10 Exercises to Improve Your Hip Mobility

10 Exercises to Improve Your Hip Mobility

10 Exercises to Improve Your Hip Mobility

Have you ever asked someone what the “tightest” region of their body is? We ask this every day and we commonly hear the same response: “My hips.”

The hips seem to always be the most common “tight” area of the body. And these same individuals always seem to blame their hip flexors and hamstrings as the culprit or their tight hips. Most of the time, however, we debunk that their hip flexors and hamstrings are the true cause of their hip tightness. But that is not to say that they do not still have tight hips.

When your hips are “tight” (for whatever reason), your body must compensate to gain mobility from another region of the body. Our bodies are great compensators. Unfortunately, these compensations can lead to musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction, such as low back pain.

As you can imagine, hip mobility is largely important for overall health and wellbeing. It is especially important for safe training in the weight room and maintaining our joint health and integrity over our lifespans.

Hip mobility and hip tightness can be improved in several ways. Unfortunately, the most common way that hip tightness is tackled is through pure static stretching. While static stretching may improve your hip stiffness, realize it is just one of many options. And in our book, it is not your best option.

So what is the best way to improve your hip mobility/tightness/stiffness? Through active and dynamic strategies. Through exercises that open up your hips, build strength in your new ranges of motion, and create a lasting neurological change. You should not be after “quick fixes” or gimmicks that temporarily improve your hip mobility, only to be back at square one 2 hours later.

When the hips are intelligently assessed and a thorough mobility training program is created to address the true hip mobility limitations, mobility will not only be gained, but it will be maintained. Here are 10 of our favorite hip mobility exercises to open up your hips, eliminate stiffness, and rid your tightness for good (in no particular order).

1. 90/90 Hip Internal Rotation Stretch

This exercise is amazing for improving your hip internal rotation; it targets the deep hip musculature and the hip capsule, both of which limit hip internal rotation. You should feel this stretch on the outside lateral part of your hip.

PRO TIP: If you have any sort of pinching/pain in your anterior hip/groin region, change up your positioning in the exercise. This pinching is a closing angle joint pain and should be avoided at all costs. Do not compromise your joint health/integrity.

PROGRAMMING: 2-3 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

2. 90/90 Hip External Rotation Stretch

This exercise is great at improving your hip external rotation and hip flexion simultaneously. If you tend to feel a large stretch or a lot of tightness in your gluteal region, this this is the exercise for you.

PRO TIP: Do not round through your spine during this exercise. Think about reaching your chest up and forwards while simultaneously pushing your front hip backwards.

PROGRAMMING: 2-3 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

3. Adductor Rockback Mobilization

Adductor (groin) mobility is often neglected. Yet, it is a very common muscle group that is tight and lacks extensibility. Adequate adductor mobility is essential for every training methodology, especially for sprinting, playing hockey, and performing various lifts. Performing this exercise will improve your adductor mobility as well as improve your overall lumbopelvic motor control.

PRO TIP: Make sure your low back stays neutral throughout this mobilization. This ensures proper mobilization of the tissues and control of the lumbar spine. If you feel any pinching on the outer part of your hip, change up your position. You should only feel this stretch/mobilization on your inner thigh.

PROGRAMMING: 15-20 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

4. Frog Stretch

The frog stretch is another great adductor mobility exercise to target the adductor muscle group while simultaneously improving hip flexion. This exercise tends to be an intense one for the majority of people. You should not feel any pinching on pain on the anterior part of either hips, only a stretch deep in the inner thigh/adductors.

PRO TIP: Make sure your low back stays neutral throughout the exercise. Start by relaxing and deep breathing into the stretch for 1-2 minutes before performing the isometric contractions. If you feel any pinching/pain in your hip joints, change up your positioning. If you cannot eliminate the pain by changing up your positioning, then try this same technique/process in the bottom position of the adductor rockback mobilization.

PROGRAMMING: 2-3 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

5. Couch Stretch

The couch stretch is an absolutely amazing mobility drill to improve hip extension by stretching the quadriceps and hip flexors. Depending on your experience level and overall mobility, your starting position for this exercise may vary (and that is totally fine).

