Most of us spend a majority of our day seated at a computer or stuck driving in a car. This puts our hips in constant flexion which can not only lead to tight hip flexors, but also imbalances compensations, pain, and injury. Tight hips can cause hip pain, knee pain, low back pain...A whole host of potential pain and injuries especially if we like to run or cycle.
Tight hips can be such a big problem because they can cause our glutes to become inactive, which means that smaller, weaker muscles, like our hips and low back, will try and take over and perform movements they can’t handle. Not only can this lead to pain and injury but it also means that we aren’t usually able to run as fast or lift as much as we would like.
That is why it is important that we take time to loosen up our hips and work on extension after the constant flexion. Using these 5 stretches you can loosen up your tight hips and then get your glutes activated and working!
Dynamic Half-Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch
One of the best basic stretches to open up your hips and stretch out your quads after sitting in flexion all day is the Dynamic Half-Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch. This stretch focuses on putting your hips through extension movements.
To do the Dynamic Half-Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch, set up half-kneeling on your right knee with your left leg up and foot flat on the ground, facing a wall so that you can place your left hand on the wall to help you balance. Make sure your left foot is a few inches away from the wall so that you can rock forward as you work your back hip through a range of extension.
In this half-kneeling position, reach back and grab your right foot/ankle with your right hand and pull it in toward your butt. You will rock slightly forward on your back knee as you pull your heel in. Facing the wall with your chest up, then squeeze your right glute and press your right hip forward to stretch down your hip and quad. Relax back out and then repeat the stretch. Complete all reps on the right side before switching.
Make sure to keep your chest up as you stretch and don’t round forward. Also make sure that you squeeze your glute as you press your hip forward instead of just rocking or arching your lower back. If you are arching your back to push your hip forward, you won’t actually stretch your hip, but will instead hyperextend your low back. Squeeze your glute to press and extend your hip!
Star Stretch with Quad Stretch
If you are suffering from low back pain, this hip stretch is a great one for you to include. Plus, the Star Stretch with Quad Stretch is a must-do move for anyone with a desk job because it also stretches out and opens up our body after the constant flexion.
To do the Star Stretch with Quad Stretch, starting by lying on your back with your arms out straight from your sides at about shoulder height on the ground. Then lift your left leg up off the ground and bend your left knee to about 90 degrees. Pull your left knee across your body toward the ground on the right side of your body.
Place your right hand on top of your knee to press it toward the ground. Do not let your body rotate over to the right and your left shoulder come up off the ground. Only pull as far across as you can without rotating your back up off the ground.
Then bend your right knee to bring your heel back up toward your butt. Grab your foot with your left hand to pull your foot back further as you drive your knee straight down and extend your hip to stretch your hip and quad.
Relax into the stretch and try to rotate your chest open toward the ceiling, letting both shoulders relax back on the ground.
Hold and breathe, relaxing deeper into the stretch. Then switch sides and bring the other knee across as you stretch your other hip and quad. You’ll even feel your low back chest loosening up as you hold the stretch.
Frog Stretch with Rotation
This is a great stretch to open up your adductors and hips. Part of loosening up your hips is about also putting them through a full range of motion. The Frog Stretch with Rotation will work on the mobility of your hips and your internal rotation.
To do the Frog Stretch, start by kneeling on the ground, walk your knees out as wide as possible, and relax forward by placing your forearms down on the ground. Your lower legs should be in line with your knees and you want to turn your feet out so that the insides of your feet are against the ground and your toes are pointed out to the sides. Do not let your heels come together behind your butt or you will lessen the stretch.
In this position, push your butt back toward your heels as much as possible while keeping your knees wide. You may not be able to sit back that much, but just push back as far as you can to feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs and even around the back of your legs.
Hold for a second then release out of the stretch, coming back forward. As you come back forward, you will move through internal rotation. Move forward past the starting position to lower your hips forward onto the ground. As you relax your hips onto the ground, rotate one of your lower legs up and forward, bringing your foot forward toward your shoulder (you are going to rotate your hip inward).
Then lower your foot back down and lift your hips back off the ground to sit back again and repeat the Frog Stretch. Hold for a second before relaxing back forward and rotating the other hip inward. Keep alternating sides.
As mentioned before, a big part of why tight hips lead to pain and injury is because your glutes also become inactive. That is why it is important that you not only stretch out your hips but also activate your glutes. Moves like the Camel, and the Glute Bridge to follow, not only extend your hips but also activate your glutes.
And the Camel is another must-do move for anyone with a desk job because it also opens up your chest and shoulders.
For more on the Camel Stretch and even a few other great moves to loosen up your hips, check out these Desk Exercises.
Open up your hips and get your glutes activated and working with the Glute Bridge. This is a must-do move for just about EVERYONE!
To do the Glute Bridge, lie on your back and bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and you want them to be just out of reach when you extend your arms down by your sides. You may need to adjust your exact foot positioning based on how tight your hips are, moving them further out from your butt if your hips are really tight. Just make sure your hamstrings don’t take over.
Then bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that only your upper arms are on the ground and you can use your elbows, upper arms and back to help you bridge straight up. If you don’t drive down through your upper body as well as your heels, you will push yourself backward and could end up loading your hamstrings and low back more than your glutes.
Then bridge up, driving through your heels and upper back and arms. Lift your glutes up off the ground and drive your hips up as high as possible, squeezing your glutes hard as you brace your abs. Keep your abs engaged so that you don’t hyperextend your low back.
When you bridge, make sure you are driving straight up and that your knees aren’t caving in. Even think about driving your knees forward over your toes to help extend your hips and prevent you from pushing yourself backward. Concentrate and squeeze your glutes for second or two at the top and then lower all the way back down to the ground. Repeat, bridging back up, focusing on engaging your glutes at the top.
Looking for more information on how to open up your hips and prevent and alleviate hip and low back pain? Click here for more exercises prevent and alleviate hip, low back and even knee pain!
Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.