Don’t let tight and stiff hips keep you from performing at your maximum level.
Our hips are incredibly important for our overall movement and way of stabilizing and supporting our bodies. Strengthening and stretching the hip muscles can only build more stability and decrease our risk of injury. There are many reasons why we have tight hips, mainly due to sitting at a desk all day or overuse for people who compete in sport or exercise regularly. Even those without hip concerns can benefit from good hip mobility exercises to keep the hips in peak condition.
Mobility is the usable range of motion for that part of the body and is the foundation of support and athleticism. Without full control of our joints and how they move, we will not fully optimize what it takes to succeed at a high level.
To push past boundaries, set personal records, and see big gains, we need to have all parts of our bodies mobile and ready to take on any challenge. As a main point of connection between upper and lower body movements, tight hips will prove to be an incredible disservice to any kind of performance.
When it comes to hip strengthening, in efforts to improve mobility, you should focus on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. The gluteus maximus is the main extensor muscle of the hip and aids in stability (1), while the gluteus medius connects the thigh bone and pelvis to assist in movement.
Be careful not to over work the IT band which is located in front of the hip joint and focus on strengthening the back and sides of the hips. Starting slow is key, especially if you already have tight hips, and eventually you feel great about the progress made with this.
Why Hip Mobility Matters?
Hip mobility matters because it aids in the proper function of the hip joint. Around 15 muscles and 3 major ligaments are involved with the hip joint and that is a lot of working parts to mesh together as one unit. All work together to move and stabilize the hips and while the hip joint is meant to be very stable and slightly less mobile than other joints, it is still important for your hips to work for your benefit without being tight and stiff while also ensuring stability and injury prevention (2).
For performance, hip mobility is huge for extension which helps us run and provides us with great power. Hip flexion allows us to execute big lifts properly and effectively and hip abduction and adduction allow for quick movements to outperform competitors. All of these are stunted with poor mobility and that can be enhanced with hip strengthening (3).
Stretching is great for temporary relief of tight hips but to really improve overall mobility, it requires specific strengthening exercises combined with stretching. Foam rolling and massage therapy can be great for accessing some level of better range of motion (4) and combine that with certain exercises, you will be well on your way to have those mobile yet stable hips.
Bodyweight Warm-Up Exercises
These will really target your hips, quads, and hamstrings while working on that range of motion. Keeping good posture is key with these to avoid adding extra pain.
How to: With your arms extended in front of you, kick one leg up and extend it out as you swing the leg up to your hands. Lower to the floor and repeat with the other leg. Feel free to change pace and direction as you get comfortable with this exercise.
Hip circles will work your balance and help improve flexibility and stability as they force you to stay still while providing extra movement. It is great for both legs and improving balance while having to rely on each leg individually to support your full body.
How to: With one leg lifted, move it in circles, both frontwards and backwards, for your desired number of reps. Change legs and repeat the process with that side.
Walking Lunge With Twist
This works to really isolate your quads and hamstrings with the lunge, while working your balance and stability with the twist as you also engage your core.
How to: Execute a lunge motion and once in the lowered position, twist your upper body to the side of the knee that is bent. Slowly bring your body back around and repeat the same process with the other leg.
Weighted Workout Exercises
Wide Stance Squat Below Parallel
By going below parallel, you really work to better target the abductor group to enhance mobility. It is helpful with this to angle your toes slightly outward in the squat position.
How to: With your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your toes angled slightly outward, get down into a squat position by pressing your hips back and lower the glutes to the ground. Drop past 90-degrees to get below parallel and pause for a moment. Slowly return to the starting position.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
A challenging exercise, these are great for core strength, as well as balance and hip mobility. It will also provide for a great lower body workout.
How to: Standing on one foot, hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand. With a flat back and engaged core, hinge at the waist and lift your other leg off the ground as you lower the weight to the ground. Return to the starting position and continue for your desired number of reps.
Another great lower body exercise, it will target all areas of your legs, hit your core, and require good balance to aid in stabilization. You can increase intensity by also increasing the weight.
How to: Hold a weight in front of your chest and stand to one side of the box. Step up onto the box keeping a neutral spine and engaged core and gently step down. Repeat for both sides and for your desired number of reps.
Hip mobility matters not only for athletic performance but for your overall quality life. Don’t let unwanted pain stop you from doing things you love. While the hips joints can be stable and are meant to keep you balanced and supported, having a great range of motion is what matters and can really help improve all aspects of your life. Try these warm-up and weighted exercises to really strengthen your hips and get that mobility to where it needs to be to perform and feel great about doing so.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Williams, Michael J.; Gibson, Neil V.; Sorbie, Graeme G.; Ugbolue, Ukadike C.; Brouner, James; Easton, Chris (2018). “Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting”. (source)
- Holcomb, William R.; Miller, Michael G.; Rubley, Mack D. (2012). “Importance of Comprehensive Hip Strengthening”. (source)
- Kendall, Karen D.; Emery, Carolyn A.; Wiley, J. P.; Ferber, Reed (2015). “The effect of the addition of hip strengthening exercises to a lumbopelvic exercise programme for the treatment of non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled trial”. (source)
- Cole, Gibwa (2018). “The Evidence Behind Foam Rolling: A Review”. (source)