Hip Mobility Exercise Routine
It’s not uncommon for runners to complain about work getting in the way of a good workout. After all, who among us hasn’t had to cut an amazingly good morning run a little short in order to grab a shower and still clock in on time?
But if your job has you sitting at a desk or in a car for long periods of time throughout the day—or even if you just find yourself spending much of your downtime plopped on the couch—that position could be hindering your running form by shortening the muscles in your hip flexors.
It’s not just hours in a chair that can cause tightness in the hip area—the very movements we love, like running, can create stiffness, especially after a particularly hard workout. Plus, let’s be real: It’s not only running that gets our competitive juices flowing. Maybe you can honestly say that you’ve never pushed yourself a little too hard in a spin class or a boot camp (or, you know, Zumba) and ended up hobbling around the next day, but I sure can’t make that claim and neither can most of the runners I know. We like to push ourselves. And sometimes, when we try to get out of bed the next morning, it shows.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do—other than not always trying to “win” at Zumba—to keep your hips a little happier. Getting up, moving around and changing position throughout the day can certainly help, and doing a proper warm-up before you begin your run might be enough to open your stride. But if you still notice your hips feeling tight (like when you go from sitting for a period of time to standing, or if your lower back begins to feel tight and achy), we’ve got a hip opener sequence you’ll want to try from mobility specialist and licensed massage therapist Thomas Kipp.
As the CEO of The Athlete’s Den in Gainesville, Fla., he works with runners of all abilities, and tightness in the hips is a common complaint. “I wanted to create an effective and efficient way of addressing the tension that accumulates from being a runner/athlete,” he says. The five-minute progression below, which requires no equipment beyond a bit of floor space, is the finished product.
To improve your hip mobility (and your running), try to complete the full routine three to five times a week as part of your recovery, as it’ll help you loosen up after a run and can also be a good addition to a recovery workout, Kipp says.
However, as helpful as it can be for many runners, he doesn’t suggest that every person with hip discomfort immediately give it a try. “I wouldn’t recommend the sequence if someone believes they have an acute injury to their hip or lumbar spine,” says Kipp, suggesting they talk to their doctor before beginning this routine.
If your hips are ready for a few minutes of movement, clear a bit of space on the floor and follow along with the video above. Once you’re familiar with the movements, you can use the descriptions below as a cheat sheet.
- Begin in a seated position with knees bent and feet on the ground, leaning back on your hands and rocking your knees from side to side, introducing movement to your hips and eventually bringing your outside knee to the ground and your inside knee to the other foot’s instep.
- Once that movement becomes easy, squeeze your glute of the leg that’s in the instep and hinge forward over the opposite thigh with a flat back, continuing to move smoothly from side to side in a windshield wiper motion. Make sure your hinging movement is coming from your hips, not your spine.
- Phase three involves stability, so instead of just hinging forward over the outside leg, emphasize the glute squeeze and bring yourself up onto your knees, keeping your inside knee in the instep of your outside leg. Move slowly and with complete control.
- Transition from here to a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch by rotating to the side—let’s say to your left side, for simplicity’s sake—coming up on both knees as you did in the previous movement, then stepping forward with the right foot to get into a half-kneeling position. Keep the toes of your back leg (so, if you’re moving to your left, your left leg is the back leg) pressed into the ground, squeeze the back leg, and press forward to get a deeper stretch. The squeezed glute will help to relax your hip flexors.
- The last piece Kipp calls “the world’s greatest stretch.” From your half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, continue to press the toes of your back foot into the ground and lift your back knee, straightening your back leg. Place your hands on the ground on the inside of your bent front leg, and use your glute muscles to press your front thigh out to the side. Even as your front knee pushes out to the side, keep your entire front foot, including your big toe, on the ground.