3 Simple Exercises to Open Up Your Hips
Why You Want to Build Hip Mobility Exercises into Your Life
The scene: you wake up in the morning to log a run before work and then spend the rest of your waking hours in a wobbly desk chair, hunched over in front of a computer. The result: well, hello there, tight hips. While you may experience occasional hip discomfort in your day-to-day life, tight hips are a bigger deal than just not being able to hold pigeon pose for longer than a few seconds in yoga class. Frighteningly enough, the hip may just as well be the most underrated, neglected part of your body. It becomes important to include hip mobility exercises to open up your hips.
Tight Hip Flexors = You're Out of Whack
Think of the prime movers in the body: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors (for starters). All of these major muscles act around the hip. When your hips are tight, shortening your hip flexors, your whole body can become out of whack. Stiff flexors can cause an anterior tilt of the pelvis, which in turn drives your lower back into a constant state of compression. A weak hip joint can also lead to internal rotation of the femur, resulting in slow wearing away of knee cartilage, especially in recreational runners. Read: ouch. Maximum ouch.
“The body will adapt to the environment that you continually put it in,” says Alex Isaly, celebrity trainer and creator of “Spending a lot of time seated shortens the muscles around the hips, and can wreak havoc not only on your back but also on another one of the main stabilizers in the body, your knees.”
Poor Posture = Poor Range of Motion
When your posture suffers, so does your range of motion, or the full movement potential of a joint from flexion to extension. A considerable issue for obstacle racers, who need full movement capability to tackle everything from hurdles to wall climbs. A less-than-ideal range of motion will cause you to compensate with other muscle groups, heightening your risk for injury.
“I see coaches all the time, they’ll cue an athlete and say open up your arms and get your knees up,” says Danny Mackey, coach for the Brooks Beasts Track Club. “If you put an athlete on a massage table and they can’t physically mimic this positioning just laying there before even lacing up their shoes, how do you expect them to do that out in the real world? It’s not possible.”
So, what’s the key to healthy hips and overall posture? Well, it’s two-fold. Yes, it’s important to take care of your hip flexors by doing a series of stretches three to four times weekly, in addition post-exercise, to increase hip mobility. It’s also important to focus on adopting proper mechanics throughout all the stages of daily movement, from sitting and standing to working out.
Plain and simple: if it hurts, pay attention to it. Checking in with a physical therapist may be a bang to your wallet, but they’ll be able to help evaluate key factors impacting overall hip pain, including stride length and regular body positioning. Small things like tucking your pelvis while running can make a world of difference.
Ready to open up your hips and give them the attention they deserve? Here, Isaly gives us three hip mobility exercises to better your range of motion, mechanics and overall performance.
3 Potent Hip Mobility Exercises
1. Spiderman Stretch: Start in a high plank position. Bring your right foot forward, to the outside of your right hand, placing it flat on the ground. Drop your hips toward the floor, stretching through the left flexor. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start. Repeat on opposite side for one rep. Do five reps.
2. Deep Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and either arms by your sides or hands clasped in front of your chest. Sit back in your heels, as if you're going to sit in a chair. Lower your body as far as you can, until your thighs are below parallel to the ground. Alternate shifting your bodyweight from your right to let leg for 10 seconds, then push through your heels to return to start for one rep. Do 10 reps.
3. Side-to-Side Leg Swing: Stand facing a wall or other sturdy surface. Slightly lift your right leg and swing it to the side of the body, extending it to a comfortable height up toward your shoulders. Swing the leg back, crossing the body without dramatically rotating the pelvis, for one rep. Do 10 reps; Repeat on opposite side.
Gravity is all you need. Download the Spartan Bodyweight Program.