What you can do
Whether it’s arthritis getting you down, bursitis cramping your style, or the effects of sitting at a desk all day — hip pain is no fun. These moves can help stretch and strengthen your hip muscles, allowing you to move pain-free.
Depending on your mobility, you may be unable to do some of these stretches and exercises at the beginning. That’s ok! Focus on what you can do and go from there.
Run through as many of these stretches as you can at one time, devoting at least 30 seconds — ideally 1 to 2 minutes — on each (per side, if applicable) before moving on to the next.
Hip flexor stretch
Get into a lunge on the ground. To do this, put your left knee on the floor, your right leg bent out in front of you at a 90-degree angle, and your right foot flat on the ground.
With your hands on your hips, move your pelvis and torso forward slightly until you feel a stretch in your left hip flexor. Pause where you feel tension and hold, going further into the stretch as you become looser.
Sit on the ground, bend your legs, and bring the soles of your feet together so they touch, letting your knees fall out to the sides.
Bring your heels as close to your body as you can and lean forward into the stretch, using your elbows to gently push your knees toward the ground.
Start on all fours, then bring your right knee forward, placing it behind your right wrist with your ankle near your left hip.
Straighten your left leg behind you and let your upper body fold over your right leg.
If your hip is tight, allow your outer right glute to touch the floor rather than rest on your left hip. As you breathe, sink deeper into the stretch.
Figure four stretch
Lay on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your right ankle on your left knee, loop your hands around the back of your left leg, and draw it toward your chest. Feel the stretch in your glute and hip.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees and drop your butt directly down to the ground. Bring your arms in front of you in a prayer position. Breathe through the movement, allowing your elbows to gently press your thighs further apart.
Leg swings are a great choice to round out a set of stretches. Complete this dynamic move both front to back and side to side to really open up your hips.
To perform, brace yourself on a stable surface, step back about a foot, and begin to swing your leg like a pendulum from side to side. Try to minimize twisting your torso.
Then, turn your side to the wall, brace yourself, and begin to swing your leg back and forth, allowing a stretch in your hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes.
Choose 3 or 4 of these exercises for one workout, completing 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. Mix and match from session to session, if possible.
Start with your feet double shoulder-width apart, toes slightly out. Shift your weight to your right leg and push your hips back as if you’re going to sit in a chair.
Drop as low as you can go while keeping your left leg straight. Ensure that your chest stays up and your weight is on your right heel.
Return to start, then repeat the same steps on the other leg. This is one rep.
Side lying leg raise
If you have an exercise band to use during this move, great. If not, bodyweight will certainly do.
Lay on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other, propping yourself up with your elbow. If you’re using an exercise band, position it just above your knees.
Keeping your hips stacked, engage your core and lift your left leg straight up as far as you can. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.
Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips.
Keeping your left leg bent, raise it directly out to the side until your thigh is parallel to the floor — like a dog at a fire hydrant.
Ensure your neck and back are straight and your core stays engaged throughout this move. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.
Grab an exercise band and get to steppin’! Place it around your ankles or just above your knees, bend your knees slightly, and side shuffle, feeling your hips working with each step.
Make sure to keep your feet pointing straight ahead while side stepping. After 10 to 12 steps in one direction, stop and go the other way.
Single-leg glute bridge
This is a more advanced move. Popping one leg up during a bridge will wake up your glutes and allow you to really feel a stretch in your stationary hip.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor as you would with a regular glute bridge. Extend your right leg before you push yourself off the ground, using your core and glutes to do so.
Also known as a glute kickback, the donkey kick helps to strengthen the hip by isolating this movement.
To perform, get on all fours. Keeping your right knee bent, lift your left foot up toward the sky. Keep your foot flat during the entirety of the move, engaging your glutes.
Push your foot up toward the ceiling as high as you can without tilting your pelvis for maximum impact.
If you’re in too much pain to even think about activity, rest and ice your hip or hips until you feel better. Then attempt stretching and strengthening.
Before you start to stretch, warm your muscles up with some light cardio, like brisk walking, for 10 to 15 minutes. The longer you can devote to stretching, the better you’ll feel and the easier the exercises will be.
Stretch every day if you can, and aim to do the strength exercises 2 to 3 times a week.
If your hips really start to hurt at any point, don’t push it. Stop what you’re doing and see a healthcare provider for further evaluation.
Simple stretches and strength exercises targeted at the hips may help minimize pain and get you back on your feet in just a few weeks.
If your pain persists or worsens, see your doctor or other healthcare provider. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on next steps.
Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.