These five awesome hip stretches are the best way to show tight hips some TLC. Here's exactly how and when to do them.
Hips don’t get a lot of respect. From the verbal assaults you throw at them to the long hours you spend sitting on your butt every day, your hips can be unhappy campers—and that could spell trouble down the road. Here’s why and how to correct it.
When you’re inactive for long periods—think sitting at your desk or watching TV for hours—your hips get tight. Large muscles called hip flexors, which originate in your low back and cross over your hips, can tighten when they aren’t stretched. When that happens, you can develop low back pain, says Marty Matney, LAT, ATC, an athletic trainer in Seattle, Wash. and chair of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association Council on Practice Advancement, adding that many other smaller muscles that act on the hip can become tight from inactivity, too. If left unchecked and tightness worsens, you can experience changes in the movement and function of your hip joint as you walk, which can lead to painful hip osteoarthritis. In worst cases, you may need surgery.
So how do you know if your hips are tight? There are some telltale signs, Matney says: having trouble going from sitting to standing, followed by a few difficult steps; walking with a slightly bent position or having trouble going up or down stairs; and feeling sore in the front of your hip or low back. Knee pain might even result, largely because that tightness causes changes in your gait.
The solution is simple: Break that inactivity and move, which will increase hip flexibility. The benefits? “With more hip flexibility, you’ll have easier transitions from sitting to standing, walking will be easier and you’ll have less pain in your hips and low back,” Matney says.
To make those hips and surrounding muscles a little happier, do the following five-stretch routine, created by Matney. Hold each stretch 20 to 30 seconds and repeat each two or three times (don't forget to breathe deeply), completing the whole sequence two or three times a day.
The Best Time of Day to Do each Hip Stretch:
Before and after a workout: Do #2, #4 and #5
While taking desk breaks every 20 minutes: Do #1 and #2
Before bed: Do all five stretches (or at the very least, do #3 while lying in bed)
1. Lunges (for Hip Flexors)
Start by standing with feet together. Step right leg back until heel is flat on floor; then lift up on ball of right foot. Keeping back straight and head up, lower down slightly until you feel a stretch in right hip. Hold. Release and switch sides.
2. Hamstring Stretch
Standing with feet together, place right heel on floor and flex right foot toward you. As you do this, slowly lean forward from hips (hands can be on hips if you prefer) until you feel a stretch in the back of right leg. Hold. Release and switch sides.
3. Figure 4 Stretch (for Glutes)
Lie face up on your back, knees bent, and feet on floor. Place right foot on left thigh, right above left knee. With left hand, grasp right knee, pulling it gently toward chest and then left shoulder. Hold. Release and switch sides.
4. Inner Thigh Stretch
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width. Keeping left foot pointed straight ahead on floor, shift weight to right foot until you feel stretch in inner thigh. If you don’t feel it, widen the legs a little. Hold. Release and switch sides.
5. Outer Thigh Stretch
From standing position, cross right leg over left leg, left hand supported by wall or desk. Keeping right leg and back straight, push right hip out. If you need to bend left knee, that’s okay. Hold. Release and switch sides.