Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘It’s all in the hips?’ Or maybe you heard the hip (mobility) doesn’t lie. Anyhow, this applies to the gym and many activities of daily living. Having and developing better hip mobility means a happier low back and a better-looking butt. But before going any further, what is hip mobility?
Hip mobility takes all your hip movements (more on that later) through a full range of motion. And why is that important? With your hips being a mobile ball and socket joint, it is designed for movement.
Think about it: How would you walk if your hips were stiff and immobile? Anyhow, if your hips are restricted and the movement from the hips is compromised, the movement will come from somewhere else. Usually, many of these movements will come from the joints above and below the hips, the lower back, and the knee.
The problem is that these joints are designed for stability rather than mobility. When other joints have to do a job they are not intended for, they will eventually flip you the bird.
That’s why it’s essential to have good mobility on the joints that are designed for it. Here, we’ll dive into the movements and muscles of the hip joint and four exercises you can do for better hip mobility.
The hips don’t lie, baby.
Movements And Muscles Of The Hip
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint: the ball is the femoral head, and the socket is the acetabulum. The hip joint is where the femur and pelvis meet, and then the pelvis connects with the bones of the head and trunk of a vertebrate. Being a deeper ball and socket joint than the shoulder, it doesn’t have as much freedom of movement, but it’s a stronger joint that allows you to run, jump, sprint, and squat.
Here are the primary hip movements and the muscles used. These movements are hip.
Adduction (moving your thighs together): adductors (brevis, longus, Magnus) gluteus maximus.
Abduction (moving your thighs apart): gluteus medius, gluteus minimus.
External rotation: piriformis, psoas major, and minor.
Internal rotation: tensor fasciae latae, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus.
Extension: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius.
Hyperextension(extending your leg behind you): gluteus and hamstrings.
Hip flexion (bring your knee up towards your chest):iliacus and psoas major.
Here are my favorite exercises to improve hip mobility. Whether you feel your hip mobility is lacking or on point, hip mobility should always be worked on. Because it’s a use it or lose it deal.
My 4 Favorite Hip Mobility Exercises
Hundreds of hip mobility exercises will work, so narrowing it down to four is difficult. These four exercises are the ones I use for me and my clients to improve and maintain hip mobility. It’s just the way I do it.
The Prying squat strengthens and mobilizes your adductors (inner thigh muscles), which are big and strong muscles that can get “tight.” When they do, hip flexion and hip extension may get inhibited. This exercise stretches and strengthens your adductors by driving your knees away from your elbows for better hip mobility.
How to do it:
Hold a light dumbbell or kettlebell goblet style in front of your chest and get your shoulders down.
Then, set your feet in your preferred squat position.
Keeping your shoulders down and chest up, slowly squat down until you get your elbows to the inside of your knees.
Then, actively press your elbows into your knees and rock from side to side.
Programming suggestion: This is an ideal exercise for your warm-up before hitting the weights. Thirty seconds works well for most people here.
Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch With Reach
The half-kneeling position is my go-to stretch of your hip flexors and is all my client warm-ups. The hip flexors can get stiff when you sit a lot, and this stretch will mobilize your hip flexors and strengthen your peach. The reach puts you in a better posture position to get the best stretch on the hip and better glute engagement.
How to do it:
Start on your knees and toes and bring one leg forward, ensuring your ankle is directly underneath your knee.
Then, the other knee is directly underneath your hip.
Squeeze your glute to bring your pelvis forward and get ‘tall’ with your upper body.
Hold the pole at arm’s length, feeling slightly stretched under your armpits.
Hold for the time and repeat on the other side.
Programming suggestion: 30 seconds to one minute on each side as part of your warm-up.
Passive Leg Lowering
The passive leg lowering with a resistance band has one hip in flexion, and the working leg goes into flexion and extension while the core remains stable. This exercise is excellent for hip mobility because it trains hip separation, where one hip flexes while the other extends. Plus, this exercise provides a resisted stretch of the hamstrings to help improve their flexibility.
How to do it:
Face up on the floor, hook a resistance band around the middle of one foot, and flex both hips to 90 degrees.
Hold the looped resistance band in each hand and pull the band down enough to feel a stretch in your hammies.
Then, slowly lower one leg to the ground while the banded leg stays stable.
Lower until your heel hovers above the floor while keeping the lower back glued to the ground.
Then, return to the starting position, repeat for reps, and switch sides.
Programming suggestion: One set of 10 reps as part of your warm-up or superset it with any lower body exercise as an active recovery and to help improve your technique.
Mini Band Monster Walk
The mini-band monster walk trains hip extension ( which stretches the hip flexor) on one leg and hip abduction on the other. This exercise trains all three glute muscles simultaneously. These three muscles all play an essential role in the function and health of your lower back and knees. The semi-circle motion also trains hip rotation, which is a use-it-or-lose-it deal. (1)
How to do it:
Place the mini-band around your ankles and then spread your feet apart until you feel a stretch in the band.
Keep tension in the band and ‘walk’ slowly and deliberately, performing semi-circles with each foot.
For each step, you will walk forward.
Once you have completed all your forward reps, perform the same number of reps doing semi-circles backward.
Programming suggestion: This is best performed as a warm-up exercise for ten steps forward and backward.
There are many weird, wonderful, effective, and more complicated hip mobility exercises than these four. But these four exercises, IMO, give you the best bang for your hip buck that even Shakira couldn’t ignore. Because you wouldn’t want your hips to lie, that would upset Shakira.