Whether you’re new to fitness or crushing a workout streak, odds are your hips feel tight, sore, or some combo of the two. The best remedy? Hip stretches and exercises you can do right in the comfort of your home.
“Hips are so complex, so important, and so full of emotion,” says obé instructor Mary W., half joking (but actually on point—there’s a proven connection between them and your emotions!). As one of only two “ball and socket” joints in the body, your hips have a remarkable range of motion, stabilize the core, and provide a source of power—but they’re also in need of extra attention.
When you treat them right, healthy hips prevent injury, support good posture, and help your glutes work more effectively. But it’s not always obvious how to keep working out when they’re acting up. To set you up for success—and a good TLC regimen for improving hip mobility—we rounded up essential hip-friendly tips, stretches and exercises from our obé pros.
1. Get to the Source of the Discomfort
Your hips are (highly) involved in many of your most important daily movements: walking, climbing stairs, picking things off the floor, and sitting, to name a few. “When your hips don’t work correctly, something else will have to compensate,” explains instructor Kat E.
To improve mobility, it’s key to first understand which of these common issues may be a contributor.
- Excessive sitting: Between your 9 to 5, meals, and Netflix-and-chilling on the couch—the majority of your day is probably spent sitting down. If you’re not taking breaks, the muscles will relax and shorten over time, causing tight hip flexors or pain, explains Mary. Science even has a term for this common phenomenon—and it’s called “dead butt syndrome” (yes, really).
- Not enough movement variety: Love to run or dance? Make sure you’re balancing the cardio. Too much repetitive motion (aka doing the same movement patterns again and again) without supplemental strength training will wear down your hip flexors, says Kat. That’s why adding lateral (side-to-side!) exercises to your workouts can be so beneficial.
- Weak muscles: It’s common to confuse weak hips for tight hips—especially when your hip muscles aren’t strong enough to keep up with the exercises you’re doing. If stretching doesn’t alleviate the sensation, it’s a good sign you need to focus on strengthening.
- Poor posture: Imbalances in the way you sit or stand—like having swayback posture (where your pelvis is tilted forward) or always sitting into one hip—make you prone to tightness, strain your body, and are often a sign of weak hip flexors.
2. Essential Tips to Improve Your Hip Mobility
Once you’ve pinpointed where your tension is coming from, you can start incorporating these tips (obé instructor approved!) to safely build strength and mobility. Bonus points: You’ll also be less likely to experience stress or pain in the lower back and knees, says Kat.
- Never skip your stretches: It’s just as important to warm up your muscles as it is to cool down and recover. “Static stretching is vastly underrated, and many people would benefit from implementing it correctly into their training programs,” says Kat. Pro tip: Her 5-minute morning mobility stretch is a daily must-do—whether you plan to work out or not.
- Go for a full range of motion: Prioritize quality—not quantity. When it comes to strength-building moves like squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses, and rows, it’s much more effective to nail a few reps with proper form, rather than just going halfway, emphasizes Kat. These moves can significantly improve your flexibility, especially when adding weights!
- Slow things down: It may seem counterintuitive, but dropping the pace of your exercises can actually deliver better results. “Pauses and eccentric tempos (think: 3 counts down, 1 count up) are one of the best ways to improve your mobility because you’ll be forced to go into the right position and stay there longer,” says Kat.
- Put Pilates on your radar: Try to incorporate at least one Pilates class into your weekly routine (even if you’re new to it!). “The hips are part of your ‘powerhouse’ in Pilates,” explains Mary. “So it’s a great modality for improving hip mobility because a number of exercises help lubricate the synovial membrane that covers your hip joint” Or, in plain English: It will keep you oh-so limber.
- Switch up your position: If you’re a marathon sitter, set a timer for every 30-45 minutes. According to a physical therapist, you’ll start feeling negative effects on your body after only 30 minutes of chair time. Do a 5-minute obé Stretch class, walk to fill up your water bottle, or try a standing desk. ”Joints like to move!” explains Mary.
3. Try These Supportive Hip Stretches and Exercises
Your best bet for healthy hips is to incorporate (and maintain!) a balance of hip stretches and strength-building exercises. If a certain sequence feels painful during class, try modifying with one of the moves below (and when in doubt, do a bridge).
Figure 4 hip stretches: Also called supported pigeon, this type of stretch (and all the variations) is essential for easing strain in the hips, glutes, and lower back. To maximize benefits, Kat recommends holding it for 2 minutes per side. If you’re ready to go deeper, yogi Alex S. always encourages half pigeon—the perfect restorative finisher for any yoga flow.
Happy baby pose: A gentle and easy way to warm up or open through the hips, “this is a joyful pose that anyone at any level can do,” says Alex.
The “World’s Greatest Stretch:” Take it from Mary: “It’s not called this for any ‘ol reason.” Try it after a long day of sitting, or before your workout—it’s guaranteed to loosen the whole body.
Side lying or side kneeling sweep: Straight from the Pilates playbook, this dynamic move is one of Mary’s favorites. “It’s a great stretch for the hamstrings, feels really great in the hips, and there’s some sneaky core work!”
Isometric glute bridges: Strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, this posture-improving move will give your hips some much needed support. Hold for 60 seconds and squeeze (like, a lot). Weights are always an option, too!
One leg circle: Another Pilates essential, this exercise looks easy—but brings on the challenge. It promotes a healthy hip joint while focusing on pelvic stability and is also an insanely good core workout, according to Mary.
Front foot elevated split squats: This is the strength-building move your hips have been missing: Get a block or pad to elevate your front foot on, place the other foot behind you, then bend your legs until your front knee is at a 90 degree angle and your back knee is almost kissing the floor. Repeat on both sides!
4. Add These obé Classes to Your Favorites
Pro tip: You can always filter classes to find stretches focused on just your lower body. Or, save some of our favorite tried-and-true Express classes to care for tight hips:
- 10-Minute Pilates Stretch with Marcia: Perfect for a restorative, chair-assisted stretch you can do at home or at the office!
- 10-Minute Hips + Hamstrings Stretch with Sarah G.: Get at those hips from every angle!
- 6-Minute Lower Body Stretch with Katherine M.: This quick lower body release is a great warm up, cool down, or just-taking-a-break stretch.
- 5-Minute Hip Stretch for Release with Lulu S.: The ultimate yoga stretch for runners!
- 11-Minute Hip Opener Flow with Eve C.: Squeeze in some malasana squats, lizard, pigeon, and happy baby poses into your lunch break.
- 10-Minute Lower Body Foam Rolling with Kat E.: A little foam rolling does a lot of good for tight hips.
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