring both knees toward your chest. Then put the ankle of one leg onto the upper thigh of the other, so your knee is pointing out to the side. Loop your hands around the back of the supporting leg’s thigh, and carefully pull it back toward you, keeping that knee out. Hold when you feel the stretch in your glute for at least 20 seconds, and then swap sides.
4. Butterfly Stretch
To perform a butterfly stretch, sit down on the floor and pull your knees up to your chest with your feet together. Then drop your knees down toward the ground and feel the stretch. You can increase the stretch by bringing your feet closer to your body, putting a little pressure on your knees with your hands or elbows, or by folding over your feet at the hips.
5. Kneeling Lunge
Start on all fours, and then move into a plank position. Bring one foot up to meet your hand, and allow your back knee to drop onto the floor, with a relaxed foot. Then use your core to raise your upper body and find your balance, using your core muscles and thighs to keep your balance. Then ease forward with the hips, and you’ll feel the stretch. To deepen the stretch, you can come down onto your hands or even onto your elbows. Repeat on both sides.
6. Asian Squat
This stretch is another that can be quite challenging, so ease into it or use a small stool to sit on if you need extra support. With your feet about shoulder width apart, squat down until your butt touches the back of your calves or ankles if you can. It’s okay for your back to round. Hold the stretch for around 20 seconds, and then lean forward onto your hands and step one leg back to get out of the stretch.
7. The Cossack Squat
Have you ever seen the Russian Cossack dancers? They essentially jump from one side lunge to the other. To do this exercise, stand with your feet about half a foot wider than shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself down into a deep squat, allowing one leg to slide out to the side.
Try to keep your leg straight if you can, but don’t worry if your knee needs to bend the first few times you do this stretch. Hold the position for 15 seconds, then swap to the other side. You may find it helpful to use a chair or yoga blocks for balance.
8. Hip Openers
This exercise is sometimes also known as Hip CARs (controlled articular rotations) and is a great exercise to use when warming up for a workout as well as when trying to improve your hip mobility.
Stand next to a wall for support with your feet squarely beneath your hips. Next, brace your core and raise the outside knee toward your chest as high as you can without compromising your balance. Then open your knee up to the outside as far as you can without turning your hips, and then lower your foot back to standing position.
Repeat on both sides and in both directions.
9. Happy Baby
This stretch is another we can borrow from the world of yoga. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your knees to your chest, and grab the outside edge of your feet with your hands, allowing your legs to open. This can feel like quite a vulnerable position, but it’s one you will likely have seen young babies do.
Allow your knees to fall toward your sides, holding the stretch when you feel it in the groin. You may wobble a little here, so try to use your core for balance. Alternatively, rock gently from one side to the other for a gentle back massage.
10. Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis is a muscle deep in the buttock that often gets tight when we sit for long periods. To stretch it out, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Put one foot onto the upper thigh or knee area of the other, as you did in stretch #3, the glute stretch. This time, instead of pushing your knee out, swing your knee across your body until it crosses your midline, hold, and release. Repeat on both sides.
11. Pigeon Stretch
There are a few different ways to get into pigeon pose, but the easiest is by starting on all fours. When you’re ready bring one foot over to meet the opposite hand, and then slide it back and down so you come to sit over it. You’ll feel a stretch in the hips and glutes.
To deepen the stretch, lie down over the front leg or increase the angle of the front leg. The closer your leg is to you, the easier the stretch, while your front leg being parallel to the front of your yoga mat (if using one) will make the stretch more advanced. Lean up onto your hands to step out into a plank, and repeat on the other side.
How often should I be doing these exercises?
It’s best to do just a handful of these stretches every day, if possible. There’s no right or wrong time to do these exercises - just do them whenever you feel the most discomfort.
Feel free to divide these exercises up over 2-3 days if you’re short on time or find some of the stretches too advanced at the moment. Try doing 3-5 of these exercises with 3-5 repetitions on each side with a 10 to 30-second hold for each exercise. Do 3 sets if you have the time.
While this is a guideline, it’s important to listen to your body. If you’re feeling particularly tight or sore, consider opting for the exercises you find more comfortable and hold them for longer. Practice breathing deeply as you hold the stretch.
Also try to include a few of these stretches before your workouts. Hip openers are a great way to loosen and warm up the hips before cardiovascular exercises or a leg day in the gym.
Restore Your Hip Mobility
Your hips are under constant strain, so it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible, especially as we age. While these 10 hip mobility exercises can give you a strong foundation for good hip health and mobility, there are other factors to consider.
In Joint Health 101 we dive deep into all aspects of good hip and joint health, from mobility to strength and even how your nutritional choices can help keep you feeling supple and strong for the rest of your life.