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7 Stretches to Loosen Tight Hips in Runners

Tight hips: they’re the bane of every runner’s existence. Okay, perhaps we’re exaggerating, but feeling tension in the hips after a run is no joke.

Stiffness that ranges from bothersome to making you immobile is certainly common, especially if you’re skipping out on stretching.

Aaptiv has stretching workouts to get your mobility back. Check them out in the app today.

In the hopes of relieving stress in the hips, we asked Aaptiv trainer Ceasar F. Barajas to recommend some post-run stretches and poses.

Read on to learn how to incorporate them into your cool-down routine or a rest day.

Butterfly

The butterfly stretch is one of the most universally known stretches. The stretch is so commonly used because it primarily targets small muscles in your inner thighs called hip adductors.

Hip adductors assist in everyday movements, like flexing, rotating, and straightening your hips. This, of course, means that they play a large part in running.

Doing the butterfly stretch won’t just release any tightness in this muscle, but it will also decrease your chances of a lower back injury and torn ligaments.

Here’s how to do it: Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Then, bend your knees outward and press the soles of your feet together; this should create a diamond shape with your legs.

To lessen the stretch, move your feet further from your body; to increase the stretch, pull them closer.

Keep your back straight, and lean forward, if your flexibility allows. While performing this stretch, make sure that you’re keeping your back from curving.

For a more intense stretch, place your hands or elbows on your knees and gently press downward.

Cross-Legged Twist

To target your outer hips (and parts of the glutes), move on to the cross-legged twist. This stretch is also known as the parivrtta sukhasana, meaning twisted and easy, comfortable, or joyful. This couldn’t be more true, considering it’s as simple as the first stretch.

Begin by sitting crossed-legged on the floor. Make sure that your back is straight and your breathing is normal.

Now turn your upper body (including your neck) to the left. Place your right hand on top of your left knee, and your left hand on the ground; this will help you hold the stretch and stay stable.

To switch sides, release your hands and slowly face forward. Then, turn to the right side, placing your left hand on top of the right knee and right hand on the ground.

Try not to push yourself too far or you may over-twist!

Child’s Pose

The next series of poses comes from Aaptiv’s “Hips & Hearts Open,” which Barajas recommends trying post-run or after a HIIT routine.

It starts off in child’s pose, which you’ll instantly recognize if you’ve ever taken a yoga class or done a yoga routine. While it may feel ineffective, this pose is great for a slew of reasons.

The inward fold of the body and downward head placement naturally signals that you’re safe and can rest, relaxing your body.

Performing the pose with your knees close together and stomach resting on your thighs decompresses your lower back and can aid in digestion. In addition, child’s pose opens up the hips, especially if you place your knees widely apart.

To do this pose, start by sitting on your knees. Rest your bum on your heels and spread your knees apart, keeping your big toes together.

From here, bend forward and drape your torso between your legs, with your forehead coming to the floor. Extend your arms out in front of you, palms facing down against the floor.

Using your hands, push back just enough to keep your bum on your heels. Stretch from your hips all the way through to your fingers.

“Feel the weight as you let your hips sink,” says Barajas. “Whether you think you’re stretching, you are.”

Upside Down V

Yogis will recognize this pose by its more widely known name, downward facing dog. This pose stretches your hamstrings, calves, arches, shoulders, and hands all at once.

This allows it to release bodily stress, energize the body, improve digestion, and even relieve period pain.

Easily enough, you can come into upside down v straight from child’s pose. Curl your toes under and push up onto the soles of your feet, leaning forward onto your hands.

Keep your heels pressed to the mat or floor, allowing those leg muscles to stretch. “Imagine there’s a rope tied around your waist and it pulls you towards the ceiling,” Barajas explains.

To open up the hips you can square them off and lift one leg up, creating a three-legged downward facing dog. From there, for even more hip action, you can lengthen your spine and raise your hips towards the sky or ceiling.

Bend the knee of the extended leg and bring your heel towards your bum. This variation stretches the hips and lengthens each side of the body, relieving any tight hips and working your core balance.

Modified Runner’s Lunge

Also called the crescent lunge or low lunge, this variant provides a deeper stretch to the hips and thighs. You can do it from standing or go into it from upside down v.

To do the latter, bring your right leg into the air; draw it in through your heart center and plant your foot between both of your hands.

Check that your right knee isn’t going past your ankle. Allow your back left knee to drop to the ground, resting the top of your left foot on the ground, as well.

Keep your core engaged and body upright. Push into your left hip, both of them pointing straight ahead.

Like in upside down v, imagine a rope pulling your hips ever so slightly forward and down. “Feel the stretch at the top of the left hip,” Barajas says. “Physically feel the breath go into that left hip.”

When finished, come back into upside down v and repeat on the opposite side. Barajas points out that one side might feel different or less flexible than the other—and that’s totally normal.

Make the adjustments that you need to get a great stretch without feeling pain or major discomfort.

Deep Squat

Barajas describes this as child’s pose in standing position. The deep squat is one of the best ways to stretch your hip flexors, rotating them externally while unloading your pelvis and spine.

To start off, place your feet at the edges of your mat (or further, whichever takes you outside of shoulder-width). Heels planted on the ground, keep your back as straight as possible and lower your hips.

“Breathe into the hips, imagine you’re opening up,” Barajas advises.

Reverse Pigeon

Reverse pigeon pose is another stretch that targets your hip flexors. However, it differs from the other poses in that it takes places on the ground.

To perform it, start by laying on your back. Both legs should be bent, with your feet flat on the ground. From here, take your right ankle and cross it over the top of your left thigh.

It should look like you’ve created a number four of sorts with your legs. Now, take your right hand and bring it to the middle of your legs. With that hand, you can either grab behind the left thigh or—if your flexibility allows—the front of the left shin.

Keeping your right foot flexed, use both hands to bring your left knee towards your chest. Try to keep your right knee open.

For an even deeper stretch, place your left hand on top of your left shin and your right hand on your right knee. Gently push your right knee away from you as you pull the left leg forward, all while keeping your right foot flexed.

This will target both your inner and outer hip. As always, perform on the opposite side to balance your stretch out.

For more stretching or yoga workouts, Aaptiv has the latest workout releases in app. Check them out!

