How to Loosen Up Those Tight Hips

How to Loosen Up Those Tight Hips

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Dynamic hip stretches can improve how well you perform.

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Tight hips can prevent you playing your favorite sport or recreational activity well, and may even increase your risk for back or hip pain. Loosen up your hips with a combination of static and dynamic stretches that improve your hips' range of motion. Static stretching is holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, while dynamic stretching is moving your muscles repetitively with full range of motion. Although both stretching methods improve flexibility, exercise physiologist Len Kravitz recommends that you perform dynamic stretching before workouts because it stimulates your nervous system and muscles to be better prepared to move. Save static stretching, which enhances relaxation, at the end of your workout.

Dynamic Hip Swings


Stand with your feet together, with the right side of your body facing a wall. Put your right hand on the wall for support, and take three to five deep breaths with your belly. Swing your right leg up toward your ribs with your knee bent, and swing it back behind you while keeping your trunk straight throughout the exercise. Your hips and torso shouldn't sway very much. Perform 10 to 20 reps per leg.


Assume the same position as Step 1, and swing with your leg almost fully extended when you swing it forward. Bend your knee when you swing back without hyperextending your lower back. Perform 10 to 20 reps per leg.


Face the wall and put your hands against the wall with your arms slightly bent. Swing your right leg across the middle of your body while keeping your left leg still and your left knee slightly bent. Swing your right leg out to your side without moving your upper body. Your right hip and leg should be slightly turned out when you swing laterally. Perform 10 to 20 reps per leg.

Clockwork Lunges


Stand with your feet together and step forward about 2 feet in front of you, with your left foot to the imaginary 12 o'clock position. Inhale as you lunge down until your right knee almost touches the floor. Keep your back straight, and do not move your left knee over your toes. Exhale as you push yourself back to the standing position without hunching your back or shrugging your shoulders.


Step to your left at a 30- to 45-degree angle from your standing position to the 10 or 11 o'clock position, keeping your left foot and your body facing forward. Inhale as you lunge down, and exhale as you step back to the standing position.


Step laterally left to the nine o'clock position with your left foot pointing forward. Shift your weight to your left as you lunge down as low as you can without rounding your spine. Allow your torso to bend forward at your hips, but do not bend farther than 45 degrees. Keep your right leg straight and your right foot planted on the floor. Reach forward with your arms as a counterbalance, but don't shrug your shoulders. Exhale as you step back to the starting position.


Step back diagonally about 2 feet behind you to the 7 or 8 o'clock position, and lunge down until your left knee almost touches the floor. Exhale as you step back to the standing position. Finish the exercise by stepping back 2 feet behind you, and lunge. Repeat the exercise on the opposite leg. Perform two or three sets of clockwork lunges.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch


Kneel on the floor on your left knee with your right foot about a foot in front of you. Keep both knees bent at about 90 degrees. Put your right hand on your right thigh for support, and raise your left arm over your head. Tighten your buttocks and shift your weight toward your right foot slightly to deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch for five or six deep breaths.


Lean your torso to your right side, stretching the tissue from your left armpit, through your ribs and to your left hip flexors. Hold the stretch for five or six deep breaths.


Bring your right arm against your right inner thigh, and push your forearm and leg against each other to balance as you maintain the leaning position. Exhale slowly as you twist your torso to the left as much as you can. Hold the stretch for five or six deep breaths. Unwind your body to the starting position, and repeat the stretch on the opposite side.


  • Sometimes stretching alone doesn't get rid of the tissue adhesions that are sensitive to pressure, which can cause pain and tightness. The National Academy of Sports Medicine suggests that you use self-myofascial release to loosen up the connective tissues, which is a self-massage technique using a foam roller. Placing pressure upon the muscle fibers decreases the neural stimulation to the muscle, which increases relaxation. This can be used on your buttocks, lower back, inner thighs, quadriceps and hamstrings to improve hip flexibility. Apply pressure gently upon the tender spot until the tenderness subsides.


  • Do not stretch when your muscles are sore, because stretching sore muscles can make your hip muscles feel tighter. Since muscle soreness is a sign that there is some inflammation in the muscle, stretching causes your nervous system to contract the muscle reflexively to protect it from further lengthening or tearing, according to licensed massage therapist Todd Hargrove. Researchers at The George Institute for Global Health in Australia showed that stretching before or after a workout doesn't prevent or decrease muscle soreness.

Resources (4)

  • New York Road Runners: Leg Swings
  • IDEA Fitness Journal: Can This Psoas Be Saved?
  • Clockwork Lunges
  • Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook