How To (Really) Loosen Your Hips
If you're tight, you can't run or lift efficiently—these eight exercises are the antidote.
Even fit bodies have their imbalances, and for athletes with desk jobs trainers know where to look: the hips.
And while you know too much time in the seat (even if it’s just at work) can increase your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, sitting also sorely compromises ‘movement literacy’, or how well you perform basic activities like pivoting, running, and jumping, says Alex Zimmerman, director of Equinox’s Tier 4 program.
When we sit in excess, our joints, muscles, tendons, and fascia—which help us move freely—adapt to this position; and our hip flexors shorten, weaken, and tighten. This is a particular problem for the fit because the hip flexors help us pull our knees upward, move us from side to side, and stabilize our lower bodies. With too-tight hips, a runner’s stride may shorten slowing her down; or a weightlifter may be unable to complete a full squat, missing out on a key bodyweight exercise. Tight hips are also linked to back pain, muscle aches, and weaknesses in other muscles, like the glutes.
But the happy medium is more complicated than walking or running: “Simply moving in one direction over and over again can unfortunately have a negative effect on the quality of tissue, promoting poor movement quality and posture degradation,” says Zimmerman.
These eight rhythmic movements have the variety your hips need. Incorporate two to three rounds daily or pre-workout to restore range of motion and optimal function.
1. Goblet Squat
Squat down, dropping your butt as low to the ground as possible while sliding your arms on the inside of your legs. Return to start. Perform 12 reps.
2. Hip Openers
Sitting up straight with your hands on the ground, simply drop both knees to the ground, one going away from the body and one towards the body. Alternate sides, performing six reps per side.
3. Crab Reach
Sitting on all fours, slightly lift your butt up off the ground. Extend the hips up as high in the air as possible while reaching over the head and opposite shoulder with one arm. Put the arm back on the ground and switch sides; perform six reps per side.
4. Six-Point Hip Rock
Put hands, knees, and feet on the ground (i.e., six points of contact with the floor). Try to spread your knees as far as part as possible. Keeping your chest up, rock back and forth. Perform 12 reps.
5. Lateral/Medial Hip Swing
Keeping one knee on the ground, straighten the opposite leg and swing it behind the other leg while dropping your butt toward the ground. Swing your leg in the opposite direction as far as possible and drop your butt toward the ground. Switch sides; perform six reps per side.
6. Step Back Lunge with Overhead Reach
Step back, keeping the leg relatively straight, and drop your back knee toward the ground while reaching up over the head, keeping the arm straight. Switch sides; perform six reps per side.
7. Lateral Lunge with Lateral Reach
Step out to the side, keeping the opposite leg straight, and drop down into a squat while reaching with both arms to the outside of the body. Switch sides; perform six reps per side.
8. Lateral Lunge with Medial Reach
Step out to the side, keeping the opposite leg straight, and drop down into a squat while reaching with both arms to the inside part of the foot on the straight leg. Switch sides; perform six reps per side.