The hips are a common area that clinicians, strength coaches, and even athletes and patients have complaints of immobility or tightness. Hip mobility is an important area for mobility in order to decrease the stress and strain on the lumbar spine, knees, or other areas of the kinetic chain to have to compensate for. Lack of hip mobility can be a common cause for low back pain, knee pain, ankle pain, as well as many other movement impairment diagnoses.
For people, we want to make sure people can flex, extend, internally and externally rotate, and abduct their hips to decrease strain on other structures.
*Disclaimer: If you experience any type of pain or deep pinching in your hip joint when performing these, STOP and see a licensed healthcare practitioner.
#1 Kettlebell Seated Hip ER/IR w/ Breath
This movement is going to address multiple areas of mobility. First off, on the front side leg, it will address hip external rotation limitations. On the back side leg, it will address hip internal rotation and adductor mobility limitations.
Try to maintain a neutral spine as you go through the motion. This is a great mobility exercise prior to performing any type of lower body movement. I personally perform this to address any mobility deficits prior to lower body movements. Take a deep breath as you move into the front and back hips. This will allow for some soft tissue tone to relax and allow your body to get accustomed to any new ranges of motion.
The kettlebell will help activate core stabilizers to provide a stable base for the hips to move off of during this movement.
#2 Half Kneeling Couch Stretch
The half kneeling couch stretch is a great movement that most people will need to use to address hip extension mobility limitations. This mobility movement can easily be performed with poor technique.
First off, you want to make sure you start with a neutral spine position. A few good cues for that are:
“Bring your ribs towards your belt.”
“Bring your belt towards your chin.”
“Tuck your tail tailbone.”
One of these cues typically will sink in for more people to cue them to maintain a neutral spine alignment.
Second, we make to make sure we activate the gluteus maximus on the side that is being mobilized. By doing this, it will place the pelvis in a neutral position and allow for an improved stretch on the anterior musculature of the hip and thigh.
Also, by activating the gluteus maximus and placing the pelvis into a better position, this will also cause Reciprocal Inhibition. Reciprocal Inhibition is the activation of one muscle to decrease activity of an opposite muscle group. In this instance, we are activating the gluteus maximus to decrease activation by the anterior hip musculature (Rectus Femoris, Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL), Psoas, etc.)
Good cues for glute activation are:
“Squeeze your butt!”
“Crack a walnut with your cheeks.”
Give these cues a try and don’t forget to be a coach and deduct a way to get the most out of your athletes with the unique tools you have in your toolbox.
#3 Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Mobilization
Now, most people will not reach full hip extension due to limitations at rectus femoris and/or TFL. So that we can address any other areas of hip extension limitation, performing a simple ½ kneeling hip flexor mobilization is imperative.
This mobility exercise can also be performed incorrectly very easily as well.
First, instruct the client or patient to press down into the front knee with their hands. By doing this, it will activate the anterior core musculature and place the pelvis into a more neutral position.
Second, instruct the client to squeeze their gluteus maximus on the down knee. This will also place the pelvis into a better position to mobilize the anterior hip musculature.
Then, if the client isn’t feeling a stretching sensation in the front of their hip, then they can slightly translate their hips anteriorly. More often than not, the person will feel the stretching after the second instruction.
#4 Quadruped Adductor Rockbacks
Since we have covered the hip flexors and hip rotators, we want to make sure we pay attention to the adductors. The adductors can be either hip flexors or hip extensors depending on the position of the lower extremity.
With that said, we want to make sure target various motions that the adductors could affect.
Here are some key points to think about when executing and coaching this mobility drill. First, maintain a neutral spine when sitting back into the movement as well as when you move forward. When you reach a sticking point, take a deep belly breath and fully exhale.
As you sit back, this part of the movement will target the adductors that can limit depth in the squat or deadlift. As you come forward, this part of the movement will target the adductors that can limit the portion of terminal hip extension.
#5 Walking Spiderman Lunge with Overhead Reach
Now that the hip flexors, adductors, hip external and internal rotators have been covered, let’s implement all of them into one movement.
Again, here are some familiar coaching cues you can use to perfect this mobility drill with on yourself and coaching your athletes and clients. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine when going into the lunge as well as overhead reach. Keep on hand at your foot as you rotate up with the opposite arm.
This movement incorporates focusing on mobility into hip extension, hip abduction, thoracic rotation and extension. This is a great movement to perform prior to any lower body lift as it is the best “bang for your buck” mobility drill.
Give these a try on your next lower body lifting day!
About The Author
Andrew Millett is a practicing physical therapist in the field of orthopedic and sports medicine physical therapy. He helps to bridge the gap between physical therapy and strength and conditioning. By evaluating and treating his clients using multiple lenses, such as the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), Postural Restoration Institute (PRI), the main goal for all of his clients are for them to move and feel better and to keep their body functioning at high levels.