Hip tightness is a common ailment these days, with so many of us sitting at desks, in cars, or on the couch. When we sit, our hip flexors remain in a shortened, or flexed, position, causing stiffness and soreness. The rear muscles — the glutes — also remain immobile.
Our hips are the main point of energy transfer and impact much of the rest of our bodies, including our spine and legs. As such, tight hips can lead to back issues, shoulder pain, and even headaches. Spending even a few minutes each day on these vital joints and muscles will have your whole body saying "thank you!".
This strength move has the added benefit of engaging your core muscles. To begin, stand feet together. Step forward with your left foot and bend the front knee while keeping the back leg straight; step out far enough that you're feeling the stretch through the top of the right thigh. For deeper hip action, place your right hand on a stool, block, or the floor and twist your upper body to the left to face your front knee. Extending your left arm enhances the stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds — remember to breathe — and repeat on the other side.
This simple stretch incorporates both the hips and lower back. Lie on your back with both legs stretched out. Take the right knee and hug it into your chest. Keep the left leg as straight as possible. Avoid arching your back by pulling your belly button to your spine. If your lower back does begin to arch off the ground, try bending the straight leg.
Hold this stretch for between 30 seconds and two minutes, then repeat on the left side.
This gem relieves tension in the lower back and stretches out the muscles of the rear: the glutes. Start by lying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross the left foot over the right quad, just above the knee. This is enough of a stretch for some people, but if you need more, hold the back of your right thigh and gently pull it towards your chest until you feel a stretch. Focus on moving the left knee back away from you, but don't push it with your hand or elbow.
Hold for as long as is comfortable and switch sides.
Similar to the lunge with spinal twist, this one comes with a nice thigh stretch. Begin by kneeling on the floor. Lift your right leg and place the foot flat on the floor in front of you with the knee bent. Step far enough ahead that when you lean forward, your knee doesn't go past your toes. Lean into the right leg, focusing on keeping the hips level so you feel a stretch in the left hip flexor (front of the hip).
Hold for 30 seconds to two minutes and switch sides. You can also make this active by moving in and out of the stretch, slowly and with control.
For a bit of a variation on the previous stretch, combine the left hip stretch with a rotation of your torso right. Place your left hand on a block or the floor in front of you while keeping your chest lifted and your head in line with your spine. (Note that the image shows an advanced version of this stretch. There is no need to bring the elbow outside the front leg.)
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Begin this stretch by kneeling on the floor with the legs together and core engaged. Stretch your body tall and straighten your left leg out to the side, keeping it in line with your hip, so your right knee, left foot, and hips create a triangle. Extend your right arm high in the air and gently arch your body towards the left side. Allow the left arm to trail down the left leg.
Hold for 30 seconds to two minutes. Switch sides.
If you have ever done yoga, downward dog will be familiar to you. This variation takes it a step further.
Begin in a plank position. Pike your rear toward the ceiling so your body is in an inverted V. You may need to walk the hands in toward the feet. The knees can be bent and the heels do not have to be on the ground. This is downward dog and is an effective hip stretch. For the three-legged variation, lift the left leg off the floor and extend it behind you. You will get a different kind of stretch if you keep the hips in line or allow the left hip to stack on top of the right. Either way, try to keep the left shoulder down and the chest parallel to the floor.
Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and switch legs.
Begin this peaceful stretch by lying on your left side. Draw the right knee toward your chest, and rotate until the knee is resting on the ground, with the thigh perpendicular to your torso. You can also rest the knee on a pillow or block. Bend your left knee to bring the foot behind you and grab it with your right hand. You can also use a strap to reach the foot if necessary. Allow your right shoulder to twist carefully toward the ground, away from the right knee. This will stretch both your hips and torso.
Hold for 30 seconds, relax, and repeat on the other side.
Sit on the floor with your knees out to the sides. Lean onto the left hip to bring the right leg around so the foot is behind you. Adjust so both the front and back legs are bent at 90 degrees. Just to check, extend your right arm straight out from your body: it should line up with your right thigh. The left knee should be in line with the left shoulder when your torso is forward. Keep both feet flexed but don't tense the ankles.
Hold yourself upright in this position for 30 to 60 seconds, or begin to lean forward over the front knee if you have the flexibility. Switch sides.
Another yoga-based position, bound angle or butterfly pose is excellent for stretching the hip flexors and even the outer thigh and rear end muscles. Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to fall open with control. You can place pillows or blocks under the knees if this is more comfortable. The arms can stretch overhead, or out to the sides and bend at the elbows, or lie on the stomach.
You can also get a slightly different stretch with an upright bound angle pose, leaning forward over the feet.
Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds, or as long as is comfortable so you really relax into it.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.