A list of the best hip mobility exercises may not sound like the most exciting thing… but here’s the punchline, the far majority of us actually have tight hips and this is causing all sorts of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as lower back ache, knee pain and limited movement.
Sitting for long periods and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weakened glutes and tight hip flexors. This means the hips don’t hinge like they should so other parts of your body, such as your back, take more of the load… which often leads to injury (or at the very least, poor posture and movement).
Consequently, prioritizing hip mobility within any fitness routine should be something everyone does… which is why we’ve created this guide as a simple way to get started. We’ve got 10 exercises that will help test and improve your hip mobility, and tips for doing them properly.
(We also delve into the difference between mobility and flexibility and recommendations to ensure you’re working on your mobility – i.e. improving the range of motion around your joints).
At a Glance – Best Hip Mobility Exercises
- Cossack Squat
- World’s Greatest Stretch
- 90/90 Stretch
- Frog Stretch
- Asian Squat
- Bear Sit Stretch
- Butterfly Pose
- Reclining Pigeon Pose
- Single Leg Hip Rotations
Printable PDF Guide
We’ve turned this list of mobility exercises for the hips into a printable PDF guide too, so you can stick it on your wall as a reminder of what exercises to do.
Click below to get the PDF.
Try including some banded hip abduction exercises
To take your hip mobility to the next level, try including some of these banded hip abduction exercises into your weekly fitness routine as well.
Best Hip Mobility Exercises and Stretches
The cossack squat is a great way to improve your hip mobility, whilst also building lower body strength. It looks similar to a lateral side squat.
The focus is stretching and strengthening the hip joints instead of doing a cardio workout, so don’t opt for fast, high repetition sets, but rather do this at a very slow tempo and hold the movement when you’re in the deep squat at each side.
Try and finish the movement with your hamstrings touching your calves on the side you’re squatting down on.
You may need to hold onto something to help provide balance. We’d recommend opting for this approach if you are struggling with balance, instead of trying to adjust the movement itself. The focus is on stretching the hips, not testing your balance.
Tight tips will mean you might not be able to get very low… which is fine. Just keep doing the movement and over time, you should start to notice that you are able to get lower as your mobility is improving.
As well as your hips, this is a great exercise to improve ankle mobility too… making it a great option for any sort of mobility routine.
If you’re looking for progression, try and stay relatively low during the whole movement, to keep your muscles under tension for longer.
World’s Greatest Stretch
Aptly named, “world’s greatest stretch”, this dynamic stretch certainly doesn’t disappoint and the movement is ideal to include in warm-ups, cool downs and evening stretching routines. It really hits most of your body, including your hips.
To do world’s greatest stretch, start in a plank position and bring your right foot inline with your left hand. Lift your right hand off the floor and keeping it fully extended as you rotate your trunk to open up your chest. As your mobility improves, especially in your hips, you’ll notice you can get lower and rotate more during the exercise.
The world’s greatest stretch involves a rotational movement which is very practical, and something often ignored in lots of mobility drills and workouts. Rotating your trunk, as you do in this stretch, is something you probably do frequently throughout the day or during sports/workouts, so you’ll find working on this type of movement has a noticeable impact on your overall performance in all walks of life.
We also find this is a great stretch to do before any sort of hamstring exercise or workout too.
The 90/90 stretch is a great option for really targeting deep in the hips and combines both internal and external hip rotations.
90/90 stretch involves sitting in an upright position with both knees bent at a 90 degree angle. One leg is extended out in front of you, while the other leg out to the side.
As well as being a good way to stretch out your hips, it’s also a good test of hip mobility… as it will become quite evident if your tight hips are making it too difficult to hold the upright position.
Once you’re in the 90/90 stretch position, you want to slowly lean forward with a straight back. The lean doesn’t need to be significant, but what’s important is that you maintain a straight back and avoid any sort of rounding of the back (as this will remove the emphasis away from the hips).
You may want to use your hands as a support, especially if your hip mobility is quite limited… to help maintain that upright position.
The benefit of the 90/90 stretch is that it’s multi-dimensional and you can also rotate at your hips to open up the joint on your back leg. This will help further stretch out your hips.
This exercise does require a good level of mobility in the knee, so you may find something like reclining pigeon pose a better alternative if this is an issue.
Also, remember to swap legs so you do it on both sides.
The frog stretch is a fantastic hip stretch that is popular with strength athletes and those looking to unlock their tight hips.
(In yoga, this looks very similar to a prayer stretch).
To get into the frog stretch position, start by squatting down and then gently lean forward so your knees and hands touch the ground. This will naturally position your hips and lower body into a good starting position.
From here, push down through your hips. This can be subtle and a small movement here will really stretch out the hips. Hold this for a few seconds and then bring your hips forward again and repeat (ensuring it’s a dynamic stretch).
Once you feel comfortable with this, you can start to widen your hips. The wider they are, the deeper the stretch and more mobility and flexibility you’ll need.
The Asian squat is a deep “ass to grass” squat hold. To get into this position, and subsequently hold this position, it requires loose and mobile hips… making it a great test of hip mobility, as well as a great way to improve it.
If you can comfortably get into a deep squat, simply hold this for 30-60 seconds, before having a rest and then repeating for a few sets.
If you’re struggling to get into any sort of deep squat, it shows that tight hips are holding you back. If this is the case, then sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Each session, try and slowly place your feet closer to your glutes each time (which will require better hip mobility), until the heels of your feet are touching your glutes. At this stage, use your arms to gently lift your glutes off the floor… and viola, you’re in a deep squat position.
(Our guide on Asian squats delves into more details on the biomechanics and cultural background to this movement).
The clamshell is a popular exercise in Physical Therapy as a solution for tight and restricted hips. It’s beginner friendly and a great exercise to keep your hips happy and healthy. It’s considered one of the best exercises to help prevent injuries too.
The clamshell helps strengthen not only the gluteus maximus but also the gluteus medius (the main muscle that is needed for abduction and rotation of the hips). Strengthening the gluteus maximus alone won’t unlock true hip mobility, which is why it’s certainly not just about doing glute movements that involve hinging at the hips to combat tightness in this part of the body.
To do a clamshell, lay on your side with your knees bent and ankles stacked on one another. Keeping your ankles together, lift your top knee upwards, hinging at the hips. Repeat on the other side. You need to keep your hips stable for the whole movement to ensure you don’t lift your hips off the floor too.
A key characteristic of a good clamshell is no rotation of the hips. If you’re hips are rotating, you’re not engaging the muscles correctly. If this is the case, simply focus on smaller range of motion as you lift your knee up.
One of the benefits of the clamshell exercise is that even if you do have stiff hips, you can simply lift your knee as far as it feels comfortable.
You can also use a resistance band to increase difficulty during the movement.
The fire hydrant is a similar movement to clamshell and a hip mobility exercise you may also want to try.
Bear Sit Hinge
The bear sit hinge involves a rotation of the hip joint whilst in the bear sit position.
The bear sit position is best done against a wall, so you don’t need to worry about supporting your torso, and instead can focus on your hip rotations.
With your back against the wall, open up your hips, with your knees bent and heels resting on the floor.
To do an internal hip rotation, bring your knees towards the floor (it’s best to do this alternating as opposed to at the same time). Even a subtle, small movement should be felt in the hips. The important thing is to keep your pelvis stable and focus on rotating at the hips, and not moving your hips to accommodate the requirements of the exercise.
If you fully rotated your hips so your knee is touching the floor, you’d basically end up in the 90/90 stretch… which makes for a logical mobility flow if you wanted to incorporate both exercises into a single stretch.
The butterfly pose is a great hip mobility exercise that can be adapted to whatever level of mobility you currently have in your hips. The closer your heels are to your glutes, the more your hips are being stretched.
So to begin with, just try and bring your feet together as close to your glutes as you can and hold that. Over time, you can try and slowly bring this closer and closer to your glutes, creating more of a stretch at the hips.
This makes butterfly pose a great benchmark exercise to use to see how your hip mobility is improving.
Reclining Pigeon Pose
Reclining pigeon pose is a beginner-friendly yoga pose that is perfect for those who want a relaxing way to stretch out tight hips.
The exercise works similar muscles to the regular pigeon pose, but by performing it on your back, it makes for a much gentler stretch that is easier to control. We find this is better for anyone with sore knees (that might struggle with stretches that involve putting weight onto your knees.
Reclining pigeon pose is one of the exercises that you may want to use a stretching strap with, as this will help you bring your leg closer to your chest if you are struggling to do so.
As well as stretching out the hips, this exercise will also work wonders for your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. It also helps improve range of motion around the knees too (if you’re struggling with knee pain, check out our new guide on cyclist squats, as a great solution for strengthening the muscles around the knee to help improve knee stability).
The NHS also recommends reclining pigeon pose as a way to manage sciatica.
Single Leg Hip Rotations
Single leg hip rotations are perhaps the simplest exercise on this list, but they still pack a punch when it comes to unlocking tight hip flexors and strengthening the glutes.
This hip exercise requires standing on one leg, which helps test and improve your balance too (although you can hold onto something if you are struggling to maintain your balance).
By rotating your legs, you are opening up your hips and over time, the aim is to increase this range of motion at the hip socket.
To gain the benefits of a single leg hip rotation, the most important thing is to opt for slow and controlled movements.
Importance of Mobility in the Hips
Ultimately, good hip mobility is not only important for athletic performance, but everyday movement too.
Allowing the hip joints to move through a full range of motion will allow you to experience better functional movement and reduce the risk of injuries and common MSK conditions.
Limited mobility, whether at the hips or another joint, will mean your body tries to compensate for this by adjusting how it deals with load and stress put on it.
As opposed to just doing static stretches to aid better flexibility, mobility exercises are about strengthening all the muscles needed to move a joint without limitation.
Improved hip mobility will mean you can lift heavier, move faster, and avoid that feeling of stiffness around joints. It will also help improve your posture and combat signs of ageing.
Mobility Vs Flexibility
Mobility is defined as the ability for joints to move through their full range of motion. Flexibility, on the other hand, is the ability for a muscle to lengthen passively (without engagement). Although these are similar, flexibility alone isn’t enough and we need to ensure our joints can move through their full range of motion to avoid limited movement. This requires strength and stability around the joints, not just supple muscles.
Useful Tools of the Trade
To enhance your stretching exercises and mobility workouts, you may find a few bits of equipment quite useful.
Stretching straps would probably be the best solution for those who want more control over their stretching routines. These straps make it easier (and more effective) to raise your legs up and hold such positions. They’re popular in yoga and we find ones with loops tend to have the best reviews.
Resistance bands would also be another useful bit of gear… relatively cheap and a simple way to add resistance to certain exercises. A movement like clamshells can be done with bands to make the glutes work harder.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re a professional athlete or just looking to improve your everyday movement and avoid aches and pains, hip mobility exercises are undoubtedly worth adding into your weekly routine.
They don’t have to take too long and they don’t require any fancy equipment… yet the benefits are substantial.
As well as doing hip mobility exercises and stretches, ensuring you’re including lower body strength movements into your workouts too, will help really take your overall mobility to the next level. Having strong glutes, hamstrings, quads, ads and back, will ensure your body can stabilize and support all the joints properly.
If you are struggling with mobility or flexibility, a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer may also be able to help provide more tailored corrective exercises for your specific circumstances.