7 Must-Try Hip Stretches for Runners

After six marathons, my hips just aren’t as jazzed about running as they used to be. Emotionally, I’m excited to get out there and log some long runs. But about 6 miles in, my left hip starts to speak up. It’s as if it’s saying, “Remember me?!” Over and over again, the tightness seems to amp up as the miles do. In an effort to loosen things up down there, I’ve been on the hunt for the best hip stretches for runners-plus some insight into why this tightness is so common among runners in the first place. (Related: 5 Things Physical Therapists Want Runners to Start Doing Now)

For starters, your hip flexors’ main purpose is to bring your thigh forward and up toward your stomach-a movement that’s pretty critical to running. Every step forward requires a contraction of your hip flexors, so miles and miles of running will really put them to work. Neglect stretching them post-run, and they’ll stay in a shortened (read: tight) position. (Here’s everything you need to know about tight hip flexors.)

Running isn’t the only thing to blame: “The simple act of spending too much time in a seated position (which is all too common in today’s modern world) wreaks havoc on the average runner’s hips,” says Brad Walker, director of education at StretchLab, a Los Angeles–based assisted stretching studio. “Excessive time behind a desk or steering wheel leads to poor posture, which in turn creates strength and flexibility imbalances within the muscles around the hip joint.”

According to Walker, these imbalances put unnatural and uneven tension on the hip joint, which in turn forces the muscles within the hip joint to tighten up (ow, no thanks). And if the runner has faulty biomechanics? Or poor running form? The problem is amplified.

If this all sounds familiar, you’re in luck. Here, Walker shares seven essential hip stretches for runners to loosen up and strengthen the hips. (Also try these yoga poses for tight hips.)

How it works: The order of the following stretches is very important. Do the first four to loosen up the large muscle groups around the hip joint, and then do the others to focus on the smaller muscles located deep within the hip. Hold each of the below for between 30 seconds to a minute before moving on to the next.

1. 90-90 Hip Stretch

A. Sit on the floor with the right leg bent at a 90-degree angle, with the outside of the right leg on the floor and thigh extending straight forward from right hip. Position the left thigh at a 90-degree angle from the right thigh, pointing straight to the left, with knee bent at a 90-degree angle and inside of the leg on the floor.

B. Placing hands lightly on the floor on either side of the right leg, gently lean forward over right leg. Hold for 2 seconds. Sit up straight then lean back, placing hands lightly on the floor behind hips. Hold for 2 seconds. Continue leaning forward and back for 30 seconds.

2. Standing Quad Stretch

A. Stand with feet together. Bring the right heel up toward the right glute.

B. Balancing on the left leg, hold the right ankle and keep knees together while pushing hips forward. Hold on to something for balance if needed. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch

A.Start in a half-kneeling position with the right leg forward and foot flat on the floor, and the left knee on the ground. If needed, hold on to something to keep balance, then push hips forward. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. (Related: 9 Running Stretches to Do After Every Single Run)

4. Rotating Stomach Stretch

A.Lie facedown on the floor with hands underneath shoulders, palms pressing into the floor. Keeping hips on the ground, look forward and press into palms to straighten arms. (This will resemble an upward dog with hips and feet still on the ground).

B.Then, slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder toward the ground, while gazing over the opposite shoulder. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Standing Leg-Under Abductor Stretch

A. Stand behind a chair or in front of a bench. Lean forward, holding onto the chair or bench for balance.

B. Cross the right foot behind the left, and slide that foot to the side until there’s a deep stretch up the right side of the body. Make sure to keep the right leg straight, slowly bending the left leg to lower into the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

6. Supine Figure-4 Stretch

A. Lie faceup with both feet flat on the floor. Lift the left leg toward the torso, crossing the left ankle over the right thigh so left knee points to the left.

B. Loop hands around the back of the right thigh and draw knees in toward torso. Keep both feet flexed. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

7. Seated Rotational Hip Stretch

A.Sit on the floor with the right foot in a butterfly position. Position left leg so the thigh presses into the bottom of the right foot, with the inside of the left leg touching the floor.

B. Lean backward toward the right leg. Rotate torso to the left, lightly resting fingers on the floor for balance. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

  • By Emily Abbate @emilyabbate

The common refrain in any runner’s life is this: “My hips are SOOOO tight!” Unlike ultra-bendy yogis, pavement-pounders have ongoing issues with stiff muscles from head-to-toe. And the area just below the elastic of your leggings, your hip flexors, may be one of the creakiest spots in your bod.

As David Siik, founder and creator of Precision Running, previously told Well+Good, tight hips can cause a domino effect throughout your overall physical health. If you don’t make a point of stretching out your hip flexors on the reg, muscle tightness can lead to lack of blood flow to that area, leaving you open to injuries.

I get it, I get it: stretching, foam rolling, and other ways to relax stressed out muscles can be time consuming. But getting sidelined by hips that just won’t budge is way worse than spending some time in pigeon pose. Am I right?

The best hip stretches for runners, according to experts

1. 10-minute fast (but effective!) hip stretch

Grab your yoga mat and a lacrosse ball for this quickie hip session that will ease your muscles after a long, tough run. For extra entertainment value, the runner behind this vid changes his hat with each stretch. So you’ll see you’ll get to LOL through a beanie, a baseball cap, and a fishing hat and come out on the other side stretched out.

2. Low-lunge love

If you only have time for one stretch, make it this low-lunge. Yoga-goers will recognize this one from their practice, and all the same rules apply: keep the knee bent directly above the ankle, neutralize the low back by engaging the core, and try to keep the weight distribution even in the front and back legs.

3. A sport medicine doctor’s favorite static stretches

As Dusty Marie Narducci, MD, a sports medicine fellow at The Mayo Clinic, explains, static stretching belongs after your run. Her personal favorites include butterfly stretch, thread the needle, and hamstring-targeting moves that will also help your aching hips.

4. All-in-one, 10-minute stretch

In just 10 minutes, you can clear out all the tightness of your miles-long run. In this video, you’ll hit your hips and other major muscle groups that make your PR possible.

5. A physical therapist’s go-tos

“Doctor Jo,” PT, a physical therapist says that she tells clients to turn to seven specific stretches that target hip tightness. Her sequence will loosen up all the muscles around your hips, so you don’t need to worry about leaving one out of the equation. Basically, she’s taking care of everything—so trust the process and feel your mid-region release.

