They say that hips don’t lie – and when it comes to ensuring your body functions optimally, this statement could not be more accurate.
The hips are the focal point for a lot of nagging injuries throughout the body. Knee pain? Back pain? More often than not, creaky hips are the problem.
Keeping the hips well-oiled is absolutely paramount to proper body function, regardless of your level of physical activity. Everyone deserves to live pain-free and mobile.
Strengthening the hips is a crucial part of the equation, make no mistake. But equally as important is stretching the parts of the hip that take severe abuse from all the sitting that your average person does during the day.
If you want stretches that actually work – and not a bunch of bend-over-and-touch-floor hamstring stretches, read on.
Basic Hip Flexor Stretch
We’ll start with a classic. Everyone thinks they know how to do this stretch correctly – but more often than not, the way that most people do this is causing more harm than good. When performing this stretch, there are several keys you must adhere to.
- Squeeze the glutes. Especially on your trailing leg. This will ensure your hip flexors are actually being stretched.
- Do not arch your back. A lot of people think that bending the back and leaning forward will produce a better stretch. It does not. Stop.
- Engage your core. If you let your core go limp, the entire stretch will be for naught.
- Stay tall. Keep your chest in the air and maintain proper upper body posture.
- For beginners, start with 30 seconds on each leg, repeating twice on each leg.
Full pigeon. Hips to the floor, shoulders back, chest up.
Now, we’ll be getting into some yoga. For those of you recoiling in horror because you’re doomed to be “inflexible” (doesn’t exist, you just haven’t put in enough work yet) – don’t worry.
This stretch is an excellent way to hit the aforementioned hip flexors, as well as stretch the glutes from a variety of angles. When you start off, you probably won’t be able to put your lead leg at 90 degrees on the ground.
That’s ok. Modify the stretch to half pigeon, which involves leaving the knee bent.
As usual, there are a couple things to keep in mind when performing this stretch:
- Half pigeon. Note how the lead leg is tucked in.
- Stay tall. Chest up, shoulders back. Slouching does the body no good.
- Extend your trailing leg fully. Leaving it bent will produce an ineffective stretch.
- Sink your hips into the floor. Relax into the stretch.
- Your front leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle. This will stretch your glute muscles. If you can’t do this yet, just tuck your lead leg in, almost like you’re touching your trailing leg kneecap with your foot. You will get more flexible with consistency.
- Aim for 30-45 seconds on each leg. Repeat the stretch twice on each side.
Split Stance Adductor Mobilization
The hips are more than just your hip flexors. In order to truly have hips that make Shakira envious, you need to hit all the muscles that make up the hip complex.
Enter the adductors – you need to stretch these. The majority of the populace has incredibly tight adductors, which will lead to a host of problems down the road.
This stretch – a dynamic stretch, will give you some much-needed length in the tissue, as well as taking your body into new ranges of motion, which is always good.
This is a fun one, as long as you follow these simple rules:
- Again, stay tall. Just because your parallel with the floor doesn’t mean you can slouch.
- One knee to the ground. This will be your “base.” The leg you wish to stretch will be extended out as far as you can get it.
- Rock your hips back gently, lifting your “base” knee of the ground. You will feel a stretch in your inner thigh, right above the knee.
- 8 repetitions per leg. Aim for 3 sets on each leg.
Standing Hamstring Stretches
To finish our journey into the hip complex, we’ll dive into everyone’s favourite muscle group to stretch – the hamstrings.
Nice and tall. Hinge at the hips, not at the waist.
Bending over and touching the floor is a good stretch – but do not to target the hamstrings most efficiently. Instead, give these stretches a try.
These will hit both the high and low hamstring, an element that is sorely missing from most run-of-the-mill stretches. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Stay tall. Chest up, shoulders back. In fact, that should be your new philosophy for life, not just stretching.
- The leg you want to stretch will be your lead leg. Trailing leg will be slightly bent. Fully extend lead leg for the lower hamstring stretch. Slightly bend it to hit the upper hamstring.
- To sink into the stretch, hinge at the hips. Do not bend at the waist and curve your back. Think about pushing your hips back while maintaining your proper upper body posture.
- Hold for 30-45 seconds. Be sure to hit both the upper and lower portions. Switch legs, and repeat twice on each side.
If you do these stretches on a regular basis, you will see improvements in not only hip pain but in the overall functionally of your lower body as a whole.
But remember, the key to this kind of stuff is consistency. If you put in a lazy effort and only do these stretches once or twice a week, you won’t see any results.
You should be doing these every day – or at least every other day. 5-10 minutes a day is all you need to change your body.