PRO TIP: Do your best to posteriorly rotate your pelvis to elongate your quadriceps and hip flexors. You should not be over-extending/over-arching your lumbar spine. If this stretch is too intense, try a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch with the same technique/process as explained here.

PROGRAMMING: 2-3 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

6. Supine Psoas March

The hip flexors again are one of the most commonly blamed muscle groups for tight hips. But all too often we find that the hip flexors are not actually “tight,” but rather they are “weak.” When muscles are weak, we often perceive them as tight and as such, think they need stretched. If you have been stretching your hip flexors with no luck for months or years and they still feel tight, then this exercise may be for you.

PRO TIP: Throughout this exercise your core should be pressurized and braced; your lumbar spine should not be moving throughout the movement. All movement should be occurring through the hips moving into flexion and extension.

PROGRAMMING: 10-12 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

7. World’s Greatest Stretch

This exercise does not just isolate the hips, but rather incorporates the hips, thoracic spine, and the shoulders. Regardless, it is an amazing exercise to incorporate into your warm-ups to improve your hip mobility while also getting some thoracic spine and shoulder mobility work in as well.

PRO TIP: Lunge out far enough with your front leg so that you feel a stretch in your trail leg’s hip flexors and quads. For the hamstring stretch, try to straighten your leg as much as possible, but do not injure yourself.

PROGRAMMING: 5-10 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

8. Hamstring Doorway Stretch

This one may seem like a common hamstring stretch as the set-up is very common. The execution is where the magic happens. The hamstring doorway stretch we love is an active mobility drill. Remember, we want to create long-lasting changes in our mobility. This requires building strength in our newly acquired ranges of motion. Enter the upgraded hamstring doorway stretch:

PRO TIP: Your back should stay relatively “flat” to the ground through the exercise. Do not try and put your leg straight up the wall and sacrifice your lower back positioning. Keep your leg straight throughout the exercise as well. Put in the work and you will gradually improve you hamstring mobility over time.

PROGRAMMING: 2-3 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

9. Hip Airplanes

Many times “tight” hips are actually just our brain thinking that we need to stretch, when in reality we need more isolated control of our movement. We see this time and time again: people think they need to stretch, but have normal ranges of motion; what they lack is hip motor control and stability. Enter hip airplanes.

PRO TIP: Your spine should stay neutral throughout this exercise. If you need to hold onto an object to provide you with more stability, then use it and slowly progress away from relying on it. Stick Mobility sticks (or PVC pipes) are also an amazing tool to utilize to perform this exercise.

PROGRAMMING: 10-15 repetitions per side, 3-4 days/week

10. Hip Joint Circles

Again, “tight” hips may not actually be tight at all. Maybe you just need to work on end-range strength and control of all of your hip joint ranges of motion. Regardless of whether you need to work on improving your hip ranges of motion or not, these are great movements to utilize to maintain and expand your ranges of motion.

PRO TIP: Do your absolute best to eliminate movement in your spine, particularly your lumbar spine. You can place a tennis ball on your lower back to provide yourself with tactile feedback. If the ball falls off or moves a lot, you are using your lower back too much instead of your hip joint. With practice your motor control will improve and the movement of the ball on your back will decrease.

PROGRAMMING: 10-15 repetitions per side, 5-6 days/week

And there you have it! Ten of our favorite exercises to improve your hip mobility, stiffness, and tightness.

Remember, none of these exercises should cause any pain or pinching in your hips. If performing these exercises diligently as instructed and programmed above does not yield results over the next couple of months, we recommend seeking out a qualified healthcare professional who understands human movement and strength and conditioning.

5 Best Squat Mobility Drills

5 Best Squat Mobility Drills

5 BEST Squat Mobility Drills

We hear it all the time: “I’m not mobile enough to squat to parallel.” A lot of these same people then stop squatting altogether to focus on mobility work.

But guess what? With proper coaching and tweaking of your squat stance, many of these people are able to squat without the need for any mobility drills or exercises. And if solid coaching and tweaking of your squat stance does not change anything, then you still do not need to totally stop squatting altogether! If, however, you have pinching or pain when squatting and you cannot find a pain-free squat stance or a regression/lateralization of the squat exercise, then maybe you should stop squatting. For now.

So for those who have pain or pinching in the hip, what should they do?

