Characterized by the 90-degree angles formed by your legs, the 90 90 hip stretch is a practical and effective way to improve hip mobility. It’s also easy to adapt for beginners too (and it features in our list of best hip mobility exercises).
But why focus on hip mobility, anyway?
Well, it’s simple… our hips are involved in almost every movement we make. They contribute to our athletic performance, affect our posture, and when not properly cared for, can lead to injuries.
The 90 90 hip stretch needs to be performed correctly though, and there are lots of common mistakes you’ll want to avoid to ensure you make the most out of your efforts.
Below, we outline everything you need to know about this hip stretch, including how to perform it properly, muscles worked, benefits, and variations. We also discuss alternative stretches that target the same muscles too.
- The 90 90 hip stretch helps to improve internal and external hip rotation.
- It is a progression from the pigeon stretch/pose.
- It does require a good existing level of hip mobility.
- Leaning to the side is one of the most common mistakes.
What is the 90 90 Hip Stretch
The 90 90 hip stretch is a simple yet effective exercise designed to improve hip mobility. The name “90 90” comes from the unique position you adopt during the stretch. You sit on the floor with both knees bent at 90-degree angles, one in front of you and one to the side.
This position allows for targeted stretching of the hip flexors and rotators, key muscle groups that contribute to our overall hip health and mobility.
By understanding and practicing the 90 90 hip stretch, we can take a significant step towards better overall movement patterns, in both the upper and lower body.
You can think of the 90 90 hip stretch as a progression from the pigeon stretch/pose, which is a stretch that provides a similar external hip rotation, but no internal hip rotation (due to the straight back leg).
Internal and External Hip Rotations
How to Perform 90 90 Hip Stretch
To do the 90 90 hip stretch:
- Sit on the floor and position your legs in the “90 90” formation.
- This means that both of your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your front leg should be bent in front of you, with the outer thigh and outer shin resting on the floor.
- The back leg should be bent to your side, with the inner thigh resting on the floor.
- Keep your spine tall, engaging your core.
- Lean forward slightly to feel a stretch in your front hip.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- After holding the stretch, slowly come back up and switch your legs to the other side, repeating the stretch.
Coach’s Tip – It’s important to lean forward by hinging at the hips, as opposed to just hunching your back. This will keep the focus on hip mobility and range of motion. You also want to keep your body upright, and avoid leaning to one side (holding onto an object like a yoga block or foam roller may be useful).
The 90 90 hip stretch primarily targets the hip flexors and muscles around the hip joints.
These muscles, which include the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and sartorius, are responsible for bending the hip joint. The 90 90 hip stretch helps to lengthen and relax these muscles, promoting greater hip flexibility and range of motion.
This group of muscles, including the piriformis, gemellus, and obturator muscles, allows for rotation of the hip joint. The 90 90 position in this stretch specifically targets these muscles, helping to improve both internal and external hip rotation.
The gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus are all engaged during the 90 90 Hip Stretch. These muscles play a crucial role in hip stability, movement, and strength.
While not the primary focus, the adductor muscles of the inner thigh also get a mild stretch in the 90 90 position, contributing to overall hip mobility and balance.
90 90 Hip Stretch Benefits
Improving Hip Mobility
The 90 90 hip stretch is ultimately really effective for enhancing hip mobility. Regular practice of this stretch can significantly increase the flexibility and range of motion in your hips, which make everyday movements and athletic activities easier.
We find the internal hip rotation is often what people struggle with, as it’s a movement that is often ignored in stretching/fitness routines.
Enhancing Athletic Performance
This stretch isn’t just about flexibility; it can also be a secret weapon for aiding better athletic performance. It can contribute to agility, balance, and coordination training too, all of which are fundamental to sports and physical activities.
Whether you’re a runner, a dancer, or a yoga enthusiast, the 90 90 hip stretch can help you level up your game.
Reducing Back Pain
The benefits of the 90 90 hip stretch extend to pain relief as well. By stretching and strengthening the hip muscles, it can alleviate strain on the lower back, providing relief from chronic discomfort and enhancing overall body health.
(N.B. Always consult a Physical Therapist before starting any new exercises though, so they can get to the root cause of your pain).
Alleviating Sciatica Symptoms
For those suffering from sciatica, this stretch is often a recommended stretch.
This is because it works by releasing tension in the hip rotators and flexors, which can often be a contributing factor to sciatic pain.
Regular practice of the 90 90 hip stretch can help manage and reduce sciatica symptoms, which can have a significant impact on overall movement if this is something you’re trying to manage.
90 90 Stretch Variations
Elevated Hip Rotation (External)
This variation involves standing up and resting your leg on raised surface slightly lower than hip height. It’s a great option for beginners or those with limited mobility, as it reduces the intensity of the stretch.
You position your front leg at a similar angle to a regular 90 90 stretch and lean forward, but the standing position lessens the external stretch and also means you don’t have to worry about an internal hip rotation on the other leg.
90 90 Hip Regression
The 90 90 hip regression involves either sitting on a cushion to slightly reduce the internal hip rotation, or to place yoga blocks or something similar under your knees, so the range of motion is reduced.
Everything else stays the same, allowing you to slowly ease into the 90 90 hip stretch.
90 90 with Twist
This variation adds a twist to the basic stretch. As you lean forward, twist your torso towards your front leg. This helps to stretch the muscles in your back and waist.
90 90 Hip Stretch Progression
Hold for Longer
One simple way to increase the difficulty is to hold the stretch for longer. Start with 30 seconds, and gradually work your way up to 1 minute or longer.
Instead of holding the stretch, try moving dynamically in and out of the stretch. This can help to improve your active stability and control too.
Consistency is Key
Common Mistakes to Avoid
One of the most common mistakes is rounding the back while leaning forward. Remember to keep your spine straight throughout the stretch.
If you’re leaning forward by rounding (hunching) your back, it’s likely you’re not focusing on a hip hinge, which is what helps to focus the stretch on the muscles around the hips.
Forcing the Stretch
Another mistake is forcing the stretch too much.
This is a simple movement in principle, but you may find the internal hip rotation is actually quite challenging… in which case, take things slow, and try and ease into things.
Uneven Weight Distribution
Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between your front and back legs. Avoid leaning too much on one side.
The pigeon pose is a popular yoga stretch that targets the hip rotators and flexors. It’s a fantastic stretch for opening up the hips and increasing flexibility.
The front leg has the same positioning as the 90 90 stretch, but the back leg is straight. This makes it a good one to practice first, getting you used to a 90 degree rotation on the front leg.
By practicing this pose regularly, you can improve your hip mobility, reduce tightness, and alleviate lower back strain.
The reclining pigeon pose offers similar benefits, but uses a supine position (lying face up), which may be preferred for some.
The frog stretch is another excellent exercise for hip mobility.
This stretch targets the inner thighs and groin, areas that can often be tight and limit hip movement.
In a wide quadruped position, slowly drive your hips back.
This is a great stretch to adapt to your existing levels of flexibility and mobility, so it’s a useful one for beginners to use.
The butterfly stretch is a simple yet effective exercise for improving hip mobility.
This stretch primarily targets the inner thighs and hips, promoting flexibility and range of motion. To do the butterfly stretch, you sit on the floor and touch the soles of your feet together. As you gently lean forward, you’ll notice the stretch increases.
It’s also a great stretch for relaxation and stress relief.
The 90 90 hip stretch is a versatile and powerful tool for improving hip mobility and even alleviating discomfort.
By incorporating it into your routine, you can enhance your movement, performance, and overall wellbeing.
It does require quite a good existing level of hip mobility (especially the internal hip rotation), which means you may want to try some of the variations or alternatives first to ease into things.
Featured image and video demonstration credit – It Is Well PT LLC