Your hip joint plays an essential role in your ability to do things like run and cycle. But what happens when you have limited hip mobility, and how do you fix this? Hip mobility exercises are something every runner and cyclist should be doing, and here’s why.
What is hip mobility?
Hip mobility is a term used to describe your hip joint’s range of motion and ability to move effectively. Of all the joints in your body, the hip joint is one of the most mobile, as it’s able to move in all different ways, including:1
- Moving forward and backward (flexion and extension)
- Moving away and towards the middle of the body (abduction and adduction)
- Pivoting inward and outward (internal and external rotation)
Sometimes, your hip joint’s mobility can be impacted, limiting your ability to move in specific ways without pain or discomfort or contributing to other physical conditions.
Why is hip mobility important?
Your hips help carry the weight of your upper body and midsection and improve your overall range of motion. If your hips are tight, other body parts will start to compensate, and you’ll likely experience pain or discomfort in places like your lower back or knees.
Having flexible, mobile hips helps you maintain your overall health, improves sports performance, and enhances injury prevention.
What causes poor hip mobility?
The hip is a “ball-and-socket” joint that can sometimes get injured or damaged from overuse, injury, or certain chronic conditions, including:2
- Hip bursitis, or painful inflammation of the bursae around your hip caused by repetitive use and over-stressing of the areas around your hip joints, trauma, or infection
- Hip arthritis or inflammation of the joints in your hip, which causes pain and stiffness
- Hip tendonitis (also known as hip flexor tendonitis), which occurs when a tendon that attaches to the muscles that flex the hip gets irritated or inflamed, usually due to repetitive motions that cause excess strain
Poor hip mobility can also be a result of sitting for extended periods. When you sit down, your hips are flexed or bent, and the muscles that cross over the front of the hip (hip flexors) are shortened, which can lead to tightness in the muscles.
Over time, you may start losing elasticity in these hip muscles, which usually worsens as you get older and your muscles become less pliable. Certain physical activities like hip mobility exercises can help combat this.
What are some side effects of poor hip mobility?
Limited hip mobility is often associated with general tightness, pain in the body, and lower back conditions. It can also contribute to hip conditions and knee injuries. For example, poor hip mobility is often related to:
- Hip and knee osteoarthritis, or gradual deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones3
- Knee injuries like a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligament (ACL), which help connect your thigh to your shin4
- Hip impingement, also known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), which occurs when the ball-shaped bone at the top of the thigh bone and the pelvis socket it fits into don’t fit together properly5
- A herniated disc, which is a condition that affects the rubbery disc between the bones in the spine6
- Sciatica, or nerve pain from an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve7
Why is hip mobility important for runners and cyclists?
Hip mobility is essential for runners and cyclists because, without it, you’re likely to have tight muscles that lead to pain and injuries. Having full range of motion leads to better form and fewer injuries, which will impact your ability to train. When your hip muscles are fully mobile and flexible, you’ll experience less pain and tightness in your muscles, have better performance, and develop fewer injuries.
7 best hip mobility and flexibility exercises
Try these hip mobility and flexibility exercises at home to improve your hip mobility.
1. Deep squats
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor.
- Squat down like you’re sitting in a chair, keeping your spine straight and your center of gravity over your feet. At the lowest point of this exercise, your pelvis should be in line with your shins.
- Center your weight just in front of your ankles and push through your feet to return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times.
2. Pigeon pose
- Start in a position on all fours and bring your right knee up toward your right wrist.
- Slide your left leg back and point your toes.
- Draw your legs in toward each other but keep your hips level.
- Exhale, lengthen your spine, and draw in your belly button to engage your core.
- Walk your hands forward and lower your upper body toward the floor, resting your forearms and forehead on the floor or mat.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Push back through your hands into the starting position on all fours and repeat with the other leg.
3. Supported marches
- Stand up straight and place your hands on a wall.
- Slowly lift your right leg and stop once it reaches just above hip level.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds.
- Slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position.
- Do three reps with your right leg and repeat with the left leg.
4. Hip flexor stretch
- Place a pillow or folded towel on the ground and kneel your right leg down on top of it.
- Put your left leg out in front of you at a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your back straight and slowly push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the upper thigh of your back leg and hip.
- Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat 4 times.
- Switch and repeat on the left leg.
5. 90/90 stretch
- Sit on the floor and position your right leg in front of your body with your outer thigh against the floor.
- Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle (your outer knee and outer calf should be resting on the floor).
- Maintain a relaxed right foot with your toes pointing away.
- Your left leg should extend to the left, and your inner thigh should rest against the floor.
- Bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle and keep your foot relaxed and straight, with your toes pointing to the left.
- Hold your torso up straight, and don’t lean to one side or the other. Hold the pose for about 60 seconds.
- Repeat with your right and left legs changing positions.
6. Loaded beasts
- Get into the starting position on all fours, with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Lift your knees about an inch off the ground so you’re hovering.
- Inhale and push back into a crouching position.
- Pause for a moment before exhaling and getting back into the starting position.
- Complete 10 to 12 reps.
7. The clam
- Lie on your side with your legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
- Pull your belly button in and raise your upper knee, keeping your feet touching. Raise your knee as high as possible without shifting your hips or pelvis (like you’re opening the clamshell). Don’t allow your top hip to rock backward while you do this!
- Pause briefly and return your leg down to its starting position (like you’re closing the clamshell).
- Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
When should I do these mobility exercises?
You can do hip mobility exercises anytime and daily if you want! Some people find that the best time to do these exercises is before completing their daily workout or during their cooldown routine, while others prefer to do them first thing in the morning or before bed. However you incorporate them into your routine, just make sure to continue doing them regularly for the best results.
Key Takeaways:Hip mobility exercises can help prevent tightness in your hips, pain elsewhere in your body, and injuries related to running and cycling. If you have poor hip mobility, regularly completing these exercises can help strengthen your hips and improve your flexibility over time.
- Hip Anatomy. (n.d.). Physiopedia. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.physio-pedia.com/Hip_Anatomy
- Hip Mobility. (n.d.). Bursitis, Arthritis, and Tendonitis | Beaumont | Beaumont Health. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.beaumont.org/conditions/hip-mobility
- NIAMS Health Information on Osteoarthritis. (2022, June 8). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoarthritis
- ACL injury – Symptoms and causes. (2021, March 10). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acl-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350738
- Penn Medicine. (n.d.). Hip Impingement. www.pennmedicine.org. https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/hip-impingement
- Herniated Disc – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc
- Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & Pain Relief. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12792-sciatica