This is where mobility work should be implemented. Not just any mobility work, but mobility work specific to the individual. This is why we always recommend getting your movement and joints assessed by a qualified healthcare practitioner…. So you are not just guessing what your mobility limitation is.

The 3 biggest things that we commonly see restricting squat depth and may contribute to pain/pinching while squatting are:

  1. Hip internal & external rotation mobility
    2. Ankle dorsiflexion mobility
    3. Adductor mobility

The five drills below help improve the mobility of the above three restrictions and can help improve your squat depth and may even fix your pain/pinching while squatting.

5 BEST Squat Mobility Drills:

1. 90-90 Hip Internal Rotation Stretch

Lack of hip internal rotation can limit squat depth and can definitely be correlated with hip pinching in the front/anterior part of your hip. If you have been working on hip internal rotation mobility without much luck, check out this video for solid tips or how to truly improve your hip internal rotation mobility for good.

PRO TIP: If you feel any sort of pinching in the anterior/inner hip area, then you need to change of your torso/hip/leg positioning. You should only feel a deep stretch in the musculature/hip capsule on the outer portion of your hip. The game-changer with this stretch is that it is an active mobility drill.

2. 90-90 Hip External Rotation Stretch

Lack of hip external rotation can also limit squat depth. If you tend to feel a large tightness/stretch sensation in your posterior hip/gluteal region at the bottom position of your squat, then this may be the exercise for you.

PRO TIP: Make sure you are not rounding through your spine when performing this stretch. Your spine should stay long. Think about reaching your chest upwards and forwards, while pushing your front hip backwards at the same time. Again, the game-changer with this stretch is that it is an active mobility drill.

3. Ankle Dorsiflexion Banded Mobilization with Isometric Contractions

If you do not have adequate ankle mobility, then this can definitely contribute to squat depth issues. And you best believe it is a common cause of anterior hip pinching at the bottom of the squat.

While there are plenty of ankle mobility exercises out there, this one combines them all together. You definitely do not have to do all parts of this exercise, but if you at least want to work on your ankle mobility via stretching your gastroc/soleus/achilles tendon, then perform just the active version of the calf stretch. Again, the game-changer is that this mobility drill is active.

PRO TIP: Keep your heel on the ground at all times during this stretch. Also, make sure your knee tracks over your second toe; do not let your knee cave inwards.

4. Adductor Rock Back Mobilization

Tight adductors are another common cause of squat depth issues and can also contribute to hip pain while squatting. If you have a lack of adductor extensibility/mobility, then your knees may be collapsing into excessive valgus and your lower back may even be dumping into flexion (the dreaded “butt wink”).

PRO TIP: Make sure your lower back stays flat/neutral throughout this mobilization. This position/exercise works on mobilizing the adductor muscles, but also improves lumbopelvic motor control.

5. Goblet Squat Prying

If you want to get better at squatting and improving the bottom position of your squat, then guess what? You need to spend time down there! The kettlebell (or dumbbell) goblet squat is a fantastic way to do this as it provides you with a counterbalance to keep your chest upright. Hold your squat at the bottom position only as long as you are able to maintain solid form. From here, you can add in adductor prying and hip internal and external rotation movements to loosen up the hips.

PRO TIP: Only squat down to your current pain-free depth in which you are able to maintain the natural lordotic/neutral curvature of your lumbar spine.

And there you have it! Our 5 BEST squat mobility drills to improve your squat depth and eliminate pinching in your anterior hip.

If you are still having issues with your squat depth or hip pain/pinching, you should optimize your squat stance. Remember, everyone has different hip anatomy and therefore, everyone should squat slightly different. And if changing up your squat stance does not seem to help, your best bet is to find a qualified healthcare practitioner who understands movement and strength training to help you and provide you with a thorough orthopedic/movement assessment.

Best Hip Flexor Stretch

Best Hip Flexor Stretch

Overview

Hip flexor tightness is very common in today’s society. We sit too much and we never seem to explore our full hip flexion or full hip extension range of motion.

This is an amazing exercise to work on combating your hip flexor tightness and work on improving your hip extension range of motion.

The Exercise

Achieve the half-kneeling lunge position. From here, find a stretch in your hip flexors on the straight hip without extending or arching through your lower back. You can do this by rotating your pelvis backwards (posteriorly tilting it) and squeezing your glutes. Hang out in this position for about 2 minutes passively and enjoy the stretch.

