Do you have a job, a car, and a couch? Congratulations! Your hips are probably as tight as Mick Jagger’s pants.
But you’re in good company because it’s the same for pretty much everyone these days. Our daily lives just don’t demand much range of motion.
That’s a big reason for a lot of the frustrating physical problems people have. Restricted hip mobility causes issues like lower back pain, knee problems… and it gets in the way of squats and other stuff you want to do!
Your hips are the workhorses of your body, so it’s no wonder tightness can be troublesome.
But the opposite is also true. The healthier and less restricted your hips become, the more potential your body has for strength, power, and athleticism.
That’s why I made the stretching sequence I’ll show you below. It’ll help loosen your hips, which means less pain and better performance in virtually everything you do.
(In a rush? You can get these exercises in a handy cheatsheet by entering your email below):
This routine has helped thousands of people overcome tight hips, including Chris A. from Washington, who said:
“The hip mobility routine has been very helpful and I am starting to regain some flexibility. I have had hip pain for over 5 years. I am 55 years old. My chiropractor has helped some, but the hip mobility routine has been the best. My wife and I just came back from a short hike and there is very little pain.”
Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Start Moving Better with This Hip Exercise Routine
It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how important your hips are in moving your body–just try walking without moving your hips! And for athletic movements like squatting, jumping, and running, your hips are your primary source of power and stability.
But a lot of people don’t realize just how much consistent exercise your hips need to stay mobile, strong, and healthy. Even small restrictions can lead to frustrating issues.
That’s why hip mobility and strength work is baked into every session of our intro program. Because if you want to get stronger and move better, you gotta start with the hips.
The following series of 8 hip stretches will help loosen the major muscles that are tight on most people.
I originally designed this sequence a few years ago as a warm-up for myself before working on more strenuous lower body exercise and stretching, but I soon realized it’s a great mobility practice on its own and can help people to improve restrictions efficiently.
In this video, Ryan will demonstrate each of the 8 hip stretches / mobility exercises involved in this sequence. Below, I’ll describe each exercise in detail.
Here’s a quick list of the hip exercises included in this mobility sequence (details on these exercises can be found in the next section):
- Lying Hip Rotations
- Piriformis Stretch
- Butterfly Stretch
- Frog Stretch
- Kneeling Lunge
- Traveling Butterfly
- Squatting Internal Rotations
- Pigeon Stretch
The key to practicing the sequence for the maximum benefit is to use a steady and gentle intensity and progression.
One of the important things to know about stretching in general is that most of the gains you achieve are from simply training the muscles to better tolerate the stretched positions. It’s just as much about practicing as any other skill. You learn to relax and your muscles ease off from that natural tendency to hold tight.
The stretch reflex which tightens muscles is protective.
With practice you are working on convincing your body that nothing bad is going to happen in these new stretched out positions. That’s why slow and easy and controlled is better.
- Move in and out of the stretch several times.
- Hold the stretched position for 10-30 seconds.
- Shake it out and do it again.
With more practice comes a better understanding of how to perform these mobility exercises.
Do it enough times over the weeks, months, and years, and you won’t have to do it as much to get the same results. Practice, practice, practice.
Exercises to Loosen Tight Hips
Below, I’ll describe each of the exercises in this hip mobility sequence, and give you some pointers on what to look out for.
- Lie on back with both knees bent.
- Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
- Move in and out of the stretch by rotating the hip in and out.
- For the hold, use your hand for assistance to press into the knee.
This exercise starts the sequence as an easy first movement to warmup and build toward the rest of the series.
Be aware of any tightness or soreness on the outside of your knees in this one. If you experience any of this, move the rotating leg so it’s resting higher up on the shin.
- Cross one leg fully over the opposite leg, so your knee is crossed over your thigh.
- Pull the crossed knee toward your opposite shoulder, stretching the piriformis muscle.
In the same position as the first exercise, cross the leg further, then shift your hips fully to the other side, pulling your knee up to the opposite shoulder.
Remember to go gently into and out of the stretch, and use a little pressure from your hands to resist against the muscles you want to stretch. In this case it’s the piriformis and other hip rotators.
- Sit up with feet together, moving the knees down toward the ground.
- Use your hand to press into the ground and move your groin closer to your heels.
This classic stretch is very useful for the groin muscles, and for improving hip rotation to the side. Pay close attention to your back and keep it straight and upright as you move through the stretch.
Work on one side at a time as Ryan demonstrates in the video, and then do both knees at once as you feel comfortable and warmed up.
- Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable.
- Rock back and forth in that position.
- Keep the balls of your feet on the ground, with toes pointed outward.
At this point in the sequence, we are ready for a bit more intensive stretching for the hips, adding some more weight bearing into the exercise.
Again, take it slow and easy and don’t force a range of motion you may not be ready to achieve.
The action here as you move in and out of a stretch is squeezing the knees together as you rock backward and relaxing as you rock forward. After a few repetitions you can sit back and relax into the stretch for upwards of a minute.
- Get into a lunge position, with knee and foot about hip width apart from the elevated leg.
- Keep the chest tall and the hips square.
- To make the stretch harder, you can pull the back knee up off the ground.
This exercise is somewhat deceptive in terms of how it can affect your hips.
You may need some trial and error to find the best front foot positioning, which happens when your shin is upright when you lean forward, rather than being angled down or back.
Keep your hips square and your upper body tall, and you’ll be in the right position. Don’t be afraid to adjust the back leg positioning to get the most out of the stretch to release your hip flexors.
- Sit on your butt with feet straight in front of you (longsitting).
- Use your hands to push the hips forward toward your heels, so you wind up in the butterfly position.
- Move between the long sitting and butterfly positions.
This movement goes from longsitting (on your butt with your legs straight out in front), to the butterfly stretch position.
It’s meant to be a dynamic motion, and you won’t hold any position here for more than a few seconds. This is a great way to improve circulation and get the hips moving after the stretching you did in the last 5 moves.
- Start in a deep squat position (as deep as you can go).
- Rotate one knee inward, down toward the ground.
- This stretch can be done sitting on a small stool if you cannot get into a comfortable squat position.
This is another dynamic movement like the traveling butterfly, which I’ve put toward the end to encourage blood flow and circulation after all the previous stretches.
Don’t hold the end position very long at all.
Just keep moving and give yourself some time to work through the movement.
- Start with your front knee bent to a 90-degree angle. The back knee can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you.
- Rotate the back hip toward the front heel, and then toward the back foot.
- Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as you can comfortably.
In the video, Ryan demonstrates the modified stretch in the beginning, with both knees bent and rhythmically rotating to move in and out of the stretch of the front bent leg.
As you warm up you’ll then work on straightening the back leg behind you. Take your time and gradually work on putting more weight through the bent front leg.
How To Customize This Hip Exercise Routine to Your Schedule and Your Body
The hip region includes several large, overlapping muscle groups, and tightness in any one of them can cause problems, but the preceding stretches are a great way to take your hip muscles through their full range of motion, ensuring they stay as healthy and functional as possible.
But not all stretching is created equal. If you want to maximize your results for the time you spend on your mobility and flexibility, then technique really does matter.
That’s why we combined the best of classic stretching methods with techniques adopted from clinical physical therapy research to create our own “special sauce” stretching protocol. It’s the most efficient stretching methodology we’ve found for real progress in your mobility and flexibility in as little time as possible.
Use the techniques we showed you in this article, and download the exercises in a handy cheatsheet so you can practice them often: