These satisfying hip-opening exercises will have you feeling your most flexible when you’re done. They are great stretches for tight or slightly painful hips.
It is not uncommon to feel a certain stiffness around your hips, especially if you tend to spend a lot of time sitting down. While the hips are intended to be incredibly mobile, spending too much time in one position can make them feel tight.
Hip opening exercises are part of the solution. Read on to learn how to do them and why you should.
Why is hip mobility important?
The hips are a highly mobile joint which makes it possible for you to rotate from left to right, move forward, backward and from side to side.
Like the shoulder joint, the hips allow movement on all three planes of motion: the Sagittal Plane (forward and backward movements), the Frontal Plane (side-to-side movements), and the Transverse Plane (upward and downward movement).
Mobile hips will help you access your full range of motion, which is incredibly important when lifting weights for example. They will also allow for greater tension, which is essential during explosive exercises such as box jumps.
Healthy hips also play an important role in exercises that require power, such as kettlebell swings or deadlifts, and explosivity, such as sprinting.
Benefits of hip stretches
Mobile hips come with many benefits, both athletically and during day-to-day life.
- Flexible hips allow athletes to perform exercises with more power.
- Mobile hips can improve your efficiency in many sporting activities, from obvious ones such as squatting and deadlifting to more obscure ones such as diving or hurdles.
- Healthy hips allow for a more powerful hip extension, which is required in many activities.
- Prevent injuries in the knees and lower back. If you spend a lot of time sitting, your glutes are likely to be weaken and your hip flexors to tighten. As a result, you might begin to overcompensate with your knees and lower back to gain strength and power in other positions.
Best Hip Opening Exercises
The following exercise combined should take your hips through all their ranges of motion and get them flowing like honey.
You can either perform them before a workout as a warm-up, after your training session to simply relax, or during the day to add some mobility to your sedentary hours.
- Pigeon Pose
- Cossack Squat
- Open And Close the Gate
- Standing Figure 4 Stretch
- Cow Face
- Kneeling Side Bend
The lunge is a classic hip opening exercise and is regarded as one of the best.
- Begin in a push-up or plank position, with your arms and legs extended, wrists right below the shoulders.
- Step your right foot forward, placing it just outside your right wrist.
- Stretch your hips forward, making sure your back leg remains straight.
- For a deeper stretch bring your elbows to the floor, placing them in line with your ankle.
- Hold the pose for around 10 seconds and return to the initial position, then swap sides.
This exercise to open your hips is common in yoga practice. It might feel a little uncomfortable as a beginner, but you should feel your mobility improving as you include it in your training routine.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
- Bring your right knee to your right wrist and place your right ankle between your left wrist and your left hip. Advanced athletes will be able to keep their shin parallel to their wrists, but it’s perfectly okay if your mobility isn’t there yet.
- Straighten the left leg behind you, bringing both your knee and top of your foot to the floor.
- Make sure your hips and shoulders remain square. Generally, try to bring your left hip forward, and lower yourself to the ground.
- You should feel a deep stretch on your hips, hamstrings and even lower back.
- Stay in this position for around 10 seconds, then return to the initial position and repeat with the opposite leg.
You’ll require superb hip strength and mobility to perform this hip opening exercise, so it’s a great target to aim for if you’re struggling with it now.
“Most leg movements work in a forward/backward plane, but you can become more well rounded as an athlete when you move in all directions,” says Functional Bodybuilding founder Marcus Filly.
It is important to include the Cossack Squat in your routine because you don’t only want to stretch your hips, but also strengthen them.
- Stand up with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Toes should be pointing forward, or slightly outwards, but not too much.
- Shift your weight onto one foot and start squatting until your hip is below the knee.
- One leg should bend, while the other remains straight.
- Chest should be kept upright and the hips down at all times.
- Push your body back to the initial position with the strength of your bent leg.
A good Cossack Squat workout for beginners would be 3 sets of 10-20 reps (5 to 10 on each leg).
Open and Close the Gate
This dynamic hip opening exercise will take your hips through their full range of motion when performed correctly. It’s an excellent exercise for improving mobility and range of motion in your hips.
- Start standing tall, with your feet about hip width apart and your shoulders relaxed.
- Transfer your weight onto the left leg and lift your right knee as high as possible in front of you.
- Open your hips as far as possible by bring the knee towards your right, keeping your body facing forward.
- Bring you leg back down and repeat the exercise with the other side.
- After you’ve done around 10 repetition on each leg reverse the exercise, starting with your knee high to your side and bringing it in front of you, as if you were closing a gate.
Standing Figure 4 Stretch
This exercise does not only open your hips but also activates and stretches their opposing muscles, the glutes.
- Start by standing tall with your feet on the same line and your crown tall, shoulders relaxed.
- Lift your right leg and cross your right ankle over your left knee, pushing your right knee outwards. The pose should recreate a figure of 4 with your legs.
- Bend your right ankle and slowly bend your left knee as you push your hips downward and back, just as you would during a squat.
- Bring your hands to your hips or have them meet in front of your chest.
- Stop when you feel a good stretch in the right glute and relax. Hold the stretch for around 15 seconds.
- For a deeper stretch, bend your back and bring your hands to the floor.
- Slowly stand up and bring your right leg back to the ground in a controlled manner. Return to the initial position and repeat with the other leg.
This pose stretches your outer hip muscles as well as your glute muscles.
- Start on a sitting position with your legs in front of you.
- Bend your right leg and bring the right knee to the ground in front of you, your right ankle close to your hips.
- Then bend your left knee and gently place it over your right knee. Keep your ankles bent.
- Make sure both glutes are on the ground and sit up tall.
- You’ll feel a deep stretch here, but if you’d like to intensify this stretch then bend forward keeping your lower back straight.
- Hold for around 15 seconds and then return to the initial position. Swap sides.
Kneeling Side Bend
This hip opening exercise stretches your inner hips and is a great way to relax.
- Kneel on the floor with your back straight and core tight.
- Bringing your glutes up, extend your right leg to the side, keeping it in one line with your hips.
- Ensuring your right leg is straight, extend your left hand overhead and bend your torso towards the right.
- You can place your right hand over your right leg for support.
- Keep your hips facing forward and think about extending your left side, rather than contracting your right.
- Hold this pose for 20 seconds, then return to the initial position and swap sides.
Should I do hip opening exercises?
You might need to perform hip opening exercises if you:
- Feel sharp pains around your hips or pelvis
- Have cramping or sore muscles along the upper leg
- Experience pain along your glutes, lower back or core
- Feel your strength at the top of your legs has decreased
- Suffer of discomfort when moving your hips
Hip opening exercises might not be the only solution; sometimes, you might also need to strengthen your hip flexors and core and leg muscles alongside. Always consult a trained and qualified professional if you experience constant and serious pain and discomfort.
Hip Opening Exercises Conclusion
While hip opening exercises are a great way to relieve hip tightness and pain – and can sometimes even have a positive effect on lower back pain – it is important that you don’t stop at that.
Instead, you should include movement throughout your day, and take your hips though their full range of motion during your daily activities.
Prevention is better than having to treat tight hips.
- oral contraceptives in sport: RODNAE Productions on Pexels
- lizzard pose glute stretch: Patrick Malleret on Unsplash
- standing figure four glute stretch: Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash
- restorative yoga: Logan Weaver on Unsplash