After 2 minutes, isometrically contract your hip flexors by thinking about dragging your knee forwards on the ground as hard as you can for 20 seconds. After this, slowly relax and try to rotate your pelvis backwards even more for 20 seconds. Repeat this cycle 1-2 more times.

Hip Adductor PAILS RAILS

Hip Adductor PAILS RAILS

OVERVIEW

The hip adductors are very often overlooked when it comes to mobility training, especially for squatting. Tight hip adductors may actually cause the dreaded “butt wink” or lower back rounding at the bottom of the squat. Try this exercise and retest your squat to see if you make any improvement!

The frog adductor mobility exercise is one of our favorite adductor stretches. You can target both leg’s adductors at the same time, what’s better than that?

THE EXERCISE

Get into the frog position. Find a hip and foot width that is comfortable for your hips. Find the amount of depth in hip flexion that is comfortable for your hips. Don’t push into any pinching in the hip joint. That’s not a “stretch,” and that’s not the sensation we’re looking for. You should only feel muscular tightness/stretching in the inner thigh/adductor area. If you feel pinching in the hips, re-adjust your hip/foot width and/or depth.

Once you find a comfortable position, make sure your lower back maintains its natural curvature throughout the exercise. From here, hang out for 2 minutes passively. After the 2 minutes, squeeze your thighs together into the ground as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Relax into more of a stretch then contract your hip ABductors muscles (muscles on the outside of your hips) to pull yourself deeper into the stretch and closer to the ground. Repeat for 1-2 cycles.

We can’t reiterate enough how important it is to not push into pain/pinching with this exercise. It’ll likely do more harm than benefit.

Hip Abduction Lift-Offs

Hip Abduction Lift-Offs

Overview

Training hip abduction is often overlooked. Shoot, too many people neglect the frontal plane altogether. Here’s a great exercise to work on strengthening your hip abductors near their end ranges of motion.

This exercise will not only strengthen your hip abductors, but will also help stabilize your pelvis, lower back, and hip joint. You’d be surprised at how many hip and lower back problems go away with a simple hip abduction exercise like this.

Are we saying this is the exercise you need? No. But if this exercise is hard for you and your muscles cramp immediately, it can’t hurt to strengthen those muscles! If the exercise is painful, stop.

The Exercise

achieve the rock-back position with one leg straight out to the side. Try internally rotating the straight leg’s hip as much as possible. From this position, find a good position for your hands to be placed to really challenge yourself to lift the straight leg off of the ground ~1-2 inches. Try maintaining your natural lower back curvature throughout, and hold each repetition maximally for ~3 seconds.

Enjoy the cramping!

As always, if you have pain, get a thorough assessment by a medical professional!

Terminal Hip Extension

Terminal Hip Extension

OVERVIEW

Hip extension is kind of an important range of motion to have… Especially if you walk. Or run. And we’re pretty sure the majority of you do both!

It’s one of the most common ranges of motion we find that people have, but can’t control.

What do we mean by that?! Most people have normal passive range of motion in hip extension (if we move their hip into extension for them), but can’t actively extend their hip on their own. And that’s no good!

If you can’t extend your hip using your glutes, guess what? Your lower back and SI joints are probably going to compensate for your glutes. And if your lower back and SI joints start moving too much and compensating during simple things like walking and running, imagine what may be happening during exercise. And people wonder why they have low back pain…

THE EXERCISE

Give the assessment (and exercise) a try! Get into the lumbar-locked hip extension position (similar to the pigeon pose, but sitting on top of your foot). Collapse your butt onto your heel and your chest onto your thigh. The opposite leg is straight behind you. Finally, collapse your forehead and forearms to the ground and try to lift that back leg (the straight leg) off of the ground.

Unable to do it? Give one of the regressed exercises a shot!

Think it’s easy? Try it before you talk…

Dr. Ryan just had a patient on Saturday who runs ~60 miles/week and couldn’t even start to move her leg off of the ground… And guess what? She had lower back and SI joint pain. Are we saying this is the cause of YOUR pain? No. But if this is hard, it can’t hurt to improve it.

As always, if you’re in pain, get assessed by a qualified medical practitioner.

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