4 Effective Hip Mobility Exercises For Happy Hips

A lot of people struggle with hip pain. Whether you are a runner, cyclist, or rower or spend a lot of time at the gym doing squats and deadlifts, you may notice that you experience either occasional twinges of sharp pain in your hips or a constant dull aching. 

Performing hip mobility exercises and hip mobility stretches can help keep the soft tissues surrounding the hip joint healthy and able to move through their full, natural range of motion.

But, what are the best exercises for hip mobility? How often should you perform mobility exercises for hips, and what types of hip mobility stretches should you be doing?

In this article, we will discuss the importance of doing mobility exercises for hips, the benefits of performing exercises for hip mobility, and step-by-step instructions for some of the best hip mobility exercises and stretches to keep your hips happy, healthy, and pain-free.

We will look at: 

  • What Is Hip Mobility?
  • Why Are Hip Mobility Exercises Important?
  • Signs of Poor Hip Mobility
  • 4 Effective Hip Mobility Exercises For Happy Hips

Let’s get started!

Pigeon Pose.

What Is Hip Mobility?

Before we go into specific exercises for hip mobility and helpful hip mobility stretches, let’s discuss why hip mobility is important and what it entails.

So, what is hip mobility? People frequently conflate the terms flexibility and mobility.

While flexibility and mobility are interrelated concepts, they are also distinct terms that refer to different things.

Flexibility refers to your permissive range of motion around a joint, whereas mobility is your functional range of motion in a joint, or how much range of motion you can actually use for various everyday activities and exercises.

Cossak squat.

Therefore, in order to have good hip mobility, you not only need to have flexibility in the contractile and non-contractile tissues surrounding the hip joint, but you also need to have adequate strength and neuromuscular control to access and capitalize on this range of motion in a usable way.

Note that contractile tissues refer to muscles, and non-contractile tissues surrounding the hip joint are connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons, as well as the other structures that form the hip joint, including cartilage, nerves, blood vessels, and the joint capsule itself.

One reason that it is important to perform a well-rounded hip mobility workout routine is that there are so many muscles that cross the hip joint and help control it (17 in total!), and the hip joint moves through all three planes of motion.

These planes of motion are the sagittal plane for forwards/backward movement of the leg, the frontal plane for side-to-side motion, and the transverse plane for internal and external rotation.

Leg lift.

Why Are Hip Mobility Exercises Important?

So, why is hip mobility important?

The hips are one of the most central and important joints in the body (though it’s hard to rank the “importance” of a joint).

The reason that the hips are so crucial is that the hip joint is part of the pelvis, and ultimately, the pelvis connects the upper body to the lower body. 

Although the hips are considered part of the appendicular skeleton (the bony framework of the appendages), the pelvis connects to the axial skeleton, which is the skull and spine. 

Therefore, the hips are essentially the juncture between the upper body and trunk with the lower body. 

Thus, having good hip mobility ensures that you not only have functional use of the lower body for activities like walking, standing, running, jumping, squatting, climbing stairs, and getting up and down off the ground but also that your trunk and upper body are properly supported with a stable, level pelvis.

Quad stretch.

Doing exercises for hip mobility helps maintain functional strength for activities of daily living as well as for exercise and athletic performance.

Moreover, when considering what constitutes “good hip mobility,“ another factor that has a significant influence on whether your hip mobility is optimal or not is that the mobility in each hip should be equal and balanced. 

In other words, if you have tissue tightness or lack of hip mobility on one side, you can develop issues with maintaining proper movement mechanics and static and dynamic posture.

For this reason, when performing exercises to improve hip mobility, it is important to do unilateral hip mobility exercises to correct deficits or discrepancies between your right and left side.

In addition, you should also perform bilateral hip mobility exercises to train the hips to work together as a cohesive unit that adjoins the trunk and lower limbs.

Four figure stretch.

