In a world in which Americans are spending more time sitting than ever before (1 in 4 US adults sits more than 8 hours per day!), joint mobility — or lack thereof — is an important topic of discussion (
Joints are locations where at least two bones in your body meet, and they’re responsible for movement and stabilization. Maintaining mobility in your joints is not only crucial for everyday activities but also for exercising.
If you’re looking to improve your hip mobility, one highly effective movement to consider is the 90/90 stretch. Read on for a rundown on the stretch, its benefits, and helpful tips and tricks to get the most out of it.
The 90/90 stretch is a boon for hip mobility. During this movement, you’ll rotate one hip externally and the other hip internally.
While many familiar hip stretches (like Pigeon Pose, for instance) put your hips into external rotation, internal rotation is not as common. As such, it can feel more challenging.
Nevertheless, internal rotation of the hip is just as important for mobility as external rotation, as it allows your legs and pelvis to move efficiently.
The 90/90 stretch combines both internal and external rotation of the hips in one movement.
Stretching — or flexibility training — has many proven benefits, including a decreased risk of injury, the correction of muscle imbalances, and increased joint mobility (2).
The 90/90 stretch is one of the most effective ways to increase hip mobility and reduce related pain.
Being able to rotate your hips fully and easily is not only important for many daily activities, including walking, getting dressed, or bending over, but also for activities like sports, running, and weightlifting.
Recent research shows that among people with generalized lower back pain and reduced hip mobility, stretches and exercises targeted at the hips can help improve pain and function (3).
The 90/90 stretch, in conjunction with other hip-opening and strengthening moves, has the potential to improve your quality of life.
The 90/90 stretch can help improve mobility in your hips, and mobility is key for reducing pain and improving function.
Here’s how to perform the 90/90 stretch:
- Sit on the floor and bend one leg in front of your body with your hip rotated out. Position it so your lower leg and knee are resting on the ground. Your leg should form a 90-degree angle, and your ankle should be neutral so your foot is pointing straight.
- Position your other leg beside you with your hip rotated inward and your shin and ankle on the ground. Bend your knee so your leg forms a 90-degree angle. Your back knee should be in line with your hip, and your ankle should be neutral.
- Try to keep your back straight and resist the urge to bend to one side. Think about sitting into both hips equally and easing the lifted hip straight down toward the ground.
Hold this stretch for up to 60 seconds, breathing deeply to relax into the position. Complete 2–3 reps on each side. Completing this sequence just 2 times per week will help your hip mobility in just 1–2 months.
Place both legs at a 90-degree angle, one in front of your body and one behind. Hold the position for up to 1 minute.
There are several modifications and progressions for the 90/90 stretch. The standard 90/90 stretch is an intermediate movement, so start with the modification if you’re new to stretching.
If you lack hip mobility, start by positioning one leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle, allowing your back leg to assume whatever position is comfortable.
Once you feel stable in that position, add your back leg. If you cannot maintain a straight back or straight posture in the 90/90 stretch, utilize a yoga block, small mat, or rolled towel under the hip of your front leg to elevate your upper body.
Doing so will allow your pelvis — and therefore your hips — to be in the correct upright and neutral position to get the most out of this stretch.
Once you feel comfortable here, choose a smaller block or towel, or remove these props altogether to assume the standard stretch.
If the standard 90/90 stretch feels easy, consider increasing the difficulty with a variation of the elevated 90/90 stretch. You have a few options here:
- Elevate the foot of your back leg with a yoga block or rolled towel.
- Elevate the knee of your front leg with a yoga block or rolled towel.
- Extend the knee of the front leg to get more of a hamstring stretch.
Utilize a yoga block, small mat, or rolled towel to help you reach the standard 90/90 stretch or progress into a more challenging position.
If you can’t get the 90/90 stretch to feel right, don’t worry.
- feel a cramping sensation in your obliques, try adding a yoga block or rolled towel under your hand on the side of your front leg.
- don’t feel the stretch in your groin or hip area, try repositioning your legs. Remember, you want to create two 90-degree angles with your legs, and your ankles should be in a neutral position.
- cannot keep your upper body straight, try using a yoga block or rolled towel to aid your positioning. Place it underneath the hip on the side of your front leg until your hips loosen up, or throughout the stretch.
If you feel any pinching or painful sensations while doing the 90/90 stretch, release the stretch so you don’t injure yourself.
Repositioning your lower body and utilizing props can help you troubleshoot the most common problems in the 90/90 stretch.
If your goal is to increase hip mobility or reduce pain in your hips and lower back, consider adding the 90/90 stretch to your routine.
It can be tailored with props to meet you where you are, as well as easily modified if you need more of a challenge. When your hips loosen, you’ll notice big improvements in your ease of movement, which will serve you well in many ways.