Tight hips? These hip mobility exercises will help you loosen up.
But first, what exactly is mobility and why is it important?
What is mobility?
Quite simply, mobility can be defined as ‘usable ranges of motion’.
It’s the foundational tenant of athleticism.
To maximize our performance potential, we need to have adequate ranges of motion, strength through our ranges, and maximum control of our individual joints. Only then we can function well, produce smooth coordinated motion and distribute forces evenly throughout the body.
Stiffness, restrictions, and in some cases, pain are signs that mobility may be compromised.
Does Stretching Help With Mobility?
While stretching is a popular modality for trying to remedy poor mobility, results are often short-lived. That’s because stretching alone only ‘temporarily’ allows access to a greater range of motion. This is quickly reversed if it’s not accompanied by some kind of specific strengthening work.
Today, I want to share a handful of hip mobility exercises that combine stretching and strengthening to improve your active range of motion (mobility).
We are going to focus on the hips as they often need a bit of love and self-care.
Whether you’re a runner, triathlete, crossfitter, or general gym-goer, working on your hip mobility is a surefire way to improve performance and safeguard you against injury.
Hip Mobility Exercise 1: Hip CARs
Hip CARs (‘controlled articular rotations’) is an exercise that takes your hip joint through its full range of motion. It’s very effective at expanding the range of motion, improving hip function, and maintaining the overall health and integrity of the joint.
How It’s Done
- Stand with your arm outstretched holding a railing, bar, or some kind of support. The other arm should extend out also.
- Brace abs and tense your muscles to keep your body rigid.
- Press the inside leg down hard (through the heel) and keep the knee locked.
- Raise the knee of the outside leg as high up in front of the chest as you can without compensating.
- Open the knee up out to the side and turn the foot outward, all while ensuring the hips remain square (don’t let them rotate).
- Turn the sole of the foot up to the wall behind you (think – heel to the sky). Only go as far up as you can without the hips compensating, this should be pure hip internal rotation.
- Lower the knee directly underneath your hip, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the back knee.
- Reverse motion. Knee out to the side then up high in front of the chest.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps/side.
Hip Mobility Exercise 2: 90/90 PAILS/RAILS
This mobility exercise combines passive stretching for the hip external rotators with isometric strengthening (PAILS: Progressive angle Isometric loading. RAILS: Regressive angle Isometric loading).
This is a highly effective exercise to get the hips feeling more free, unrestricted, and moving better.
How It’s Done
- Step 1: 2-minute passive stretch.
- Step 2: PAILS: 10-second ramp up tension. 10-second isometric contraction at 70% effort.
- Step 3: RAILS: 10-second ramp up tension. 10-second isometric contraction at 70% effort.
- Step 4: 30-second stretch.
- Step 5: Repeat steps 2 and 3 once more.
Hip Mobility Exercise 3: Hip Flexor Stretch w/ Isometric strengthening
This is a classic hip flexor stretch paired with isometric strengthening. This combination helps to expand the range of motion a lot more effectively than passive stretching alone.
This is going to increase your hip extension capacity so you can fire your glutes effectively – extremely important for runners and anyone who performs lower bodyweight training exercises.
How It’s Done
- Step 1: passive stretch.
- Start in a 1/2 kneeling position. Back knee directly under hips and shoulders. Front knee in line with the heel of the front foot.
- Place hands on the front knee and press down lightly to engage the anterior core.
- Tuck the hips and tailbone underneath you.
- Squeeze the back glute and brace abs to stabilize the spine.
- Lunge forward slightly until you feel the hip flexor stretch (without losing your spine position)
- Hold this stretch for 90 seconds – 2 minutes.
- Step 2: isometric strengthening.
- Press your back foot and shin into the floor while attempting to drive your knee forward (50% effort).
- Hold this for 10-20 seconds.
- Step 3: Relax and hold the passive stretch for 30 seconds.
- Step 4: Repeat step 2 once more, then perform the same steps on the other side.
Hip Mobility Exercise 4: 90/90 Hip Opener
This is a great hip opener. It targets the lateral glutes and external rotators. Strengthening these muscles will reduce tension in the adductors (inside leg), improve hip stability and improve squat technique & depth.
How It’s Done
- Start in the 90/90 base position.
- Press your front knee down so it doesn’t lift up during the movement.
- Post up onto the big toe of your back foot.
- Open up the trail knee and swivel the heel.
- Plant the heel and drive as much distance between both knees as possible.
- Squeeze for a split second before returning to 90/90 base.
- 2-3 sets of 5 reps/side.
Hip Mobility Exercise 5: Bear Sit Passive & Active Stretch
This mobility exercise combines a passive stretch and an active stretch for the hip adductors (inside legs).
This exercise will increase the extensibility of the adductor muscles.
How It’s Done
- Passive stretch:
- Sit on the floor with feet in front of the body.
- Turn your knees and feet out with a straight line from the back of the knees to the heels.
- Grab ankles, prize the knees apart and sit nice and tall.
- Try to flatten your low back.
- You should feel this in the groin.
- Hold for 60 seconds while maintaining slow, diaphragmatic breaths.
- Active stretch:
- Transfer your arms out in front of the body, make fists, drive the shoulder blades down.
- Breath hard and keep your whole body tensed.
- Maintain the position for 10-20 seconds.
- Grab ankles and revert back to the passive stretch.
- Repeat the active stretch once more after 30 seconds of rest.
Why and when to do Hip mobility Exercises?
Mobility work is often neglected or confined to simply warming-up before exercise – but this isn’t enough if you want to see results.
To improve your mobility and the way you move, consider building a routine out of these hip mobility exercises – you don’t even have to include all of them, just choose the ones that work for you.
You could tack them on to a light training day or perform them from the comfort of your home…#SelfcareSunday!
If you’re using a fitness watch like Polar Ignite, you can be even more targeted and check the recommendations the watch offers:
- If you score a low Nightly Recharge score, that’s a perfect opportunity to take it easier with a mobility routine and aid your body to recover faster.
- Based on your fitness level, training history, and Nightly Recharge status, the FitSpark daily training guide will recommend the most suitable exercises for you, including mobility exercises.
No matter how you incorporate mobility training into your program, one thing’s for sure: working on your mobility will allow you to move better, feel better and perform better in no time.
Looking for more inspiration? I upload a mobility flow to my Instagram every weekend at @jackhanrahanfitness.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.