Most people have tight hips and need to improve their hip mobility. Aging and our sedentary lifestyle are the two contributing factors.
Why is hip mobility important?
Hip joint being right next to the pelvic girdle has many muscles all around it. Due to our sedentary lifestyle, incorrect posture, or any other ailment, the biomechanics of the area are disturbed, resulting in tightness or weakness of a muscle. The pelvis becomes imbalanced.
Due to such imbalance, limited hip mobility leads to problems with our knees and back. The hips, knees and low back all work together to perform any given task, whether it’s running, lifting weights, balancing or simply standing up from a chair. If you’ve ever tried to work together with several people on a project or to move a piece of furniture, and one person does not do their share, you might begin to understand how your knees or low back might have to accept more stress and strain to make up for the lack of mobility, or muscle activation in the hips. So over time, our tight and weak hips contribute to developing pain in our knees or lower back.
Taking an example as simple as walking, when you put a step forward, there is rotation of trunk, flexion and external rotation of the hip. In case of restricted hip mobility, the movement at trunk and knee will have to be increased to compensate. If this goes on for an extended time period, the spine and knee joints will eventually be overworked, and will possibly start hurting. Moreover, tight muscles can lead to nerve entrapment or impinge a blood vessel, leading to more pain and suffering.
Hence, it is important to pay attention to our movement imbalances and bad posture, correct them, and to maintain proper hip strength as well as mobility.
Related: For hip strengthening exercises, check our classes in the Wysefit App and this blog post: 4 Reasons to Strengthen and Activate your Glutes with Top Exercises
There are two distinct types of stretching exercises: Dynamic and Static.
Dynamic Hip Mobility Stretching – Warm-up
Dynamic stretching targets more than one muscles at a time, requires active movement through the range, and needs to be held for merely a few seconds. As the movement is repeated several times, the muscle contracts and relaxes through full range. This kind of movement improves flexibility, strength, and blood flow as well as circulation of synovial fluid in the joint. The body is better prepared to perform any exercise with adequate blood circulation and joint lubrication. Therefore, dynamic stretching is the ideal warm-up routine.
Dynamic mobility movements are typically repeated 10-12 times. A good example of a dynamic hip mobility movement that is great as a warm-up before exercising is a bodyweight squat. Below are some more suggestions.
Dynamic Hip Mobility Exercises:
- Windshield Wiper:
Start with both hands placed on the floor behind you, and both feet placed flat in front of you with knees flexed. Start swaying both knees towards the floor on one side as shown in the picture. Only go as far as you are comfortable. Hold for a few seconds and move towards the starting position and to the other side. As you practice this, you may find you can go farther into the range of motion. Repeat 10 times on each side.
- Fire Hydrant:
This exercise will help strengthen your hips as well as increase hip mobility. It’s one of the best, as it allows to isolate and activate the glute muscles. Start with getting to the floor in quadruped position, like imitating a four-legged animal. Abduct your hip to 45° and bring back to starting position. This movement works the Gluteus maximus, the largest muscle of pelvis. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
Static Stretching for Hip Mobility: Cool-down
Static stretching means that the origin and insertion point of a muscle are moved as far apart from each other as painlessly possible, so the muscle is fully lengthened. And the position is held for a considerable time ranging from 20-40 seconds. It induces relaxation in the muscles through lengthening and is not recommend before exercise, rather as a cool down regime post-exercise.
Static Hip Stretches
For all stretches, increasing the intensity isn’t necessarily better. Move into the stretch until you feel a gentle to moderate stretch. If you feel pinching, pain, or discomfort, back out of the stretch until you only feel a stretching sensation.
- Single knee to chest
A simple hip and low back muscle stretch performed in supine lying. Keep one leg on the floor and flexed the other one all the way up and press it to your chest with the help of both hands. Repeat on the other side. Perform 3 repetitions with 30 seconds hold on each side.
- Kneeling lunge stretch
Step forward and slowly move downwards to attain the position shown in the picture. A sustained stretch to hip flexors (iliopsoas) relieves tightness from prolonged sitting. Repeat thrice with 30 seconds hold on each side. In case you have difficulty alternating between the sides, you can perform 3 reps on one side before switching to the other leg and take a break between sets.
- Figure four (Seated Piriformis) stretch
Piriformis muscle is often very tight, which causes a lot of problems. Piriformis syndrome results from tightening or spasm of this muscle situated in the buttocks. It can cause pain in the buttocks and pressure on the sciatic nerve leading to sciatic pain down the leg. This stretch is a great one for keeping back pain and sciatica pain at bay.
Repeat the stretch as shown in image, 3 times on each leg, and hold each time for 30 seconds to maintain normal flexibility.
- Butterfly stretch
The hip adductors present around the groin area are prone to tightness especially in people with a habit of cross-legged sitting. Attain the position shown below. In case of extreme tightness, it will be difficult to maintain, so hold it for 30 seconds at a time, repeat 3 times. If the position is easily attainable, you can push both knees downwards by placing the palms on them for added stretch.
- “The best stretch”
This one is called “the best stretch” for a reason. The position targets multiple muscle groups at a time. Hip flexors on one side and Glutei on the other. Repeat three times on each side with 30 seconds hold. You can either alternate between legs or perform the repetitions on either side first, take a 30-second break and repeat on the other side.
So not skip your warm-up and cool-down when you exercise. These hip mobility exercises should be included in your workout routines, especially over 50 years old when muscle tightness becomes more of an issue. They will help prevent knee and hip pain, as well as lower back issues. Do dynamic mobility stretches before exercise, and static stretches after exercising.