Do you have a job, a car, and a couch? Congratulations! Your hips are probably as tight as Mick Jagger’s pants.
You’re in good company because it’s the same for pretty much everyone these days. 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 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. This routine has helped thousands of people over the years, like Chris:
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, and 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.
And now we’ve made this routine even better by adding modifications if you’re finding the original routine too challenging, plus programming recommendations and more. Let’s get those hips of yours moving and feeling the way you want them to!
Why Hip Mobility Matters
When I began my career as a physical therapist, 20 plus years ago, I treated a steady stream of patients suffering from a wide range of issues from low back aches to knee pain, to being unable to sit down and tie their shoes. Quite a lot of them had one thing in common—they weren’t able to move their hips well.
Improving their hip mobility led to decreasing the strain on their low backs and knees, making their walking, stair climbing, and running gait more efficient, and creating more ease in their daily activities such as getting in/out of car, on/off the floor, and even being able to tolerate long drives in their cars.
Since you’re here, I don’t have to guess that you’re bothered by your tight hips for one reason or another. Tight hips have probably gotten in the way of your daily activities or exercise goals countless times.
And that’s really why hip mobility is so important—because when it’s missing, your options become a lot more limited.
The hips are connected to every part of the body, and when they’re not moving well, there’s a chain reaction of restriction. You can’t squat easily, your hamstrings start to feel tight, maybe you compensate with certain movements when you walk which causes your back to start tightening up—and so on and so forth.
Our goal at GMB is to help you feel free in your body—free to do the things that are important to you, and free from pain and restrictions.
And that’s just not possible (at least not fully) if tight hips are getting in your way.
So, the hip mobility routine below is not “just some stretches,” but rather, it’s a sequence of exercises designed to help you overcome the most common restrictions so that you can start moving the way you want and need to. It’s an important part of the path to physical freedom (or physical autonomy, as we like to call it). I hope it helps you!
The Routine: 8 Hip Exercises to Practice Every Day for Looser Hips
I first put this routine together over a decade ago, to use as a quick warm-up before my heavy lower body training sessions. Then, I started using it with my physical therapy patients, and when I saw how broadly beneficial it was, we made it available on the GMB blog.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have used this routine, which can be done daily, to overcome tight hips and start moving with greater ease.
Watch the video of Ryan demonstrating these exercises. If they seem too advanced for you, just scroll down to the next section where we’ve added a modified hip mobility routine.
These exercises are simple, but very effective, and can be modified up or down depending on your current abilities and limitations. If you find the exercises as Ryan demonstrates them to be too advanced, the video in the next section shows you modified versions of most of these hip stretches.
Further down in the article, I’ll give you detailed explanations of each of these exercises. Go ahead and skip to that section if you don’t need the modified routine.
Got Tight Hip Flexors? Try This Modified Routine
Since we spend so much time sitting, tight hip flexors are extremely common these days, and that can make a few of these exercises uncomfortable for many people.
In fact, any time we share a mobility routine, we get a bunch of comments from people who feel that they are “too tight” to even do the routine. And while we’ve always said to make as many adjustments as needed, or skip exercises that felt out of reach, we wanted to show some variations of these exercises for anyone who’s particularly tight and feeling intimidated by the exercises above.
So, in this video, you’ll see how almost all of these stretches can be done sitting in a chair, with your feet elevated on either a low stool (easier) or another chair (a bit more challenging). Feel free to use any chairs, bench, or stool you have around your house.
As you can see, even if you have very tight hips, there are ways you can work on these hip mobility exercises.
Thinking that you can’t work on mobility unless you’re already mobile is like waiting until you’re in shape to start working out—that’s just not how progress works! Everyone starts somewhere, and if you want to improve your hip mobility and function, just start wherever you can, work consistently, and you’ll start to see the needle moving in the right direction.
Hip Mobility Exercise Descriptions
Since you may not want to watch the routine videos every time you come back to this page to remind yourself about the exercises, let’s do a little recap of the exercises, along with their modifications.
1. Lying Hip Rotations
This exercise starts the sequence as an easy first movement to warm-up and build toward the rest of the series.
- 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.
Modified Version: Sitting on chair or bench, elevate your legs on to a stool or chair (the higher the surface, the more challenging it will be), and externally rotate one leg at a time. Then, play around with crossing one ankle over the other leg and externally rotating from that position. You can have the bottom leg bent fully, or straightened a bit more.
2. Piriformis Stretch
This stretch targets the piriformis (hence the name!), which is a small muscle located deep in the buttock. This muscle tends to get pretty tight from sitting all day.
- 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.
Modified Version: Sit on a chair with your leg bent (as much or as little as needed for your comfort) on a stool or chair, then cross your other leg over the bent leg. Rotate your chest toward your knee, pulling your body toward your crossed knee. If it is too difficult to do this with one leg crossed over the other, you can just elevate one leg onto a stool or chair and do the same motion.
3. Butterfly Stretch
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.
- 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.
Modified Version: Sitting on a chair, lift your legs on to an elevated surface. Put your feet together, with your knees splayed outward. The key, as you move in and out of the stretch, is to keep your chest up and lean forward as you draw your knees downward.
4. Frog Stretch
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.
- 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.
Modified Version: Similar to the butterfly stretch, you’ll start sitting in a chair with your feet up on a chair with your knees splayed outward. This time, though, your feet won’t be touching, and you’ll focus on leaning backward so that you can open your groins as much as possible.
5. Kneeling Lunge
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.
- 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.
Modified Version: Sit with just one leg supported by a chair, with your other leg bent behind you. Keep the knee lifted off the ground if you can, and try to square up your hips as much as you can. Emphasize opening your rear hip flexor by squeezing your rear glute.
6. Traveling Butterfly
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.
- 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.
Modified Version: You’ll notice there is no modified version of this exercise included in the video above. That’s because it’s a little difficult to do this one on chairs or an elevated surface without making the exercise more difficult! This is a good example of when it’s okay to just skip an exercise if it’s too challenging for you.
7. Squatting Internal Rotations
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 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.
Modified Version: For this modified exercise, you’ll use a chair (or any sturdy object that’s the right height for you) to support you as you lower into a squat. Then go through the internal rotations while holding on for support. This way you can adjust your depth and range of motion as much as you need to.
8. Pigeon Stretch
The pigeon stretch is another classic stretch that can help you work on, not just your hip mobility, but also your hamstring and spine flexibility.
- 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.
- If you feel comfortable with the knee bent, you can work on straightening out the back leg into the full pigeon pose.
Modified Version: Sitting on a chair, lift one leg up on to another chair with the knee bent in front of you, allowing your rear leg to fall comfortably to the side. Use as many supports as you need to to make the front leg as comfortable as possible. Lift your chest and hinge from the hips to lean forward toward your front leg.
Practice Recommendations: How to Use this Hip Mobility Routine
Whatever level you’re practicing at (whether you’re doing the regular or modified routine), you’re probably wondering how to get the most from this routine. There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some helpful guidelines.
How many reps/sets should you do?
You don’t need to be doing tons of reps and sets of these exercises—you’re much better off doing fewer reps if it means you can practice more often.
Here’s what I recommend when you’re starting out:
- 5-10 contractions per side
- a 10-30 second hold
- repeat for each exercise
That should take a maximum of about 10 minutes.
If you have more time or you’re feeling particularly tight one day, feel free to do more reps, but don’t spend more than 20 minutes on this routine unless you are spending a dedicated session on stretching.
How often should you practice?
Every day, if you can! This routine is gentle enough that you don’t have to worry about overdoing it (especially if you’re staying in a low rep range). And the modified version of the routine gives you good options for practicing in any chair, even if you’re at work or doing other things.
General principles for training frequency:
- short, frequent sessions are best
- make use of the chair variations at work
When should you practice?
This routine makes for a good warm-up or cool down for your other training, but it can really be practiced at any time. Some people enjoy doing this routine when they first wake up to shake off the cobwebs, or just before going to sleep to get a nice stretch in. Really, you can do this routine whenever it works best for you.
The best times to work on hip mobility:
- in the morning to get your day started
- as part of your regular training – doesn’t matter if it’s before or after, just fit it in wherever it feels best or you
Free Your Hips for Freedom of Motion
Tight hips aren’t just inconvenient—they can hold you back from doing the things that are important to you, or trying new things you’d like to.
Spending a few minutes every day (or as often as you can) on improving your hip mobility can have a huge impact on helping you feel freer in your body, and more capable of doing whatever you want and need to.