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Your hips are ball and socket joints, both designed to have a full 360-degree range of motion (ROM). Without this ROM, mobility will be impaired.
This can lead to a loss of performance in the gym, an increase in hip and back discomfort or pain, and a loss of autonomy as you become unable to manage everyday tasks though lack of mobility.
Hip Mobility: The Effects
If your hips aren’t able to perform to a ROM, you will suffer with some mobility issues. This can be bad in itself as it can impair your ability to move. However, more often than not it’s the knock-on effects of hip mobility that both show up as symptoms earlier and cause the most antagonism over time.
Without full ROM in your hips, your body will have to make some compensatory manoeuvres as you walk, run or others move. The stress caused by these compensatory manoeuvres will build up over time, as repetitions become ingrained habit and years pass by. This stress can have some quite destructive effects, including chronic back pain.
Tight hip flexor muscles and poor hip ROM can impact several other areas of your body, so you might have:
- Tightness or an ache in your lower back.
- Poor posture and difficulty standing up straight.
- Tightness and pain in the neck.
- Tightness and pain in the glutes.
- Sore knees.
Fortunately, there is quite a lot you can do to create and maintain a healthy ROM through your hips. Below, we have included a list of hip mobility exercises that you perform on a regular basis to help you achieve this.
Managing Hip Mobility
Flexibility through the ball and socket joints of your hips is key. It will allow you to maintain healthy functioning through your lower body, will avoid any of the symptoms of stiff hips, and will allow you to perform better in the gym.
These three simple stretch and mobility exercises will be all you need. Perform them every few days.
1. Pigeon pose, or the 90/90 stretch
Anyone familiar with yoga will likely know pigeon pose. We’re looking at a slight variation of the classic form, here, though if you prefer the original, by all means use it. This version is called the 90/90 stretch and it works full internal and external rotation through both hips. To perform it:
- Either warm up slightly first with a brisk walk, perform the 90/90 at the end of a workout (especially a lower body workout) or begin gently cold and ease into it.
- Take a seat on an exercise or yoga mat. Keep your back neutral and your shoulder blades pulling together.
- Place one leg directly in front of you with the outer thigh and outer part of the shin resting on the floor and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. Your front thigh should be perpendicular to your body. Extend your other leg out to your side with the inner thigh of your back leg resting on the floor, and also bend the knee at a 90-degree angle.
- If this is enough, and you feel your hips stretching, simply hold here. If you feel you can go further, bring your chest down towards your front knee, maintaining a straight back throughout. Remember to breath, exhaling as you lower.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds then repeat on the other side.
- For pigeon pose, leave the rear leg straight, behind you, facing the back of the mat and in line with the mat’s edge. The front foot can come in towards your pelvis, reducing the angle of the front knee.
2. TRX squat stretch
Squatting deeply is one of the best things you can do to maintain long term hip health and mobility. However, if you have pre-existing hip mobility issues, freestanding squats may be hard, especially to depth. Use a counter balance to help you as you explore a fuller range of motion. We’re using TRX bands, but a racked barbell at hip height, a set of gymnastics rings or even the edge of a table can work just as well.
To perform the TRX squat stretch:
- Hold onto a set of TRX bands set at around shoulder height.
- From here, drop down into as deep a squat as you can manage. Push your knees outwards, actively, and keep your chin up, facing forwards.
- Keep your heels on the ground. If you can’t manage this, put a couple of plates beneath them. You will likely need to work on ankle mobility as well as hip mobility.
- Either hold here, breathing steadily, for 30 seconds, or hold for a second then come up again. Descend back into it, and up, for sets of 10-20.
You can use the TRX squat stretch either more generally, or as a warm up on a squatting/lower body day at the gym.
3. The Cossack squat
Cossack squats are great for opening up the hips, improving mobility and ROM, for stretching the groin, and for strengthening the legs, especially the inner thighs. To perform them:
- Take a wide stance, several inches outside of hip width distance on either side.
- Squat into as deep a squat as possible on one side, bending one leg with your centre of gravity closer to that side, whilst keeping the other leg straight for balance.
- Keep your heel down, or place a plate under it to help, and keep your knees tracking over the toes and pushing outwards.
- Come out of the squat and repeat on the other side or perform all on one side before switching to the other.
- Complete 10 sets per leg, holding for a breath at the bottom of each rep.
Use Cossack stretches as a strength building exercise in their own right, as part of your mobility drill, or as a warmup before heavier squats or leg work.