Not only will your hips thank you for these but also your entire body
By Migie Felizardo, CSCS,CPT, Pn1 | Graphics by Marian Hukom
We’ve all had mobile joints and flexible hip muscles when we were children. Think of a toddler easily performing a decent squatting form. Now, most people, usually inactive individuals, cannot even squat without feeling tightness around the hips and the lower back.
While there may be a lot of factors affecting muscle flexibility and joint mobility, which include genetics and physical activities while growing up as an adult, restoring flexibility is beneficial to everyone especially those who sit down for long periods.
Our core, which includes the hips, is considered the pillar and power source of many athletic activities. That’s why with tightness around your hips, you’re often less efficient with athletic movements. If you also have a problem with hip mobility, it will often affect lower back stability and cause lower back pain—all of which are not beneficial for both athletes and regular individuals alike. For this article I will share 5 easy stretches you can do regularly which improves general hip mobility.
1. Seated Piriformis Stretch
This stretch not only targets the piriformis (a deep external rotator muscle inside the hip) but also the gluteal and outer hip muscles, which are tight when seated for long periods. Sit on a chair or the end of a bench with your legs crossed and the outside of the ankle on the lower thigh. Push down on the knee until you feel the stretch then hold. Once done, pull the knee and bring in to the chest to add a glute stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Frog Stretch
The frog stretch addresses the hip adductor muscles of the groin. Go down on all fours with knees and hands on the floor (or on a yoga mat). Bring your knees wide as far apart as is comfortable with the feet turned out. Rock back with your hips until you feel the stretch at the inner thighs. Go down on your forearms for a deeper stretch if needed. Place your knees on folded edges of a mat for cushion.
3. Pigeon Stretch
Performing the pigeon stretch will target the glute muscles (the muscles at the back of the hip). Begin by bringing your front knee bent to a 90-degree angle. For the back knee, it can be bent or straight as is comfortable for you. Rotate the back hip toward the front heel to keep the hips square. You should be feeling the stretch in your glutes while keeping the chest up tall, only bearing as much weight as you comfortably can. Go down on your forearms if you want to progress the stretch. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Sumo Squat to Stand Stretch
Squat to stand is usually done as a dynamic warm-up exercise but it can also be done as a static stretch. It benefits the hips by loosening up the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, groin, lower back, and thoracic spine while teaching the body to do a better squat pattern. Stand tall with legs straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend over and grab your toes with the legs straight (if you need to bend the knees bend only as much as necessary), lower yourself into a squat while keeping the chest and shoulder up. Raise your arm and turn to the side while looking at your hand and hold the stretch. Repeat with the other hand.
5. Elbow-to-Foot Lunge Stretch (or the World’s Greatest Stretch)
Also usually done as a warm-up exercise, this mobility drill can be performed as a static stretch for each position held for the specific amount of time. The stretches loosen up the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, groin, and improves thoracic spine rotation. Brace your core and lunge forward with your left leg, lean forward with your hips, and place your right hand on the floor so it’s even with the left foot then hold the stretch. After the first stretch bring the left elbow to the instep of the left foot or as close as you can and hold. For the next stretch rotate your torso up and to the left and reach as high as you can with the left hand. Hold this stretch for the thoracic spine. Lastly, rotate back and place hands on the floor or on the shin and straighten your left leg (only as much as you can to feel the stretch) to end with a hamstring stretch. Repeat on the other side.
The stretches here are to benefit your overall hip mobility. Try to hold the static stretches for 30 seconds to one minute per position. Don’t force yourself at the start if you have tight muscles around the hips. Find the best range for you wherein you feel a slight discomfort but not unusual pain. Avoid stretches that have unusual pain (injury type of pain) or regress the range of motion for the stretch especially if you’ve had injuries around the hips and lower back.