Many people experience tight hip muscles. It can be caused by overuse or inactivity. If you run, cycle, or sit all day at work, you might have tight hips.
Tight hips can make it uncomfortable to move your legs. They can also add pressure on the knees and lower back. This may cause pain and discomfort in your lower body.
You can open your hips by performing a variety of hip flexor stretches and exercises. These will help relieve tension and strengthen your hip muscles.
First, a few tips so you can get the most out of every move:
- Warm-up first. Walk around a little or move your arms gently through your full range of motion. Or, do stretches after a warm shower.
- Count breaths, not seconds. Replace counting 15 seconds with counting 4 or 5 deep breaths in and out.
- Modify. You can modify stretches and exercises for mobility, balance, and other circumstances and environments. Speak with your primary doctor, a physical therapist, or a certified physical trainer for guidance.
Now let’s get into 13 exercises and stretches for opening your hips.
The standing lunge stretch works your hips, butt, and thighs. The repetitive movement also releases tightness in the hips.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your abs and lower your shoulders.
- Step your right foot forward.
- Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Lean your right shin slightly forward over your toes.
- Bend slightly forward at your hips, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Start with one set of 2 to 4 reps.
- Push into your right foot to stand up. Repeat with the other leg.
For a simpler variation on the standing lunge stretch, try a kneeling hip-flexor stretch. This is ideal if you have mobility issues.
If you need extra support, place a folded towel, blanket, or pad under your knee.
- Kneel down on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.
- Bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Keep your knee over your right ankle.
- Place your hands on your hips. Straighten your spine and lower your shoulders.
- Gently push into your right hip. Engage your core and left thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Start with one set of 2 to 5 repetitions.
- Switch legs and repeat.
This move stretches the muscles in your hip and groin. It also works your core. The spiderman stretch is similar to the low lunge and lizard poses in yoga.
- Start in push-up position on your hands and toes.
- Place your right knee near your right elbow.
- Drop your hips down. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Return to push-up position. Repeat with the left leg.
The clamshell exercise strengthens your hip flexors. It helps relieve tightness due to weakness and inactivity. The exercise is often used for back pain. Clamshells will also tone your glutes.
- Lie down on your side with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
- Rest your head on the hand of your lower arm, and put your other hand on your hip.
- Line up your heels with your glutes. Stack your hips one on top of the other.
- Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee as high as possible without moving your hips. Don’t move your lower leg off the floor.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times. Switch sides and repeat.
The horizontal squat stretch relieves tightness in the hips, groin, and back. It’s similar to the Cat-Cow and Frog Pose in yoga.
- Kneel on the floor. Place your knees wider than your hips.
- Line up your ankles with your knees. Extend your spine.
- Push your hips back toward your heels.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
The side angle pose is common in yoga practices. As you stretch the glutes and inner thigh, it relieves tension in the hips.
- Place your feet 3 or 4 feet apart.
- Rotate your left foot outward and your right foot to 45 degrees.
- Bend your left knee to 90 degrees. Raise your arms to shoulder height.
- Extend your left arm to the floor and your right arm over your head.
- Face your torso forward. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
- Release and return your arms to shoulder height. Point both feet forward.
- Repeat on the right side.
Watch a video from GuerillaZen Fitness for more on how to improve internal hip rotation.
Seated internal hip rotations improve hip mobility and range of motion. This can reduce tightness and discomfort.
If you have knee problems, avoid this exercise. It can put a lot of stress on the knee.
- Sit on the floor. Bend your knees.
- Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- For stability, place your hands on the floor behind you.
- Flex your right foot. Keep your left leg in place.
- Bring your right knee in and toward the floor. Repeat on the other side.
The seated butterfly stretch is a hip opener that engages your thighs and groin.
Don’t worry if your knees aren’t close to the ground. As your hips loosen up, you’ll be able to lower them.
- Sit on the floor with your feet together. Straighten your back.
- Lay your hands on top of your feet.
- Lean forward from your hips. Gently push your elbows against your thighs.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
This exercise is also called the seated saddle stretch. It releases tension in the hips, hamstrings, calves, and lower back.
- Sit on the floor with your legs open to 90 degrees.
- If your back rounds when you sit, elevate your hips and sit on a yoga block. This will help extend your lower back.
- Reach your arms straight ahead. Point your toes to the ceiling.
- Lean forward from your hips. Straighten your back and engage your core.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
For a deep stretch, try the pigeon pose. It loosens up your hip flexors, outer hips, and glutes. This pose also releases tension in your psoas muscle, which connects your thighs and lower back.
If you have bad knees, place a folded towel or blanket under your knee. This will act as a cushion.
- Begin on all fours. Place your left knee behind your left wrist.
- Lay your left shin on the floor. Slowly move your left foot forward.
- Lengthen your right leg behind you. Lay the top of your ankle on the floor.
- If your hips don’t touch the floor, place them on top of a yoga block or pillow.
- Extend the spine. Rest your hands on the floor or a yoga block.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breathes. Switch sides and repeat.
If the pigeon pose feels uncomfortable, try the supine pigeon pose. This version is ideal if you have bad knees or tight hips. It’s also called the reclined pigeon pose, lying figure-4 pose, or eye of the needle.
For extra support, lay your head on a pillow.
- Lie down on your back. Bend your knees.
- Lift your left leg. You can place your left foot against a wall.
- Cross your right shin over your left thigh.
- Hold your right thigh for 3 to 5 breaths. To deepen the stretch, gently apply pressure.
- Return to starting position. Switch sides and repeat.
A foam roller can release tension from your hips, quads, and legs. This tool applies pressure to the muscle and surrounding tissue.
- Lay your right thigh on a foam roller.
- Straighten your right leg behind you. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees and place it to the side.
- Rest your forearms on the floor in front of you.
- Slowly roll your body forward and backward. Repeat to side to side.
- Continue for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the left leg.
A Thai massage is another way to loosen your muscles. This type of massage combines acupressure, deep compression, and yoga-like movements.
During a Thai massage, you can wear loose clothing. Your therapist will apply firm, rhythmic pressure. They will also move your body into positions that lengthen your muscles.
Thai massages are typically done on the floor with a mat. However, some techniques can be done on a massage table.
Hip flexor exercises and stretches can relieve tension in your hip muscles. To enjoy these benefits, it’s important to do them regularly. You can also try a Thai massage.
If you’re healing from an injury or have mobility issues, talk to a doctor or physical therapist. They can recommend the best modifications for your needs.