The Best Stretches for the Hip - Increase Flexibility and Relieve Tight Hips and Pain

Article written by Louise Henderson, Personal Trainer and Study Active Assessor and edited by Jemma Walsh 

Hip flexibility is something that we need to work on as we get older and less agile. Knowing what stretches for the hips work for us as individuals is very beneficial to include in both our exercise plans and daily life. Today we have spoken to Personal Trainer and Study Active Assessor Louise Henderson about the best hip flexibility stretches, hip mobility stretches and any tips and tricks to help those of us who need to improve our overall hip flexibility. 

Why are hip flexibility stretches important? 

Our hips are very important for movement. We use our hips for everyday functional movements such as walking, climbing the stairs, lifting, and running. Therefore, tight hips can have a negative impact on these movements. The hip bone (pelvis) and thigh bone (femur) are the anchor point for some very big muscles including the quadriceps, hamstring, hip flexors, adductors, and glutes. So, if any of these muscles are tight it can cause hip pain but also knee and back pain too. 

If you are looking to also strengthen your knees and increase your overall mobility make sure to discover our blog on ‘Knee Strengthening Exercises 

What are the best stretches for the hip? 

Good hip and leg stretches can help increase flexibility in this targeted area, hip joint stretches are good for this reason. A yoga pose that I find beneficial for the gluteal muscles (buttocks) and the hip adductors (inner thigh) is ‘the pigeon pose’. From your hands and knees, put your right knee forward towards the right wrist. Move your right foot somewhere in front of your left hip (the higher the foot the more intense the stretch so start with the right foot lower towards the left hip). Extend your left leg backwards straight behind the left hip, top of the foot facing down. Use a cushion underneath the right buttock if your need to support your hip. You can move your hands further forward to increase the stretch. Hold for 20-30 second and repeat two to four times. Hip mobility stretches like this are an advanced stretch but can also be performed seated or laying for a softer approach until flexibility develops. 

Can you suggest some stretches for hip pain or stretches for sore hips? 

If you sit for long periods of time I would recommend a hip bridge. Sitting for long periods of time causes the hips to shorten. Stretches for front of hip area are most beneficial for this. I would suggest doing a hip bridge or it can also be commonly known as bridge pose, which will not only open the hips but also open other muscles on the front of the body such as the chest, shoulders and abdomen. Stretches for hip pain like this are also great lower back hip stretches, strengthening the muscles on your lower back, glutes (buttocks) and thighs as well as improving posture so are a great all-rounder! 

Are there any specific hip flexor stretches for pain sufferers?  

Good stretches for hips that come up time and time again is the butterfly stretch. A seated hip stretch which is also very beneficial and suitable for beginners. It’s a very good stretch if you have hip pain due to tightness after prolonged periods of sitting or strenuous exercise. Sit on the floor with the soles of the feet together. Sit up nice and tall, no slouching! Take a deep breath in then as you exhale allow the knees to open more/relax and sink into the stretch a little more. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times. This is a great example of hip flexor stretches for pain.  

Are there any specific stretches for hip bursitis? 

Bursae are little sacks of fluid that sit between the bones, muscles, tendons, all over the body. Like little cushions they help the muscles and joints move smoothly. The hips have two bursae and when they become inflamed it is called bursitis. Stretches for hip bursitis I would recommend are a hip rotator stretch or reclined pigeon. Lay on your back, cross one ankle over the other bent thigh. This may be a strong enough stretch for the hip or the stretch can be increased by lifting the supporting foot off the floor and holding the back of the thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Can be repeated three times.

Can you recommend any stretches for lower back and hip pain? 

Tight hips can cause the pelvis (hip bone) to tilt forward (anterior tilt) which in turn, can cause lower back pain due to the added stress on the lower back muscles. It is important to choose the right stretches to alleviate this pain and tightness. Lower back hip pain stretches should ideally be carried out daily to help maintain flexibility and aid joint alignment. Stretches for the lower back and hip pain are best suited when built up gradually and held for short periods of time before eventually reaching 3x 20-30 seconds. I would recommend a standing lunge stretch as this can be performed anywhere around the home such as when you get up from your desk or watching TV or whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. Take a big step forward with your left foot. Lift your back right heel off the floor and bend both knees to 90-degree angles. Your left knee should stay over the left ankle, not go past the toes. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds then repeat on the other side. 

If you are looking for some more examples specifically targeting the lower back, then discover our blog ‘10 of the best stretching exercises for the lower back’.  

What are some hip mobility stretches 

An exercise called a clam shell can strengthen the gluteus muscles and provide muscular support to the hip joint so are great hip mobility stretches. Lay on one side and bend the knees to around 90 degrees. Ensure that the hips are stacked, and the top foot is resting on top of the bottom one. Slowly open and rotate the top knee but keep the big toe edges of the feet together. Hold the knee open (like a clam shell) for around three seconds before slowly lowering to the start position. Repeat around ten times.  

Are there some hip rotation stretches that you would recommend? 

Without good hip rotation, everyday tasks such as stepping in and out of a bath would be difficult. To loosen these muscles, some hip rotation stretches I would recommend are self-massaging using either a massage ball or tennis ball. Begin by laying on your right side with your right hand supporting your head. Lift your hips up and place the ball on the outer part of the hip. Massage the right TFL (tensor fasciae latae - outer hip) with very small movements. Try tucking and untucking the tail bone and rolling your hips side to side and up and down. You can move nearer to the upper buttocks and massage the gluteus medius and minimus and carry out the same small movements. 

Summary of the best stretches for the hip 

Overall, Louise has provided us with a range of exercises to improve the hips, working on increasing flexibility, mobility and strength through a range of practiced movements. If we are able to incorporate hip flexibility stretches, hip rotation stretches and hip and leg stretches into our workouts or daily routines, it would help reduce any risk of injury and most importantly mobility over time. If you are looking for some examples of post workout stretches make sure to check out our blog on the best stretches after a workout here. 

When we talk about hip pain, certain areas need to be addressed to make sure that the right exercises are targeting the correct areas. Louise outlines stretches for hip pain, stretches for lower back and hip pain, stretches for sore hips and hip flexor stretches for pain. She also talks about what bursitis is and how stretches for hip bursitis specifically can help improve this. With the right amount of practice you can improve your own hip pain, flexibility and mobility yourself through these simple movements. Always remember if something is painful to get it checked out by your GP first and never push your body beyond a mild discomfort. 


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