You sit all day. The tiny muscles of your hip flexors tighten and become weak. At the gym that same day, you attempt a moderately heavy front squat. Or a clean. Or a deadlift. And you feel something pinch, pull, tear. Here’s the thing: Many of us (if not most of us) are suffering from a lack of hip mobility and we don’t even realize it. Training under these conditions can only lead to injury. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why your hips hurt. That’s why hip mobility is important. So, let’s talk about some of the best hip mobility exercises for functional fitness athletes and weightlifters — because improving hip mobility is vital to your strength gains and your safety.
The Best Hip Mobility Exercises to Avoid Soreness and Injury
Mobility doesn’t have to take hours. Even a few minutes of these exercises can make a world of difference.
1. Happy Baby
We don’t always recommend static stretches for mobility, but this is one we can’t resist. The happy baby pose isn’t just for yogis. It’s excellent for stretching your hamstrings and groin, and it also opens up your lower back and hips.
Laying flat on your back, bring your knees to your chest. From there, grab the outsides of your feet or your two big toes. Think of pulling your knees toward the ground. If you’re not yet able to reach your feet, grab a hold of your legs.
In addition to pulling your knees down, think of pulling your feet further apart. It’s true that you might feel the majority of the stretch in your groin, but this is also going to work wonders for your hips. To get a little deeper into this stretch, gently rock from side to side.
2. Single-Leg Bridge
“How is that one of the best hip mobility exercises?” you’re thinking, and we understand why. After all, this movement builds strength, right?
Correct! It does. Here’s the thing, though: Immobility and weakness go hand in hand. And, glute weakness and hip weakness (and thus hip immobility) go hand in hand. Therefore, if you improve strength, you improve mobility. We call that a win.
Lay flat on the floor on your back, knees bent with feet flat. Keeping your knees in line with each other, straighten one leg. Then, squeeze your glutes and push into the floor with your opposite leg to lift your hips and glutes off the ground. Squeeze at the top, release, and repeat. You can either alternate sides or do a set number of reps on one side before moving to the other, keeping the foot in the air.
No need to hyperextend here! Think of making a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. (And if you can’t quite get your hips that high yet, that’s okay!) Pausing for that brief moment at the top goes a long way, so be sure to take your time with this.
If and when this gets too easy, try laying a dumbbell across your hips for an added challenge.
3. Couch Stretch
There are a couple of ways you can perform this one. You first want to get into a lunge. Remember to keep your front knee directly over the toes of that foot. With the first option, you can prop your back foot up against a wall or on a couch, chair, or bench. If none of that is an option, just reach behind and grab your foot, pulling it toward your butt.
You’re going to feel a deep stretch in your quads, and it’ll also help to open up and lengthen the smaller muscles of your hip flexors. Set a timer and hold this position for around 30 seconds, switching sides and performing a few rounds.
4. Banded Clamshell
We are all for banded stretches for healthier hips. With a mini resistance band just above your knees, lay on one side, legs slightly bent and knees and ankles stacked. Lift your top knee and rotate it upward so that it’s pointing toward the sky (or as high as you can get it). Pause for a moment before slowly releasing it back down again.
You can adjust the intensity by using mini resistance bands of varying thicknesses. And if that’s not in the cards, don’t forget that it’s perfectly okay to do these without a band. As long as it’s challenging, you’re doing it right.
5. Leg Kicks
This one is so simple yet so effective, especially if you’re preparing for more explosive movements. For balance, rest the fingers of one hand on a wall (or another surface) at your side. Gently swing your opposite leg forward and backward. The goal is to keep both your leg and your back straight. If you start to collapse, kick a little lower.
Repeat this on the other leg. Then, turn to face the wall and sweep your leg side to side. Repeat on the other side.
The goal is partly to go as high as you can — but only so long as you can maintain the proper positioning.
Gentle reminder: None of these exercises for hip mobility should hurt! Some discomfort is normal. Pain is not. If something is hurting you, pause and talk to your coach or a physical therapist. You might need to come up with a new plan to address your specific needs.