6. A kinesiologist’s most-prized hip stretches

Kinesiologist and movement coach Eric Wong, BSc, takes a non-static approach to unwinding your hips. Instead, his require muscular activation to go in deep on the areas the you may have been neglecting. One such move, the “BJJ Quad,” will kinda make you look like you’re break dancing. So keep an open mind about these five unusual, but effective stretches.

7. Hip stretches, but make it yoga

If you want make your running recovery feel more blissful and relaxation-minded, try this 10-minute sequence that’s all about your hips. You’ll move through oldie-but-goldies, like butterfly and low lunge, as well as asanas you may have yet to discover.

8. Try an origami stretch

A physiologist associated with The National Health Service says that the origami stretch is one to memorize for both your thighs and hip flexors. To do it, simply lie on your side and tuck your knees in toward your chest. Then bend your top knee so you can catch it with your top hand. Bonus: you’ll feel the stretch in your quad, too.

9. Warrior yoga stretches for battle-ready hips

In case you didn’t know, both Warrior I and Warrior II are active poses that stretch out your hips. If you can count the number of times you’ve stepped onto a yoga mat on one hand, don’t sweat it. Yoga teacher and Well+Good trainer of the month, Valerie Verdier, will guide you toward sweet, sweet hip-centric relief.

10. Stretches that require zero equipment

Usually, the two trainers behind HASFit can be found jumping up and down during energetic workouts. Even they need to slow down though. And when they do, this 15-minute hip stretching routine is there go-to. One stretch involves lying on your back and flapping your legs like a butterfly’s wings (which looks silly, but feels like heaven).

11. Hip stretches for better overall flexibility

To improve your overall flexibility over time, make this yogi’s vid your hip-stretching bible. Repeat the same sequence again and again and watch your bendiness go from a 3 to a 10.

Before you set off on your run, try this warm up:

If you haven’t heard of the McKenzie Method for stretching, give it a try. Plus, how to prevent neck stiffness as you age.

Looking for some of the best hip flexors stretches? You’re in the right place.

In today’s article I’ll show you how to stretch your hips in a safe and comfortable way.

But first things first, let’s talk about why you need to add a few hip opening stretches to your training routine.

Running & Hip Flexors Tightness

I love running. I could go on and on about the fitness and health benefits the sport offers: It burns mad calories, improves endurance, prevents chronic diseases, the list goes on.

Yet the repetitive high impact of the sport has many shortcomings. One of these making the hip flexors tight.

Hip tightness is a common issue for many a runner—from beginners to elites. It’s one of the most common complaints I hear from my readers, clients, friends, and running partners.

Hip tightness is linked to a myriad of common conditions, such as knee pain, IT band syndrome, lower back pain, shin splints, etc.

In fact, if you’re currently dealing with or recovering from an overuse running injury, the fault may lie with your hips.

Let’s delve deeper…

What Are The Hip Flexors?

Located near the top of your thighs, the hip flexors consist of a group of muscles and tendons on the front—anterior—of your hip joint, connecting your legs to your pelvis.

When contracted, your hip flexors let you raise your knees or bend at the hip.

The primary hip flexor muscles are the psoas major and the iliacus— collectively known as the iliopsoas, (usually the weakest of all of the muscles).

Other hip flexor muscles include the sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and rectus femoris. See image.

And here’s how they look like :

The main hip flexors muscles

Source – Wikipedia

The Functions Of the Hip Flexors

The hip flexor muscles are used in every stride when walking, running, and sprinting.

These allow you to walk, run, bend kick, and swivel your hips.

Your hip flexors are contracted on every step forward. The more miles you log in, the more you put them to work.

Some of the main functions:

  • Bringing the thighs up toward the chest.
  • Driving the knees up and down.
  • Maintaining proper running form.
  • Moving the legs from side to side and front to back.
  • Stabilizing the pelvis.

Causes of Hip Issues

The hips is just one region of the body that’s prone to tightness if you’re a runner.

Running’s repetitive nature means that you’re constantly working the hip flexors and extensors through a very small range of motion.

Add to this the fact that, thanks to our sedentary lifestyle, we spend the bulk of our time sitting—roughly a third of the day.

When you spend a lot of time in a seated position, your hip flexors are kept in a shortened position more than they should be, which, in turn, makes them super tight.

This has huge negative effects on your posture, spinal stability, and gait.

Ramifications of Tightness

Tightness in the hip flexors results in an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt. This occurs when the arch of the lower back increases while the backside stick out more.

The tighter your hip flexors get, the more your pelvis tilts back and the more likely you’re to lean forward—as in stick out your butt and arch your back—while running.

Not only this is bad form, but can also set you up for back pain and serious injury. And you want none of that.

For more on the research conducted on hip muscle tightness and overuse injury, check the following studies:

Study 1

Study 2

Study 3

Study 4

Study 5

How To Test Your Hip Flexor Flexibility

Wondering if your hips are too tight—or loose enough? Take the Thomas test.

Also known as Iliacus test or Iliopsoas Test, this test is used to measure the flexibility of the hip flexors—more specifically, that of the iliopsoas muscle group, the pectineus, Rectus Femoris, gracillus as well as the Sartorius and Tensor Fascia.

Proper form

Start by laying or sitting at the very edge of a table or bent, with the tailbone resting at the edge.

Then, roll back onto the table while pulling both knees to your chest. This helps ensure that your lumbar spine is flat on the table and your pelvis is posteriorly rotated.

Next, hold the opposite hip in maximum flexor with the arms, while the assessed limb hang down toward the floor. Last up, perform on both sides and compare.

Results

If your left leg lower backs, and sacrum remain flat on the table with the knee bending to 70 to 90 degrees, kudos…you don’t have tight hip flexors.

However, if one of your thighs or legs stay up drastically higher than the other, then you do have tight hips, and regular hip openning stretches are required.

How To Stretch Your Hip Flexors

Fortunately, there’s is an abundance of good hip openining stretches that you can perform at home to decrease tightness, relieve pain, and increase mobility in your hips.

You won’t need to join a gym, buy a lot of expensive equipment or even leave the comfort of your home to perform the following hip flexors exercices.

Enjoy!

