Hips. Butts. Booties. Dat azz. Let’s face it, glutes have become a HUGE focus in pop culture! These days, it’s all about the butt. The bigger the better apparently, which is SO weird to me having come of age in the 90s’ when skinny was in and a big butt was definitely NOT what you wanted. But, currently, an ample caboose is considered “in” and everyone is doing everything they can to bolster their backsides (boys included).
Of course, if you’re an athlete, you know there are advantages to having a strong, larger rear-end and it has nothing to do with being physically attractive. Having glutes that are strong is pivotal in sports that require strength and speed. And you know what else is crucial to athletic success and avoiding pain and dysfunction? Making sure those big booty muscles stay supple and functional.
I see a TON of Instagram videos and pictures with explanations of how to build a stronger/bigger butt but almost none about making sure your glutes aren’t tight and dysfunctional. If you are squatting, cleaning, glute bridging, bootie-banding regularly and you aren’t doing hip mobility work in a balanced manner, it’s only a matter of time before you’re sidelined with an injury related to poor hip and glute mobility.
Now, the list of hip mobility exercises poses, and stretches I could describe are seemingly endless. So, instead of writing a novel (that you wouldn’t read) explaining every hip and glute loosening movement on Earth, I’m going to describe my personal favorites stretches to improve your hip mobility that are
Effective in a relatively short amount of time
Are user-friendly and can be tweaked accordingly to your flexibility or lack thereof, and
Can be done while vegging out watching Netflix, talking to your friends after your WOD, or while scrolling on Instagram, because I get that not all of us love stretching and yoga.
With all of the following stretches, I recommend that you do these AFTER the dynamic stuff goes down. If you just finished a WOD or workout, great! That’s a perfect time to stretch and get some mobility gains. If you are just getting in stretching session, first, good for you and then second, please spend 5-10 minutes on getting the muscles warm by doing some light jogging, walking, body weight movements like air squats, lunges, or whatever you like to do to get some blood moving through your extremities. We want to be sure your muscles, tendons, ligaments are ready to move through range! And always, always take your hip mobility and stretching gradually. Ligaments and tendons will adjust and lengthen SLOWLY. You can force them to loosen up, it’s just going to take time. Think of your mobility progress as a long-term investment. Plan to be comparing this year to next year, not this week to next.
For each of the stretches, work on holding this position for increasing length of time as is comfortable and suitable for your current level of flexibility. Remember, you can’t force this!
5 Stretches That Will Improve Your Hip Mobility
1. Pigeon Pose/Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
This is literally my all-time favorite hip stretch. It can be scaled to accommodate almost everyone’s needs, it helps with low back pain, and it can honestly be very relaxing once you have gotten those hips loose enough to really sink into this position. And yes, technically, this is one-legged pigeon pose or aka Eka Pada Rajakapotasana for all the yoga peeps in the house (heeeeey!). This pose helps with external rotation of the femur and specifically stretches the psoas, piriformis, TFL (tensor fascia latae) and gluteus maximus.
How to get into Pigeon Pose (yoga style):
We’ll start stretching the right side first.
- Start in downward facing dog
- lift the right leg high and then bring the right knee into your chest
- Place the right ankle directly behind the left wrist, the right knee will fall out to the right side of your body
- Extend the left leg straight out behind you. Make sure your hips are as square as possible. You want to avoid letting one hip sit in front or behind the other.
- Also, avoid leaning and rolling onto one hip. The tendency is to roll on the bent leg side which makes the stretch far more comfortable but also makes it much less effective. If you find that your hips don’t meet the ground on both sides and you are having to hold yourself in position with your arms, use pillows, blankets, blocks, or whatever you have available to support your hips so that you can sit in this position without pain.
- You should feel a stretching sensation in the left hip flexor, psoas, and right outer hip/glute.
- If you reach forward and allow your chest to fall toward the ground, you may feel a more intense stretch in the right hip.
Switch and repeat on the left hip.
MODIFICATIONS: Lying Pigeon
- If you find the normal version of pigeon too intense or maybe you just want to try something different, try Reclined Pigeon.
- Lay supine (face up) on the ground with both knees bent.
- Cross your right ankle over your left thigh just above the knee.
