Having tight hips is a common complaint, especially among adults who find themselves in a sitting position for long periods of time, a posture that can cause shortening and stiffness of the hip flexor muscles. Adults, especially women, also tend to experience “an enormous amount of stress in [their] hips,” says Stefanie Corgel, certified strength and conditioning coach and group fitness instructor in Los Angeles.
That’s why it’s important not only to stretch your hips, but also to do active exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility. What is the difference between a hip stretch and a hip exercise, and between hip flexibility and mobility? A simple distinction: think passive versus active. “Hip flexibility is defined as length in range of motion, while mobility indicates more focused muscle strength and control as it completes a movement pattern,” says Corgel.
Mobility is just as important as flexibility, especially with age. All the activities you love to do – walking, biking, dancing, or playing with your kids and pets – require joint mobility as a foundation. “Over time, if the joints lack mobility, your performance and ability to improve is severely inhibited,” says Corgel. The less you move, use and strengthen certain body parts, the less likely they are to function optimally. It can also make you feel more pain in daily activities (even just sitting!).
To keep your hips (and their surrounding muscles) strong and mobile, Corgel shares five hip exercises you can do anytime. Spend five to 10 minutes working on these hip-specific mobility exercises daily, and you’ll start to notice better range of motion and hopefully less hip and lower back pain (which often comes from hips tight!) pretty quickly.
Simple hip exercises to try anywhere
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Turn your feet diagonally and make sure your knees are aligned vertically with your ankles. Keeping your weight on your heels, bend your knees and slowly lower your butt toward the floor as low as you can. Hold this low squat position for about 30 seconds, using your elbows to gently push your knees outward. Release to a standing position and shake your legs. Repeat five times.
Table Hip Circles
Start on the floor on your hands and knees, stacking shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Keeping your pelvis level with the ground, engage your right glutes and lift your right knee out to the side (think: dog to a fire hydrant). Draw a circle in the air with your right knee five times, keeping your right knee bent. It’s okay if you can’t lift your knee very high. Lower circles are better than trying to raise your leg higher and tilt your back and pelvis to the side. Change the direction of the circles and repeat five more times. Then switch legs and repeat. Do this once or twice on each side.
RELATED: 5 Easy Standing Ab Exercises You Can Do Without Equipment
Kneeling lunge for split half stones
Start by kneeling down with both knees on the floor. Start by kneeling: Step your right foot forward until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (about a foot or two in front). Let your left leg extend behind you, place the top of your left foot on the floor, and extend your arms above your head (without hunching your shoulders). Next, go into a split: Slowly shift your weight back, sending your butt to your left heel, as your right toes lift off the floor and your right leg is now straight (right heel should still be planted on the ground). At the same time, lean forward on your right leg and touch your hands to either side of your right foot. Perform five controlled back and forth between these two positions before repeating the sequence with the other leg in front.
Sit on the floor with your feet on the ground in front of you, your knees bent and your legs open slightly wider than your hips. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your hips for support, or stretch your arms out in front of you for more of a challenge. Slowly drop your knees to one side, creating 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.
Make a sort of wiper motion with your knees, rotating them towards the center and then slowly dropping them to the opposite side. Rotate back and forth with control for about 30 seconds, rest, and repeat once or twice more.
Standing Leg Swings
Stand with your feet together next to a wall or door that you can hold with your hand for balance. From this position, swing your inside leg forward and back with control, making sure you don’t swing so far forward or backward that you can’t keep a relatively straight back. neutral/straight (no need to hurt yourself or impress the Rockettes). Repeat five times forward and backward.
Then stand facing the wall and repeat five more times, swinging the same leg from side to side. Switch sides and repeat the same sequence with the opposite leg.
RELATED: 3 glute strengthening exercises to try instead of squats
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