1. Pigeon

Also known as Eka pada rajakapotasana, this is a famous yoga pose, and one of the most effective hip flexors stretches, especially the hip abductors.

Proper Form

Begin by sitting with your right knee bent and left leg stretched behind you.

Next, while making sure that your left hip is always pointing toward the mat, drag your right heel toward your left hip. Then rest your hands on your right thigh or your hips, then walk your hands out in front of you, and lower your hips down toward the floor over your right knee.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Be sure to breathe into any area of discomfort or tension.

Repeat on the other side.

2. Lunge Hip Flexor Stretch

This powerful stretch not only targets most of the muscles in the hips, but it’s also ideal for stretching the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Proper Form

Assume a lunge position with your right knee forward.

Next, drop your left knee to the ground, and place your hands on your right knee or the floor under your shoulders, according to your flexibility level.

Be sure to keep your upper body tall, and core engaged the entire time.

Then, while keeping your front knee directly above your ankle, hold the position for 30 seconds to one minute, and feel the stretch in your left hip flexor.

Change sides and repeat.

3. Happy Baby

Also known as Ananda Balasana in the yogic circles, this relaxing hip stretch also targets the lower back and the hamstrings.

Proper Form

Lay flat on your back with both knees bent while gently holding the outside edges of your feet with your hands.

Next, while keeping your arms on the outside of your legs, press both knees to the ground below your armpits. Feel free to rock lightly from side to side if that feels good.

Hold the pose for at least one minute, then move to the next stretch.

4. Butterfly

A powerful hip opener that also stretches the glutes and the inner thighs.

Proper Form

Assume a cross-legged seated position with the soles of the feet pressed together.

Next, while grabbing your ankles, lengthen your spine upward, draw your belly button inward then slowly fold forward from your hips with a deep exhale.

Focus on your inner thighs and be sure to breathe into that area to release any tension or discomfort.

For more stretch, feel free to crawl your hands forward away from your body.

Hold the pose for one minute then slowly release and move to the next stretch.

5. Extended Wide Squat

Not only this hip opening stretch is ideal for the hip abductors, but also increase mobility in the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.

Proper Form

Assume a standing position, with the feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointing out so that hips are open.

Next, while keeping your back flat and core engaged, slowly bend your knees and lower your hips toward the floor. For more stretch, place your elbows inside of your thighs, gently pressing them out against the inside of your knees.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute then slowly release back to standing position.

6. Frog Hip Stretch

This simple pose stretches and opens up the the hip abductors, the insides of the thighs, and the groin.

If you have any recent leg, hip or knee injury, be careful with this one.

Proper Form

This is one of my favorite hip flexor stretches. Assume an all fours position with hands and knee in a tabletop position, then bring your forearms onto the mat or a yoga block.

Next, slowly slide both knees away from your body and widen them out as far as possible as you lower your chest and hips toward the floor.

Hold the position for one to two minutes then slowly release it and move to the next stretch.

7. Standing Wide-Legged Split

This stretch will not only target your hips but also opens up your inner thighs and hamstrings.

Proper Form

Begin by sitting up tall with the feet three to four feet apart, heels a bit wider than the toes.

Next, while keeping the soles of your feet flat on the floor and torso long, fold forward from the hips and place your hands on a yoga block or mat right below your shoulders.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.

If your flexibility allows it, feel free to lower onto forearms for a deeper hips stretch.

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Conclusion

There you have it!

The above hip opening stretches are all you need for to open your hip flexors and keep flexible for the long haul.

Just make sure to do them on a regular basis. The rest is just detail.

Strengthen and Stretch: Hip Flexor Exercises

Try these exercises to strengthen your hip flexors.

Lunges

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

  1. From a standing position, look straight ahead and take a generous step forward with your right foot.
  2. Bend your extended knee and transfer your weight onto that front right leg. Continue to lower yourself slowly into the lunge until your left knee hovers just above, or softly kisses, the ground. Your right knee should be directly above your right ankle.
  3. Step back into a standing position. Repeat the pose with your left leg.

Floor-sliding mountain climbers

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

Grab some sliding discs, paper plates, or even hand towels — basically, anything that slides. Get ready to climb!

  1. Position yourself on a wood floor or another smooth surface.
  2. Place your sliders under the balls of your feet while in a pushup position.
  3. Pull your right leg toward your chest, alternating with your left leg as you would for standard mountain climbers.
  4. Go slowly at first, then pick up the pace.

Skater squats

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

This move is similar to regular squats, with a tweak that specifically targets your hips.

  1. Bend from the knee and hips, lowering your butt toward the ground while keeping your back straight and chest lifted.
  2. After each squat, shift your weight to either your right or left leg while lifting the opposite leg off to the side with your toes pointed ahead.
  3. Alternate legs each time.
  4. Lie on your back with your palms at your side. Take turns extending each leg up and off the ground for about 2 seconds.
  5. Hold your leg at roughly a 45-degree angle. Your opposite leg should be bent at the knee with your foot planted on the floor, while your raised foot should keep the toe pointed to the sky.
  6. Switch legs, and then repeat 10 times on each leg.

Straight leg raises

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

Wall psoas hold

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

This move strengthens your deep hip flexor muscle known as the psoas, which can increase stride length and reduce injury. A win-win situation!

  1. From a standing position, bend your right knee and lift your upper leg up to the sky.
  2. Balance on your left foot while keeping your right knee and thigh at hip level for about 30 seconds.
  3. Lower it slowly, then repeat on your left leg.

Hip flexion

Share on PinterestImage source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

  1. While lying on your back with your legs straight out, flat on the ground, slowly take a knee (one at a time) toward your chest.
  2. Pull it as close to your chest as possible without feeling uncomfortable.
  3. Return to the starting position, and repeat on your opposite leg.

You’ve probably joked about running your ass off. The funny thing is, though, that without your ass—ahem, your glutes—you wouldn’t be able to run very far at all.

“Your glutes, especially your gluteus maximus, are some of your most important muscles as a runner,” explains Thomas Watson, a UESCA-certified running coach, ultra-runner, and founder of the Marathon Handbook. “The primary role of the glute max is hip extension, which propels the runner forward.” Your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus also help with hip extension, and all three help stabilize your pelvis—a pretty crucial part of staying upright while moving forward.

Related Story

Lack of use from sitting all day and overuse from running too much can both lead to tight glutes. You want to avoid both scenarios because “tight glutes can cause muscular imbalances in the kinetic chain, which can lead to injury,” says Watson. Lower back pain, IT band issues, runner’s knee, piriformis, and more have all been associated with tight glutes. Translation: If you don’t treat your cheeks right, your performance is going to suffer.

All your glutes really need is a little TLC. Whether your mileage is super high or you’ve been riding a desk all day, you should be stretching your glutes out on the reg—so start incorporating these stretches into your daily routine ASAP to keep running your ass off, injury-free.

How to use this list: Runners can seriously decrease their risk of injury by including glute stretches 2-3 days per week, says Watson. Incorporate these stretches into your cross-training schedule or during a planned active recovery day. Perform each stretch once per session, holding for 20 to 30 seconds before switching legs; for the glute bridge, do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. “You can also add in one or two of these stretches after training runs to loosen the glutes and hips,” says Watson. “Pigeon pose is one of the most effective postrun stretches.” Each move is demonstrated by certified Runner’s World+ coach Jess Movold so you can master the proper form.

1. Glute Bridge

How to do it: Lie faceup, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands at sides. Roll up from bottom of spine until hips are lifted. Press through heels to send hips up and round chest towards chin. Hold at the top, then relax. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps, then do 2 to 3 sets total.

Why it works: “The glute bridge activates the gluteus maximus via hip extension,” explains Watson. “It also targets the core, and helps stabilize the pelvis so it doesn’t tilt excessively. It’s best performed at the start of a stretching regime or strength work session to warm up the glutes and hips.”

2. Pigeon Pose

How to do it: From a downward dog position, bend left leg and drop knee to left. Then, extend right leg behind you. Press right hip towards the mat. Inhale, then exhale as you walk your palms as far forward as is comfortable. It’s very important to keep your hips squared away in this pose. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the right leg.

Why it works: “Pigeon pose is excellent for runners as it stretches several important muscles at once: the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, hips, and piriformis,” says Watson. “Each of these muscles plays an important part in a runner’s kinetic chain, and any tightness or imbalances can lead to injury.”

3. Stacked Knee Glute Stretch

How to do it: Sit with legs bent in front of you. Fold one leg, sliding the foot under the opposite knee toward the hip. Fold the other leg in the opposite direction, stacking it on top of the first leg. Relax both legs and, if you can, fold torso over to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Slowly unfold the legs, then repeat with opposite leg on top.

Why it works: “This stretch can be trickier for stiffer runners to get into, but once you’re in the pose, it deeply stretches the hips, glutes, and your kinetic chain all the way down to your ankles,” says Watson. “Gradually deepening the stretch with each exhale will improve your results.”

4. Standing Figure-Four Stretch

How to do it: From a standing position, bend knees slightly. Cross right ankle over left knee. Press right ankle into left leg, and push back with left leg. Keeping a neutral spine, try to send hips back to fold upper body forward to deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Slowly release and repeat on the other side.

Why it works: “The standing figure-four stretch targets the glutes and piriformis, just as the seated version of the stretch does,” says Watson. “But the ‘standing’ element means you’re also focusing on balance and stability throughout your grounded leg, helping to strengthen your core.” (You can also modify the move by performing it in a seated position.)

5. Lying Figure-Four Stretch

How to do it: Lie on back with knees bent, then cross right ankle over left knee. Lace fingers behind the left hamstring, then gently pull the left leg toward you to activate the stretch on the right side. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, keeping upper body flat against floor. Relax, then switch sides.

Why it works:“This is a lying-down version of the figure-four stretch, and provides a great stretch for the gluteus maximus and hip flexors,” says Watson. “It’s especially great for less flexible runners—given you are on your back, it’s easier to initiate and you can deepen the stretch according to your level of flexibility.”

Images: Julia Hembree Smith

Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo is a writer, editor, and UESCA-certified running coach who has contributed to Runner’s World, Bicycling, Women’s Health, Health, Shape, Self, and more.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Matthews

In your quest for a gravity-defying derriere, you’re probably focusing a lot on your glutes lately. But with all those squats, lunges, step-ups and hip thrusts, you don’t want to jump right into your glute workout — or dash out after the last rep. This is the biggest muscle group in your body, after all. Studies show that a proper dynamic warm-up will improve your range of motion and performance. It also preps your body for movement, reducing risk of injury. And when the work is done, a series of static glute stretches will help enhance flexibility and release any tightness or tension in the glutes and hips.

So we tapped Jessica Matthews, yoga teacher, author of Stretching to Stay Young and senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), for the five glute-centric stretches you should never skip. No ifs, ands or butts about it.

RELATED: 15 Stretches You Should Do Every Damn Day

5 Ah-Mazing Glute Stretches

Photos courtesy of Jessica Matthews

1. Rocking Hip-to-Heel Stretch

Do this dynamic stretch as a warm-up. “It will enhance hip mobility while prepping your body for exercises like squats,” says Matthews.

Try it: Starting on all fours, cross your left ankle over your right lower leg (a). Shift hips back toward the right heel, and hold for one to two seconds (b). Shift forward to realign shoulders over wrists, and continue to rock for six to eight reps (c). Repeat on the opposite side.

RELATED: Hate Squats? 7 Glute Exercises for an Instant Butt Lift

2. Side-to-Side Hip Shifts

Add this one to your dynamic warm-up, too, says Matthews. This hip mobility-boosting stretch will prep your body to move laterally for exercises like lunges or shuffles.

Try it: Starting on your hands and knees, slowly shift your hips to the right (a). Hold for one to two seconds, then shift to the opposite side (b). Do six to eight reps.

3. Figure-4

Tack this onto the end of a lower-body workout, but also fit it into your routine if you regularly walk, run, hike or bike, says Matthews. It will release tension in both the glutes and hips.

Try it: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle above your left knee and open your right knee to the right (a). Lift your left foot off the ground, keeping the left knee bent. Thread your right arm through the space between legs and reach left arm around left leg to interlace hands behind left thigh (b). Guide left knee toward chest and hold for 30 to 60 seconds (c). Repeat on the opposite side.

RELATED: 5 Foam Rolling Moves You Aren’t Doing (But Should!)