- Reach your right hand between your thighs, left hand around the outside of your left leg, and clasp your left shin or hamstring with both hands.
- While keeping low back in contact with the ground, pull the shin or back of thigh in toward your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of the right hip/glute.
2. Lizard/Yutthan Pristhasana
This stretch may feel kind of basic but it’s a good one to improve hip mobility! It helps to loosen the hip flexor, groin, hamstrings, and hips. It’s a really good one to start with before moving on to deeper hip stretches.
How to get into Lizard:
- Start in down dog position.
- Step the right foot forward to the outside of the right hand.
- Lower the left knee so that it rests on the ground. Be sure to keep the hips squared and left leg extending straight back behind you.
- For a more intense stretch you can lower your torso so that your elbows and forearms rest of the ground. You can also get a more intense stretch in the groin and adductors by rolling onto the outside edge of the right foot and pressing the right knee out to the side.
- Hold for as long as is comfortable and then repeat on the other side.
Use blocks, pillows or blankets to put under your back knee or to rest your arms/forearms on. Remember, you can’t force flexibility.
3. Bound Angle/Baddha Konasana
Bound Angle feels SO good on your lower back, and is fantastic to improve your hip mobility. It stretches the adductors and the muscles in the groin. Every time I have a few minutes before or after a workout or before yoga class starts or even when I’m at home messing around with my little boy on the floor, this is an easy and almost instant “ahhhh” for my low-back. I hope you like it too!
How to get into Bound Angle
This one is pretty straightforward.
- Sit on the floor with legs out in front of you.
- Slide both knees in to your chest, soles of the feet on the floor.
- Then let your knees fall out to the side and bring the soles of the feet together.
- If this feels easy, you can increase the intensity of the stretch by clasping your feet and gently pulling your chest toward your feet or simply folding forward at the waist.
- You can use pillows or bolster to allow yourself to relax into the pose.
MODIFICATIONS: Bound Angle
If your knees do not touch the ground (Don’t feel bad! Mine don’t either), and the stretch in the groin, adductors feels too intense, place blankets or pillows under your thighs to support your thighs.
4. Cow Face/Gomukhasana (Lower Body)
This is an excellent stretch for the ankles and outer hips! The seated version can be difficult if you’re not very bendy but I’m including a modification that’s great for the less mobile among us, tight days, or days when sitting upright just doesn’t feel good.
How to get into Cow Face
- Start with both legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend both knees and bring them into your chest with soles of the feet on the ground.
- Slide your left foot under the right knee to the outside of the right hip.
- Then cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip.
- Try to sit with hips even and both on the floor. You can intensify the stretch by folding forward. Repeat on the other side.
MODIFICATIONS: Cow Face
This can be a really challenging pose. If you find it uncomfortable try using pillows and blankets to pad hips and you can even slip a block, pillow, or blanket between thighs if you have trouble stacking the knees or one leg is not resting on top of the other. You can also lie flat, bend the knees and bring soles of the feet to the ground. Cross the right thigh over the left. Reach down and clasp the ankles or shins and bring the knees into the chest. If you can’t reach your shins or ankles you can use a strap, belt, towel or shirt to wrap around your legs and pull the towel so that the knees are pulled closer to the chest.
There are definitely more stretches to improve hip mobility, but those work the best for me. Believe me, if you are currently skipping mobility and “getting away with it”, its only a matter of time before it catches up with you! Strong but also healthy and mobile hips are essential for maximizing your athletic potential. If you’re tight in the hips and glutes you won’t be able to get into the best positions for many movements like squatting, lunging and anything that requires flexion at the hips (that’s a LOT of movements)! You can’t even easily get into a handstand if your hip and glute range is limited. Additionally, your potential for injury only increases the longer you delay working on having more supple muscle, ligaments, and tendons! And guys, if you are constantly complaining of low back pain, I can almost guarantee its partially due to limited hip and glute mobility. The more mass you add, the more attention you have to give to your flexibility work! Its yin and yang, people! Balance is key in everything including your hips! My advice, if you want to increase your hip mobility, give these start stretching regularly, and then play around with variations to see what works best for you! Your hips will thank you and your lifts will feel better too.
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