While the hips are often overlooked by fitness-minded individuals looking to tone areas like the abs and glutes, they provide a vital foundation for many of the most common movements we make each day. Consider walking, bending over to pick something up or climbing a set of stairs — all involve adequate hip flexibility and range of motion. Whether you’re heading out for a jog or simply loading your kid into the car seat, poor hip mobility and mechanics can cause unnecessary pain and stiffness, thereby limiting a whole lot of common activities.
Consider low back pain, for instance. Research suggests most people suffer from it at some point in their lives. Interestingly, hip range of motion, or rather the lack thereof, has been linked to low back pain. What’s more, studies have also attributed patellofemoral pain syndrome to hip instability. Also known as “runner’s knee,” this is one of the most common running and walking injuries.
Whether you have a regular exercise routine already or are thinking about jumping into one, you’ll want to consider the health of your hips as you move forward. Try doing these five exercises 2–3 times per week, and you’ll notice a difference not only in workouts but also in everyday life.
1. Spiderman Stretch
This move will help stretch your hip flexors, which are essential to the flexion of the hip joint. Assume a push-up position, supporting your weight on your toes and the palms of your hands. Pick up your right foot and step it forward, planting it on the outside of your right hand. Hold for 3–5 seconds, flexing slightly forward to enhance the stretch. Return your foot to its original position, and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides 3–5 times.
2. Cross-Legged Forward Fold
This stretch gets at the back of the hips and glutes to open up your hips. Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position, with one ankle crossed in front of the other. Sit up straight with good posture, ensuring that your butt bones (or sit bones) are directly beneath your torso. Reach your arms out in front of your body as you lean forward to stretch toward the floor. Fold over as far as is comfortable, hold for 10 seconds and sit back up. Repeat 5 times.
3. Leg Swings
Leg swings help improve hip mobility, as well as train proper movement patterns. Start with forward leg swings to help mobilize your hip joint. Simply stand next to a wall for balance, and swing your right leg forward out in front of your body and then back behind your body. Keep your leg straight as you do this, and avoid swinging past the point of comfort. After repeating with both legs, switch to the sideways variety. Similar to forward leg swings, simply swing the right leg toward the left, sweeping your foot across the front or your body, and then back to the right. Repeat 15 times in each direction on each leg.
4. Walking Hip Stretch
This is another great active stretch. Walking forward, every two steps, alternate pulling either your right or left foot up toward your waist with the bent knee rotated outward. Hold for 1 second, and plant that foot back on the ground as your step forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.
5. Yoga Squat
This move is good for not only for hip mobility but also for loosening up the lower back and hamstrings. With feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly pointing outward, squat your backside down as far as possible. Place your palms on the floor in front of you, and straighten your legs until you’re in a forward fold. Squat back toward the ground, and slowly raise your body upward to the original position. Repeat 10 times.