4. Half Lord of the Fishes

This stretch isn’t just for gym rats. If you sit at a desk all day, you’re apt to feel some low-back and hip pain. This move will help release that tension. It might also help alleviate symptoms of sciatica, a nerve condition where pain radiates from your lower back down one leg, says Matthews.

Try it: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over left thigh (a). Plant your right palm behind your right hip with fingers pointed away from your body. Inhale and lift your left arm toward the ceiling and lengthen your spine (b). Exhale and gently rotate your torso to the right, hugging your right knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (c). Switch sides and repeat.

5. Half Pigeon Variation

If yoga is part of your weekly routine, you’re familiar with pigeon pose. This variation combines hip flexion with a more controlled rotation of the hip joint for a safer stretch. The deep stretch targets all three muscles that make up the glutes.

Try it: Get on your hands and knees and extend your left leg behind you until your hip is fully extended (a). Position your right heel between the midline of the body (pubic bone) and the left hip, allowing your right hip to open slightly. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (b). Repeat on the opposite side.

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5 Post-Run Stretches to Boost Performance

You probably learned to ‘stretch’ in your high-school gym class, but it turns out that classic static stretching — when you hold a muscle in tension for 30–60 seconds — is best for after exercise.

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that static stretching can temporarily reduce a muscle’s performance for up to 24 hours, so it’s best to warm a muscle using dynamic (Read: Moving) stretches before a run.

READ MORE > 5 FOAM ROLLING TRICKS FOR RUNNERS

If you’re seeking to bump up your flexibility, take 10 minutes to loosen up post-run, too. “Stretching after a run can help enhance your range-of-motion,” says Chris Wolfe, a RRCA certified running coach and director of STAR Physical Therapy, in Nashville, Tennessee. “A warmed-up muscle will not only better endure the stretching, but it will have the ability to sustain longer lasting results.”

Here are five post-run stretches to help boost your running range of motion:

KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

The Move: Kneel on your right knee, with your left foot flat on the floor, and left knee bent at 90 degrees. Press lightly forward to feel a stretch at the top of your right thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, 3–5 times, and then repeat on the other side.

Why: “This stretch targets your hip flexors and quadriceps muscles to help boost performance and reduce lower-back and knee strain,” Wolfe says.

LYING HAMSTRING STRETCH

The Move: Lay on your back with your left foot on the floor, and your right leg extended toward the ceiling, hands clasped behind your right knee. Gently pull your right leg toward you, and hold for 10, 5-second reps before switching sides.

Why: “This move stretches the hamstrings, but also helps mobilize your sciatic nerve, which needs attention after longer runs.”

LEANING CALF STRETCH

The Move: Face a wall, and place your hands on the wall, leaning slightly forward, with your back leg straight and front knee slightly bent. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your back leg, and hold for 30 seconds, repeating up to five times per leg. Perform at least two sets with your back leg slightly bent, to target a different part of your calf muscle.

Why: “Stretching these muscles helps reduce possible strain to the shin and foot.”

SUPINE GLUTE STRETCH

The Move: Lay on your back, and bend your right leg, pulling it toward you. Grasp your knee with one hand and your ankle with the other, and pull your bent leg toward you, until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3–5 times before switching sides.

Why: “This stretch can help reduce hip stiffness and possible pain.”

SIDE-LYING QUADRICEPS STRETCH

The Move: Lay on your right side and bend your left (top) knee. Grab your left foot with your left hand and lightly pull your foot toward your glutes until you feel a stretch along the front of your thighs. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3–5 times before switching sides.

Why: “This stretch can help reduce possible knee strain by keeping the quadriceps loose.”

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The 5 Best Hip Stretches for Runners

Want to keep running, but pain, injuries or mobility limitations holding you back? These hip stretches for runners will help get you back out there and back to racking up the miles in no time.

Running can have a meditative quality. When you get in the zone, it feels like you could just go forever.

You hit your stride, and all you feel is your breath, the pound in your chest, and your feet hitting the ground. Everything else seems to just melt away.

That is, until, on one random swing of your leg forward, your hip suddenly tightens up.

You were so in the rhythm that the sudden tightening almost makes you fall over.

You grimace and grind your teeth as you slow to a halt and massage the cramp in your hip.

So much for a relaxing run.

This sensation and others like it are par for the course for runners.

Running, while celebrated for its cardiovascular and endurance benefits, is notorious for causing tightness and injuries.

Studies have shown that anywhere from 20% to 80% of runners suffer lower body injuries .

But, that doesn’t mean we should avoid it.

It means we need to be smarter about training our body for running, which is the goal of my 5-part stretching routine for runners.

“Stretches” vs. Techniques

Before we get into the 5 best hip stretches that every runner should do, I have a quick CONFESSION to make…

While I’ve used the term “stretches” in the title, you’re not going to find your typical static hip, knee and calf stretches here.

The reason why I’ve used the term stretches is because I know that most people use this term for the search engines and using it in the title will help the article get found by good people like you.

So if you’re looking for the common static stretches that teachers teach their grade 5 students in gym class, you won’t find them here.

Sorry to disappoint.

What you will find here would be better described as exercises, techniques or drills…

… innovative techniques to improve your strength and flexibility, ultimately building not just your range of motion but your range of CONTROL, which is your ability to actively get in and out of the range you have.

So if you can find it in your heart to forgive me for the little “bait-and-switch” for the sake of the search engines, continue on to discover techniques that will help you not just maintain your current level of flexibility but INCREASE it.

Typical static stretches don’t build strength and the only way to improve your mobility is to build strength in new ranges of motion, so let’s go ahead and do that.

But first, we’ve got to understand why running makes you tight so that we can properly improve our range of control.

What Muscles Do We Use to Run?

There are a lot of muscles in action when you run, although the range of motion they are used in is limited.We can think of running as having two phases – the “stance phase” in the leg that’s on the ground and the “swing phase” in the leg that’s off the earth .

Your gluteus medius and gluteus maximus of your rear, your tensor fasciae latae along the outside of your upper leg, and your adductor magnus on the inside of your upper leg are involved in both phases – swinging over the earth and pressing off it.

Your quadriceps and hamstrings are also involved throughout the process. Your iliopsoas, which starts at the spine and crosses the hip, helps to swing the leg forward.

