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Fitness Fix: Improve Your Hip Mobility

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Exercises to improve hip mobility.

Back pain. Knee pain. Poor posture. Difficulty getting up off the floor. Trouble squatting and deadlifting.

What do all these physical limitations have in common? They’re symptoms of poor hip mobility, says physical therapist Kelly Starrett, DPT, author of Becoming a Supple Leopard.

The hips are the most powerful hinges in the body, and they’re vital for everyday movement, he says. “But we sit so much — and move our hip joints into their end range so infrequently — that nearly all of us end up with limitations.”

The following moves will mobilize the hip flexors (muscles on the front of each hip joint), the hip extensors (those in the back, including the glutes), and the hip rotators (a complex of six smaller muscles along each joint capsule), all of which contribute to pain-free function and improved athleticism.

Try these exercises postworkout or pre-bedtime for better movement in and out of the gym.

Hip-Flexor Stretch

  1. Stand inside a doorway and turn to face the door frame on your right.
  2. Step back with your left foot and place your knee and lower leg on the floor to the left of the wall behind you (place a pad under your left knee if necessary).
  3. Slide your left leg backward along the wall until you feel a stretch in the front on your left hip.
  4. Raise your chest and torso and extend your arms overhead.
  5. Grab the doorjamb behind you and slide your arms as far overhead as possible.
  6. Press your lower back toward the doorjamb and hold it there for the duration of the stretch.
  7. Breathe deeply, hold for one to two minutes, and repeat on the other side.

Flex-and-Rotate Hip Stretch

  1. Stand facing a thigh-high table, desk, high bench, or the armrest of a couch.
  2. Bend your right knee and raise your leg to rest your shin on the table, as if you’re doing a modified pigeon-pose stretch.
  3. Bend your torso directly forward over your leg.
  4. Press your elevated leg into the table for a five-count, then release for a 10-count, moving more deeply into the stretch. Contract and release five times.
  5. Repeat the stretch with your torso rotated gently to the left, and again rotated to the right. Keep your back neutral and avoid rounding forward.
  6. Slowly come out of the stretch.
  7. Repeat the entire sequence with your left leg on the table.

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, GCFP, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

Illustrations by Kveta