Hip mobility is one of the keys to any athlete's performance. No matter the sport you are trying to play, having supple hips is essential. But like all things in our bodies, our hips fall victim to the reality that we sit WAY too much in our daily lives—and sitting can negatively affect hip mobility by tightening and even shortening the muscles around our hips.
Coupled with inactivity is our lack of stretching and warming up when it's time to use our hips for exercise or sport. Tight hips can cause low back pain, IT band syndrome, torn labrums, and the big one: misalignment.
Practicing yoga is a wonderful way to make flexibility and mobility a dedicated practice. These five yoga-based hip stretches will not only make you feel better but help you perform better, too.
5 Hip Stretches to Boost Mobility
1. Half Pigeon Stretch
Begin in a Downward-Facing Dog. Reach your left leg up behind you. In a sweeping motion bring your left foot to the inside of your right wrist. The left knee should be as close to the left wrist as possible. The outside of the shin should be flat on the floor. Drop the right knee to the floor and tuck your toes under. Engage the core and keep the chest upright. Hold this position for at least one minute per side.
Pro Tip: Rotate the torso towards the hip being stretched and then walk the hands around to the opposite side to hit all the sticky corners in the pelvis.
2. 90/90 Internal Rotation Stretch
Start this stretch with one leg bent at 90 degrees in front of you. The shin should be perpendicular to the torso. The back leg will also be bent at 90 degrees with the quad and knee in line with the torso. The goal is to put both butt cheeks on the floor and hold. You will feel a stretch through the glute on the front leg and the hip flexor and TFL on the back leg. Hold for one minute and then simply rotate the legs and torso over to the opposite side.
3. Piriformis Stretch
The little piriformus muscle group allows the pelvis to rotate. It contains small muscles that are very important for good range of motion. Begin in seated position with the legs in front of the body. Cross one leg over the other and pull the heel of the foot as close as possible to the body. The foot should be flat on the floor. Rotate the torso toward the leg that is crossed. Trap the leg with the opposite elbow or forearm. Keep the chest upright and core tight as you elongate the spine and rotate more and more with each breath.
4. Samson Lunge
This is one stretch I use daily because as a runner and lifter, my hip flexors are usually in need of some work. Begin in a lunge position with the front knee over the front ankle. Drop the back knee to the floor and tuck the toes under. The shin of the back leg should be as close to the floor as possible. Interlace the fingers over the top of the head and shrug the shoulders up to the ears. While elongating the spine, reach up and over the body away from the back leg. You will feel a stretch through the hip and oblique.
5. Side Plank Leg Lifts
Stretching the hips is important, but so is making sure you are strengthening them. This exercise is great in your warm-up routine to help activate the muscles of the hip and core. Begin in a side plank with shoulder stacked over the elbow. Ensure that the elbow is perpendicular to the body and the hips are perpendicular to the floor. Stack the feet on top of one another and bridge the hips up to ensure a straight line down the body. Keep the top foot turned inward and the toes flexed, and slowly raise the leg up. Hold the position for 2 seconds. Lower the leg and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Switch sides. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps on each side for optimal activation and strengthening.
Eric "EROCK" Botsford is Tough Mudder Bootcamp's Creative Director. Eric is a Strength and Conditioning coach who holds certifications in Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics, Kettlebells, Nutrition, CrossFit L2, and Power Athlete Methodology. Eric has done 52 Tough Mudders, 2 Toughest Muddders, and 3 World's Toughest Mudders. He is well-known as the Host of CBS' Tough Mudder X competition and a Tough Mudder Start Line Emcee.