In your lower leg, your gastrocnemius, or calf muscle, is active throughout, as is the tibialis anterior, which runs along your shin bone.

Why Do Running & Tightness Go Hand in Hand?

Although running is a long-held, fundamental exercise for humans, it also has some fundamental inherent problems.

This is because unless you’re sprinting at full speed, running only recruits your muscles, particularly those in your hips, in a very limited range.

Just think about it…

Picture yourself going on a jog, running like you normally would, and how your muscles and limbs are moving.

Now imagine yourself in a full-on sprint.

Your legs and arms are swinging fully, your hips are using a more complete range of motion, and it’s almost as if you’re stretching in this range as you run.

We can’t sprint forever, so we tend to run at a more moderate pace, using smaller steps and restrained movements.

While this is great for endurance, it’s not so great for range of motion or hip mobility.

This is because your body is both smart and lazy.

It adapts to the demands you place upon it and minimizes the energy it needs to expend to do so.

That means that if you’re an avid runner, you’ll lose strength in ranges outside of those required when running because they’re not being used.

The Mileage Factor

It’s not just that running requires a very limited range that makes it so good at tightening people up.

It’s this combined with the fact that runners tend to put in so many miles. A lot of miles requires a whole lot of steps, i.e., a whole lot of repetitive movements in a small, limited range.

For example, it can take anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 steps to run a mile.

This is like doing 1,000 to 2,000 reps of an exercise that’s programming your neuromuscular system to work only in this limited range.

And that’s only for one mile.

That means every 5-mile run equates to 5,000 to 10,000 reps.

THIS is why running is particularly powerful at causing tightness and muscular strain.

And this is why you need to be incorporating hip stretches for runners and other techniques that will specifically target these mobility issues.

The ABC’s of Running

Before we get into the best hip stretches for runners, there are a few other factors you should consider.

To minimize running’s negative effect on not just hip mobility but also posture – remember the Precision Movement ABC’s:

Alignment

Run with good lower body alignment and upper body posture.

Imagine a column under your head that runs straight down to the ground – use this image to help you stay tall, upright, and stable in the core, glutes, and hips when running .

Keep your eyes looking straight toward the horizon when possible, and avoid staring down at the ground.

Lean slightly forward, but do so through your chest – not by bending at your waist.

Breathing

Breathe as naturally and rhythmically as possible – not like a panting dog.

And, if you can, focus on breathing from the stomach – not the chest .

Diaphragmatic breathing can help prevent fatigue. And when we are fatigued, we’re more likely to misstep and sustain injuries.

Research has even found that strained breathing can be tied to leg weakness – breathing properly is that important. So make sure those breaths are slow, steady, deep, and from the belly.

Control

Maintaining control of these factors while running is crucial.

Stop before you lose control of A and B, otherwise you’re asking for foot, ankle, knee, and/or hip pain due to repetitive stress.

The 5 Hip Stretches for Runners

1) Hip Joint Capsule Mobilization:

  • Set up a band low to the ground and step into it with your left foot
  • Bring the band high up on your thigh as you come down into quadruped position facing away from the band
  • Crawl forward until you feel slight tension on the band

Part 1: External Rotation

  • Start with the left hip in external rotation and the left knee just in front of the right
  • As you externally rotate, let the left foot point over toward the right leg
  • From here, start to take 10 slow circles with your hips
  • Swap directions and do 10 circles in the other direction
  • Release and step back to rest

Part 2: Neutral Hip

  • Bring your left knee forward again, this time keeping hip neutral
  • From here complete 10 circles in each direction
  • Release and step back to rest

Part 3: Internal Rotation

  • Bring your left knee forward again, this time internally rotating the hip and letting the left foot point away from the midline
  • Complete 10 circles in each direction

2) BJJ Quad x 8 per:

  • Take a seated position on the ground leaning to one side, say your left, so that your weight is resting primarily on your left butt cheek
  • Keep your right leg bent up at a 90° angle with the foot flat on the floor
  • As you’re leaning to your left, the lateral side of your left leg should be touching the ground
  • Keep your left hand on the ground a little bit behind your hip
  • Bridge your hips up by driving into your left hand and your right foot, your left leg should now be slightly off the ground
  • Push yourself forward now so that your right knee travels past your foot and touches the ground. You should be able to feel a good stretch in your quads and hips in this position.
  • To take the stretch a little further, squeeze your right glute to push the hip further into extension
  • Return back to the starting position and repeat on the other side
  • Do this for 6 to 10 reps per side and make sure you’re doing it with a nice flow and nothing too jerky

3) Hip Hinge with TKE x 10

  • Start standing with straight legs
  • Hinge at your hips and reach down to grab your leg just below the patella
  • Internally rotate your legs while contracting your quadriceps to straighten the legs – this will lead to “terminal knee extension” or TKE
  • Keep squeezing your legs for 5 seconds – making sure to stay internally rotated so that your adductor muscles along the inside of your thigh are activated
  • Release and come back up to standing with control
  • Repeat for 5 to 10 reps

4) Butterfly Reaches x 6 per

  • Sit in butterfly position, with knees bent and the bottoms of your feet together
  • Internally rotate your left femur – first pointing your knee up towards the ceiling
  • Lean over to your right to balance as you lift the left foot and continue to rotate the femur
  • Stretch the left foot away from you, hovering the foot off the ground as you do
  • Hold for a second or two, then bring the foot back into the butterfly position with control
  • Repeat on the other side

5) DCR Rec Fem Stretch x 2 cycles per:

  • Take a half kneeling lunge position on the ground with your rear foot resting on a stability ball or on a wall behind you
  • Make sure you maintain a natural tall posture through the stretch
  • Kick your foot into the wall/ball to activate the quadriceps and hold for a count of 5 seconds
  • Relax the quad now and push your hips back to the wall by driving into your lead foot to passively lengthen the quad. Hold for 5 seconds
  • Now, come forward again and work to pull your heel to your butt by flexing your hamstring. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds
  • Relax the hamstring now and go back to your passive stretch for another 5 seconds
  • Perform this cycle 2 times per side

Give these 5 hip stretches for runners a go and see what happens.

You’ll increase not just your range of motion, but your range of control in a powerful way.

Your hips will open up, your body will feel less tight, and you’ll be able to pound the pavement with less pain.

