7 Hip Mobility Exercises For a Full Range of Motion
Table of Contents
- Knee or back pain as signs of poor hip mobility
- How to check your hip mobility
- 7 Hip mobility exercises to open and strengthen your hips
- When to do mobility exercises
- Wrapping up
The hip is a ball and socket joint capable of robust motion. Due to their natural design, healthy hips should be able to articulate and move freely, demonstrating stability and strength. However, when the hips lack sufficient mobility, the body tends to try to find a way to move.
Knee or back pain as signs of poor hip mobility
Let’s look at squatting. Squatting is a critical movement pattern to build and maintain muscle, and hip mobility plays a massive role in successful squatting. During exercises like a squat, if the hips are restricted, the body will look elsewhere to compensate for the mobility deficit. Generally, that stress is transferred to the joints above and below.
If the hips cannot move sufficiently, the knees and lower back will attempt to pick up the slack, often causing pain and discomfort.
You can alleviate a large percentage of lower back pain by freeing up the hips to move as they should by doing hip mobility exercises. Stress and strain on the lower back are reduced when the hips are free to move.
How to check your hip mobility
The consensus is that anyone and everyone can benefit from consistent mobility training. Improving your control at the end range of motion and freeing up your joints to increase your movement capacity is never wrong.
Much like strength and endurance, mobility is a use-it-or-lose-it situation. Gaining and maintaining mobility can be accomplished by committing to a handful of exercises for just a few minutes each day, as you can quickly lose mobility otherwise.
Besides a general feeling of stiffness in the hips, you can explore a few tests to determine if hip mobility training needs to be added to your workouts.
Hip mobility tests:
- Overhead Squat
- Standing Hip Rotations
- Kneeling Hip Rotations
- Cossack Squat
An effective way to assess your mobility is by filming yourself performing each exercise. Watch the playback and look for any limited range of motion, neck or jaw tension, etc. A couple of the movement tests listed above are also exercises to practice further down in this article.
Often, the sensation that a muscle or joint is chronically tight or stiff indicates that the musculature surrounding that joint is weak. Mobility training is also a form of strength training when done correctly. The body has protective mechanisms in place to avoid injury, and one of those safeguards is a tightness to prevent moving into ranges you don’t possess or have control over.
7 Hip mobility exercises to open and strengthen your hips
#1 Standing hip rotations
- With one arm against a wall, lift the opposite side leg into maximum hip flexion.
- Once the knee is above the waist, abduct the knee outward as far as possible.
- Slowly begin articulating the hip until the heel points behind the body.
- Reverse the motion back to the start.
3 sets x 8 reps per side
- Avoid any compensatory movement; keep all motion at the hip joint.
- Aim to move the hip through the largest possible range of motion.
- Cramping is completely normal during this exercise, especially the first few times you do it.
#2 Kneeling hip rotations
- Start in a quadruped kneeling position with hands and knees in contact with the floor.
- Abduct the leg out to the side as high as possible.
- Slowly articulate the knee around and behind the body until the hamstrings and bottom of the foot face the ceiling.
- Reverse the motion back to the start.
3 sets x 8 reps per side
- Draw the largest circle you can with your knee cap. Separate the feet outside shoulder width, chest tall, eyes forward.
#3 Sumo squat to stand
- Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Flex at the waist and slip the hands under the toes.
- Grabbing the feet, pull yourself into a deep squat.
- Keep chest tall, pause for 2-3 seconds at the bottom of the squat.
- Release the hips and stand up.
3 sets x 10 reps
- Use your hands to pull yourself deeper into the squat.
- Only lower to a depth that doesn’t require any cheating.
- Breathe out aggressively when it gets difficult.
#4 Cossack squats
- From a standing position, separate the feet to 8-10 inches outside the shoulders.
- Shift your weight to one side, flex the knee, and push the hips back as you squat lower to the floor.
- The non-working foot can release from the floor with toes pointing upward.
- Stand up.
3 sets x 6 reps per side
- Hold onto a door or a chair to guide yourself into the squat.
- Work a range of motion you can control (¼ or ½ reps are acceptable).
- Lower down slowly with control.
#5 90/90 Forward lean
- Begin seated on the floor in a 90/90 position (see photo/video above).
- Slowly lean your torso over the front leg, feeling a stretch in the hip.
- Pause at the furthest range, push the leg into the floor (contract), and return to the tall seated position.
3 sets x 10 reps per side
- Leaning into the move, actively pull the leg toward your torso.
- Going out of the move, push your leg hard into the floor.
- Support your hand or elbow on a yoga block or pillow if mobility is lacking.
#6 90/90 to bear sit transition
- Assume the 90/90 position, chest, and head tall.
- Open up the rear leg (can opener style) until you cannot open it anymore.
- Gradually shift weight onto your sit bones until you’re seated with both legs on either side of the body.
- Continue moving through the middle until you’re back in the 90/90 position on the opposite side.
3 sets x 6 reps per side
- Keep the torso and chest tall when transitioning through the middle.
- Use hands behind the glutes for support during the transition if needed.
- Move slowly with no momentum.
#7 90/90 Hip hovers
- Begin in the 90/90 position.
- Lift and “hover” the trailing leg as high off the ground as possible.
- Keep the knee and feet at the same level.
- Slowly straighten the leg to the side and hold for 1-2 seconds.
- Flex the knee and return the leg to the floor.
- Rest as needed before the next effort.
3 sets x 8 reps per side (1-2-second holds at extension)
- Some will lack the strength to lift the leg, so do your best even if the leg is still in contact with the floor.
- Squeeze tennis balls to create whole-body tension.
- Perform fewer reps per side if needed.
When to do mobility exercises
Any time during the day
Whether you choose to do them immediately upon waking, during the lunch hour, or in the evening, what’s most important is that you’re doing it consistently rather than the time of day.
As a part of your workout
Many people find that doing hip mobility drills before, during, or after a workout makes the most sense. The benefit of performing mobility exercises before any resistance, muscle-building training, or cardiovascular exercise is that your joints will have articulated through an expanded range of motion, preparing your body for the movements of the workout.
By doing mobility exercises before squats or lunges, you might notice that you feel more in tune with the muscles working to perform the exercise. Some might refer to this as movement preparation, also known as “greasing the groove.”
Microdosing mobility training
This is another concept that is on the rise. Dedicating 5 to 10 minutes, once or twice a day, every day of the week to hip mobility exercises, can have an impressive impact on your mobility gains.
As a stand-alone workout
A different way to approach hip mobility training is to attack several other exercises and use that as the workout for the day. Visit one of the popular fitness apps and you’ll notice that mobility exercises are widely presented there as separate training.
This approach is more “all-in” and can serve as an activity day between more intense workouts. A workout dedicated to mobility work doesn’t have to last that long. Thirty to forty-five minutes of the best mobility exercises is more than enough to create the desired training effect.
Here’s what a weekly schedule might look like with this format:
Monday – Full-body resistance training
Tuesday – Mobility training
Wednesday – Full-body resistance training
Thursday – Mobility training
Friday – Full-body resistance training
Saturday – Mobility training
Sunday – Rest
The mobility days function as active recovery from the higher intensity workouts. You’re still getting your movement requirements in but avoiding overtraining.
Mobility training is a fantastic way to keep joints healthy, strong, and functional. The results from consistent hip mobility exercises are often quite profound. It is critical to strengthen and open up the hips, especially as we age and move less frequently.
You’ll move better when doing the exercises listed above within a few weeks of regular practice. Take notice of the carryover mobility training has on exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.