Give Some Love to Your Hips

Young man in casual office shirt having hip painToday’s awesome guest post is offered up by a good friend to MDA—Ryan Hurst, Co-founder and Head Coach at GMB Fitness. I think it’s the perfect message for late in the work week when so many of us have been at our desks for too long. Enjoy, everyone!

Unfortunately, our hips don’t get as much love as they should nowadays. In our office culture world, most of us have to sit for hours at a time to get our work done. And even with well-meaning inventions such as standing desks and apps that reminds us to move around every so often, it isn’t enough to get us to move our bodies in the many varieties of ways that are possible.

It can be overly simplistic to say that the modern world has stunted our movement abilities and capacities, but it’s an easy contrast to see that spending hours at a desk is significantly different than the same amount of hours walking and foraging.

The necessities of our lives now can make our hips less functional as our hips stiffen and weaken from prolonged sedentary postures.

This is not ideal for us!

Luckily, we can remedy these issues and either restore what we’ve lost, or even better, prevent losses of function from happening in the first place. We just need to spend a bit of time each day limbering up our hips in all of their ranges of motion.

Free Your Hips With This Quick Routine

The following series of 8 hip stretches hit the major muscles that are tight on most people.

The key to practicing the sequence for maximum benefit is to use a steady and gentle intensity and progression.

One of the important things to know about stretching in general is that most of the gains you achieve are from simply training the muscles to better tolerate the stretched positions. It’s just as much about practicing as any other skill. You learn to relax, and your muscles ease off from that natural tendency to hold tight.

With practice, you are working on convincing your body that nothing bad is going to happen in these new stretched out positions. That’s why slow and easy and controlled is better.

The sequence we’ll use for these stretches is as follows:

  • Move in and out of the stretch several times
  • Hold the stretched position for 10-30 seconds
  • Shake it out and do it again.

These are the exercises in this hip mobility sequence, with the key points of each one to help you get the most out of them.

Lying Hip Rotations

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent.
  • Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
  • Move in and out of the stretch by rotating the hip in and out.
  • For the hold, use your hand for assistance to press into the knee.

hiprotationsThis exercise starts the sequence as an easy first movement to warm-up and build toward the rest of the series.

Be aware of any tightness or soreness on the outside of your knees in this one. If you experience any of this, move the rotating leg so it’s resting higher up on the shin.

Piriformis Stretch

  • Cross one leg fully over the opposite leg, so your knee is crossed over your thigh.
  • Pull the crossed knee toward your opposite shoulder, stretching the piriformis muscle.

piriformisIn the same position as the first exercise, cross the leg further, then shift your hips fully to the other side, pulling your knee up to the opposite shoulder.

Remember to go gently into and out of the stretch, and use a little pressure from your hands to resist against the muscles you want to stretch. In this case, it’s the piriformis and other hip rotators.

Butterfly Stretch

  • Sit up with your feet together, moving the knees down toward the ground.
  • Use your hand to press into the ground and move your groin closer to your heels.

butterflyThis classic stretch is very useful for the groin muscles, and for improving hip rotation to the side. Pay close attention to your back and keep it straight and upright as you move through the stretch.

Work on one side at a time as Ryan demonstrates in the video, and then do both knees at once as you feel comfortable and warmed up.

Frog Stretch

  • Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable.
  • Rock back and forth in that position.
  • Keep the balls of your feet on the ground, with toes pointed outward

frogAt this point in the sequence, we are ready for a bit more intensive stretching for the hips, adding some more weightbearing into the exercise. Again, take it slow and easy, and don’t force a range of motion you may not be ready for.

The action here as you move in and out of a stretch is squeezing the knees together as you rock backward and relaxing as you rock forward. After a few repetitions you can sit back and relax into the stretch for upwards of a minute.

Kneeling Lunge

  • Get into a lunge position, with knee and foot about hip width apart from the elevated leg.
  • Keep the chest tall and the hips square.
  • To make the stretch harder, you can pull the back knee up off the ground.

kneelinglungeThis exercise is somewhat deceptive in terms of how it can affect your hips.

You may need some trial and error to find the best front foot positioning, which happens when your shin is upright when you lean forward, rather than being angled down or back.

Keep your hips square and your upper body tall, and you’ll be in the right position. Don’t be afraid to adjust the back leg positioning to get the most out of the stretch to release your hip flexors.

Traveling Butterfly

  • Sit on your butt with your feet straight in front of you (longsitting)
  • Use your hands to push the hips forward toward your heels, so you wind up in the butterfly position.
  • Move between the long sitting and butterfly positions.

travellingbutterflyThis movement goes from longsitting (on your butt with your legs straight out in front), to the butterfly stretch position. It’s meant to be a dynamic motion, and you won’t hold any position here for more than a few seconds.

This is a great way to improve circulation and get the hips moving after the stretching you did in the last 5 moves.

Squatting Internal Rotations

  • Start in a deep squat position (as deep as you can go)
  • Rotate one knee inward, down toward the ground.
  • This stretch can be done sitting on a small stool if you cannot get into a comfortable squat position.

squathipinternalrotationsThis is another dynamic movement like the traveling butterfly, which I’ve put toward the end to encourage blood flow and circulation after all the previous stretches.

Don’t hold the end position very long at all.

Just keep moving and give yourself some time to work through the movement.

Pigeon Stretch

  • Start with your front knee bent to a 90-degree angle. The back knee can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you.
  • Rotate the back hip toward the front heel, and then toward the back foot.
  • Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as is comfortable.

pigeonIn the video, Ryan demonstrates the modified stretch in the beginning, with both knees bent and rhythmically rotating to move in and out of the stretch of the front bent leg.

As you warm up you’ll then work on straightening the back leg behind you.

Take your time and gradually work on putting more weight through the bent front leg.

Give Your Hips Some Love, and Your Body Will Be Grateful For It

The hip region includes several large, overlapping muscle groups, and tightness in any one of them can cause problems. This routine takes your hip muscles through their full range of motion, ensuring they stay as healthy and functional as possible.

These 8 movements take just a short amount of time, so you can add them in throughout your day to break up long bouts of sitting, or you can even use them as a warm-up to your regular workouts.

Our work and daily responsibilities may have us less physically active than we’d like, but you can make sure to keep your body strong and capable. Take the time to take care of your hips and your life will be the better for it!

The hips are just one piece of the puzzle. Chances are, if you’ve got tightness in your hips, you may be experiencing restrictions in other areas as well. This head-to-toes body maintenance guide will give you everything you need to address the most commonly restricted areas.

Ryan_Headshot 01_2017_03After a training accident ended his competitive gymnastics career, Ryan moved to Japan and competed in various martial arts until another injury made him reevaluate his priorities in life. As Head Coach at GMB Fitness, his mission is to show everyone that you can define your own fitness as a sustainable and enjoyable part of your life. You can follow him and GMB Fitness on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Thanks to Ryan for sharing this awesome routine today. I highly recommend his head-to-toes body maintenance guide! Do you have questions or comments regarding hip mobility or other related issues? Share them on the comment board below. Thanks for reading.

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TAGS:  mobility

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