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Hip Flexor Tightness in Distance Runners

Now that spring is here and it is beautiful outside, a lot of runners really begin to build their mileage. When this happens, I usually start to see a lot of hip flexor pain and tightness. This problem is really common in distance runners. Tight hip flexors are a major cause of many posture problems. In runners, it is mainly caused by repetitive use and weak glutes. In people who sit a lot, well, it is caused by sitting a lot. This posting covers what to do if you are running a lot.

The main purpose of the hip flexor is to bring the thigh up towards the stomach. When the hip flexors are excessively tight, they cause exaggerated pelvic anterior tilt (the person sticks his or her butt out and the lower back arches). The upper back curves and rounds, and the person’s chin can stick out and “lead” in front. Sometimes tight hip flexors can begin to do the abdominals’ work and make it difficult to benefit from some abdominal exercises. Tight hip flexors cause the primary hip extensors, the gluteal group, to become lengthened and weaker.

One big contributing factor to hip flexor tightness is that the glutes just aren’t as active as other running muscles during most activities. This causes your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves to become much stronger. Also, let’s face it, do most people have a strength-training program that isolates and increases glute strength? Probably not. Most of us do squats and lunges and call it a day. However, if an exercise requires several muscles to perform the movement, most of the work is done by the strongest of those muscles and those aren’t your glutes.

The good news is that you don’t need to join a gym, buy a lot of expensive special stuff, or even leave your house to remedy the situation. There are a lot of body weight and resistance band exercises and stretches that you can do at home that will help you resolve this problem. Here they are!

STRETCHING
Remember to dynamically stretch BEFORE exercise and statically stretch AFTER exercise.

I call my number one, go-to hip flexor stretch the Pirate Stretch. It is very easy, and I call it the Pirate Stretch because, well, you look like a pirate when you do it.

  • Stand up with feet even.
  • Step forward into a lunge.
  • Bend and lower your back knee. Keep your lunging knee over your ankle.
  • Hold for 20-30 second.
  • Do it on the other side.
  • Remember that you should only stretch to mild tension!

FOAM ROLLING (AKA: Self-Myofascial Release)
Foam rolling is a form of massage that enables you to release the tension of your muscles by yourself. Let it be noted that I LOVE foam rolling. I am a total geek about it. That said, if you are tight and are new to foam rolling, when you first start it will probably hurt. Keep at it, it really works.

  • Lay on the roller right below your hip angled out.
  • Roll back and forth on the roller until you find the tight spot.
  • Sit on the tight spot for 20-30 seconds. Find the next spot and repeat.

EXERCISES
Fire hydrants

  • Begin by placing both hands and knees on the floor; your back should form a tabletop.
  • Keep both legs bent in a 90-degree angle and toes flexed throughout the duration.
  • While keeping hips forward, lift your right leg out to the side until it is parallel to the ground or at maximum height. Pause and bring leg back to start position.
  • Repeat for 12 reps and repeat with the opposite leg.

Bridging

  • Begin this exercise while lying on your back with both knees bent at about a 45-degree angle and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Let your arms rest at your sides.
  • Slowly lift the hips by pushing on the floor with your feet until your knee, hip, and shoulder are a straight line.
  • Repeat for 12 reps.

Lateral band walks

    • Put resistance band on above each ankle.
    • Separate feet slightly as you get into a 45-degree angle squat with your abs tucked (feel like you are trying to touch your belly button to your backbone).
    • Step laterally.
    • Keeping your shoulders even, bring other foot in towards the lead leg to finish your step.
    • Repeat in the same direction for the length of the room.
    • Return to the other side of the room facing the same direction.

Monster walk

  • Put resistance band on above each ankle.
  • Separate feet slightly as you get into a 45-degree angle squat with your abs tucked (feel like you are trying to touch your belly button to your backbone).
  • While staying down low in the ready position, bring one leg out and forward then swing this leg out laterally to the side. You will “pull” the leg out to the side against the resistance of the stretched ankle band as you finish each step.
  • Bring the other foot forward towards the lead leg, then go right into the next step. Keep feet separately slightly during transition in order to maintain band tension. Do not allow band to get loose.
  • Repeat in the same direction for the length of the room.

These stretches and strengthening exercises will keep you fresh and on the move throughout the endurance season. If you do them consistently, you will feel much better before, during, and after your runs.

If you would like to learn more about hip flexor tightness from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to schedule a complimentary injury screen at a clinic near you.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

Everyone seems to have tight hips these days. It makes sense—spending a lot of time sitting keeps the hip flexors in a shortened position more than they should be. Constricting the muscles in this way can make them super tight, especially if you’re not incorporating hip stretches into your routine.

Of course, you know what it feels like to have a tight muscle. But tight hips aren’t just uncomfortable—they can lead to all sorts of other aches and pains, especially in the lower back. “People focus on the hips and say their hips are tight, but we don’t always think about the fact that the lower back connects to our legs at the hip,” Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., instructor at Soul Annex in New York City and creator of Le Stretch class, tells SELF. Tight hip flexors make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, which can cause your lower back to overcompensate, “and this can be a setup for lower-back injury,” Teo Mendez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at NY Orthopedics who focuses on operative and non-operative management of sports-related injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and arthritis, tells SELF.

Watch: 9 Easy Stretches For Tight Hips

Tight hip flexors can also make it harder for your glutes to activate—since they’re opposing muscle groups, when one is really tight the other becomes lengthened. When a muscle is more lengthened than it should be, it takes away some of its ability to contract. When your glutes are in this compromised position, it can cause other muscles to do more work than they should, making your workouts less efficient and sometimes, increasing your risk of injury.

Sitting habits aside, our hips take on a lot of impact every day. “The hips are where our entire body sits, and that’s where the transfer of force happens,” Atkins says. When you jump, run, or do any other high-impact activity, your hips absorb a certain amount of that impact.

The good news is that there are plenty of good hip stretches out there that you can do to relieve discomfort, decrease tightness, and increase mobility in your hips. Since your hips are involved in so many of the movements you make (both inside and outside of the gym) stretching them is a great way to keep them feeling good and ready to work for you. Add some of the 12 hip stretches Atkins demos below to the end of your workout, or spend 10 minutes each day just doing a few of them, to improve mobility in your hips.

Hip stretches for runners

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