Hip tightness can be difficult to identify as most of us spend so much of our time with our hips and legs squarely under our shoulders. We sit, walk, and often workout without testing our hips’ range of motion noticeably. It’s either not until we push ourselves, have an injury, or notice a symptom of tight hips that we realize what we’re dealing with.
While injury and wear and tear can create a lack of hip mobility, it can result from a sedentary lifestyle or develop in athletes who don’t have a targeted stretching routine. So, how do you know if you have normal hip mobility? We’ll show you how with a simple hip mobility test you can do in just a few minutes.
What is normal hip mobility?
Normal hip mobility means you should have range of motion in six directions to certain degrees away from the body. Normal hip mobility looks like:
(0 degrees is at your feet, 180 degrees is at your head)
- 45 degrees abduction: this means you can lift your leg out to the side from the hip to 45 degrees
- 20 degrees extension: this means your hip can rotate 20 degrees behind you
- 125 degrees flexion: this means your hip can rotate so your knee is up by your chest, at 125 degrees
- 45 degrees external rotation: this means your hip can rotate out to the side 45 degrees
- 45 degrees internal rotation: this means that your hip can rotate past your center line at 45 degrees (like when you cross one leg over the other)
Note that your knee does not need to be straight to achieve these degrees - our hamstrings are often tight and can restrict movement that can occur with the knee bent.
How do I do a hip mobility test?
Sit on the floor with your left leg out in front of you, with the knee bent 90 degrees, aiming to have your leg as flat on the floor as you naturally can.
Put your right leg in the same position out to the side so your foot is facing behind you, again with the knee on the ground.
When you’re ready, rotate your knees up and over so you’re sat in the same position with your knees facing the opposite direction.
The goal is to be able to do this without using your hands or allowing your heels to come off the ground. If you cannot do it without self-assistance or if you feel restriction through the movement, you should aim to improve your hip mobility.
How to Improve Your Hip Mobility
The hip is a joint that is impacted by a huge number of major muscles and tendons, so a lack of mobility can and often does come from multiple problem areas. Focus on stretches and strengthening exercises that target your hip flexors, glutes, groin muscles, lower back, quads, and hamstrings.
Some of the best stretches include:
- Low lunge - Start on all fours then get into plank position. Next, bring one foot up to meet your hand. Allow the back knee to drop to the floor, and hold the stretch. Repeat on both sides. A folded towel under the back knee is a good idea if you’re doing this stretch on a hard surface or have knee issues.
- Child’s pose - Start on all fours and bring your feet together behind you, allowing your knees to move out to the side. Sit down over your feet and allow your chest to come down to meet the floor, with your arms straight out in front of you. Increase the stretch by sitting down more fully on your feet or by moving your knees out further to the side. If this is easy, try a frog stretch.
- Butterfly stretch - Sit on the floor and put your feet together in front of you, as close to your body as you can comfortably get them. Allow your knees to drop down to the side, and hold when you feel resistance.
Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then release, before repeating. Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions. Do these stretches at both ends of the day (and/or after exercise) to see the best results.
We dive in-depth into all the best stretches and strengthening exercises for your hips and other major joints in Joint Health 101, so if you’re looking to improve your overall joint health at home and start feeling more flexible with less pain, it’s the complete joint guide you need. To learn more or to get your copy, click here. If you want to check your mobility for another major joint, read our guide on how to do a shoulder mobility test next.