Signs of Poor Hip Mobility

Some common signs and symptoms of poor hip mobility include the following:

  • Pain in the hips when moving, walking, squatting, sitting, standing, lifting the legs, climbing stairs, doing exercise, etc.
  • A feeling of weakness or instability in the hips or pelvis towards the end range of motion when moving the leg or weight-bearing.
  • Short, choppy step length or stride length when walking or running.
  • Uneven stride length or step length when walking or running (indicative of discrepancies in hip mobility from one side to the other).
  • Difficulty squatting down or bending down.
  • Difficulty getting on and off the ground, in and out of the car or a low chair, or up and down from a bed.
  • Difficulty or pain climbing stairs, ladders, or walking up and down an incline.
  • Pain or difficulty lifting the leg to walk over an obstacle (envision stepping over a hurdle but needing to bend your leg out to the side or turn your ankle to clear your foot because you can’t lift your leg high enough at the hip).
  • Difficulty separating the legs from side to side.
Hamstring stretch.

4 Effective Hip Mobility Exercises For Happy Hips

Exercises for hip mobility need to target all three planes of movement previously discussed.

This means that your hip mobility workout program needs to have hip exercises that include flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, and internal and external rotation.

Here are some of the best mobility exercises for hips and the best stretches for hips:

In general, stretches for the hips tend to improve flexibility more than mobility, but you have to perform hip stretches as part of your hip mobility routine if you do not have proper hip flexibility.

Essentially, adequate hip flexibility sets the foundation for building proper hip mobility, so “hip mobility stretches“ can be seen as a precursor to attaining the functional range of motion you need before you can ensure you have the strength and neuromuscular control requisite for ideal hip mobility.

Butterfly stretch.

The focus here is on hip mobility exercises, but for the sake of being a comprehensive guide to improving hip mobility, some of the best hip mobility stretches include the:

  • Pigeon pose
  • Butterfly stretch
  • Standing hip flexor stretch
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Quadriceps stretches
  • Figure-four or the piriformis stretch
  • Standing IT band stretch

As with your hip mobility exercises, the best hip mobility stretches for your own needs will depend on whether you have specific muscles or connective tissues surrounding the hip joint that are tight and then targeting these areas with an appropriate hip stretch.

#1: Side-Lying Leg Raises

This hip mobility exercise strengthens your hip abductors and improves lateral hip mobility. Use ankle weights as you get stronger.

  1. Lie on one side with your legs straight and your head propped up on your arm.
  2. Lift your top leg as high towards the ceiling as you can.
  3. Slowly lower it back down.
  4. Complete 20 reps per side.

#2: Lunge Matrix

This hip mobility exercise has you moving in several directions.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand with good posture and your hands on your hips.
  2. Take a big step forward with the right foot and bend both knees to drop down to a forward lunge.
  3. Use your glutes to press back up to standing.
  4. Then, step the right foot out to the side, and bend the right knee into a lateral lunge.
  5. After pressing back up to the standing position, step the right leg backward and drop down into a reverse lunge.
  6. Complete 5-12 rounds per leg.

#3: Cossack Squats

The cossack squat is a more challenging leg exercise that works your inner and outer thighs, your hips, all of the glute muscles, as well as your quads and hamstrings. 

Because you are moving in the frontal plane (side-to-side motion), this is a great lower-body exercise to add to hip mobility workouts to help prevent muscle imbalances in the hips because you are strengthening your muscles in a different movement direction.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand with your feet nice and wide and your toes pointing out about 15 degrees. 
  2. Shift your weight to the right leg while you straighten the left leg out to the side as you squat down.
  3. Tap your left heel on the floor with your toes pointing to the ceiling.
  4. At the bottom position, press through the right leg to stand back up as you bring the left leg back in.
  5. Perform 6-15 reps and then switch sides.

#4: Fire Hydrants

  1. Get in a tabletop position with ankle weights.
  2. Lift your right leg directly out to the side, keeping the knee bent. 
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position. 
  5. Perform 8-12 reps and then switch sides.

Add these exercises to your routine to improve your hip mobility!

For other mobility exercises, check out our guide to shoulder mobility exercises and shoulder warm-up exercises here.

Shoulder alphabets.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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