Given that so many of us spend a majority of the day sitting down—in the car, at a desk, on the couch—it’s no wonder feeling “tight” in the hips is a common complaint.
“I hear people complain about tightness in their hips during every single [personal training] session,” said Lauren Kanski, NASM-CPT, a certified personal trainer and coach in New York City. “Multiple times, every single day, it’s the most common area people ask for help on besides their lower back.”
Spending a big chunk of the day in a seated position means your hips hold a flexed (or shortened) position all day, which can make moving afterward—even just standing up—feel tough. Stretching out your hip muscles, as well as moving regularly throughout the day, can help ease stiff hips and ward off pain and injury.
Even if you don’t feel tight, it’s important to tend to your hips, especially if you feel stressed. “We store a lot of stress and emotions in our hips,” Kanski explained. “We transfer energy between the upper part of the body and the lower part of the body to function and move, and the hips are the primary transfer point of that energy.” Sometimes, opening up the hips can even alleviate some overall tension and perk up your energy levels.
To keep your hips healthy, show ’em some TLC every day. Kanski suggested stretching them out after you wake up in the morning, before your workouts, and before you head to bed, ideally. But even more important is stretching your hips out before and after a workout. Keep stretches active or dynamic when warming up before your workout—that means only holding for a few seconds and moving in and out of the pose. Go for passive or static stretches to cool down after a sweat, holding each position for about 30 seconds. The stretches below, shared with Health by Kanski, are a mixture of both—one through eight are dynamic stretches to keep things moving, while stretches nine through 15 are meant for when you finally slow things down
1. Adductor Rock Back
Start in a tall kneeling position on the floor. Extend one leg straight out to the side, keeping the foot flat on the floor. Place both hands on the ground, about one to two feet in front of the bent knee, and rotate the foot of the extended leg so it faces inward. Keeping your spine long, push your hips back toward your heel. Then, return to starting position. Perform three sets of 10 rock backs on each side. Kneel on a pillow, folded blanket, or yoga mat if needed.
2. Quadruped Hip Half Circles
Start on hands and knees, shoulders over wrists, and knees under hips. Extend your right leg behind you. Create a counterclockwise circle with the knee, bringing it to the right arm. Try to keep the hips level and the knee bent 90 degrees. Complete the half-circle by extending your right leg behind you again. Repeat for a total of three to five reps. Do three sets per side.
3. Spiderman Lunge
Start in a high-plank position with hands directly under the shoulders. Bend right knee to step right foot forward, just outside right hand. Keep the left leg extended and your abs tight. Step right foot back to plank and pause. Repeat. Do three sets of five lunges per side.
Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Soften knees and bend forward at the waist to reach hands to toes. Once hands reach toes, or as close as possible, bend knees to squat down. In your squat position, keep your elbows on the inside legs and use them to gently push your knees apart. Lift chest, pause, then straighten legs and re-fold forward to return to starting position. Do three sets of five reps.
5. Walking Lateral Lunges
Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Step right foot wider than hip-width and bend right knee to sit hips down and back. Keep opposite leg straight with toes pointing forward. Press through the floor away with right foot to return to starting position, left foot meeting right. Do three sets of 10 lunges per leg.
6. High Knees
Start standing. Drive the right knee up to hip height and drive the opposite arm forward, elbow bent 90 degrees. Immediately place the right foot back down and drive the left knee up. Then step it down. Repeat. Stay light on your feet and continue alternating for 10 reps per side. Do three sets.
7. Glute Bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Engage abs and push into the floor with heels to lift hips so knees, hips, and shoulders are aligned. Squeeze glutes to the top of the movement, then slowly lower hips back down to the floor. Do three sets of 10 reps.
8. Lateral Band Walk
Loop a small resistance band around the legs slightly above the ankles. Stand tall with feet about hip-width apart. Soften your knees and take a small step to the side with one foot. Then, slowly follow with the opposite foot so the feet are hip-width apart again. Avoid leaning to the side as you step and prevent the lead knee from collapsing inward; the knee should stay over the ankle the entire time. Do three sets of 10-15 steps per side.
9. 90/90 Hip Stretch
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place both hands behind you, shift knees to the right, and lay both shins on the floor, keeping knees bent 90 degrees. The right shin should be in front of the body and the left shin to the left of the body. Keep your chest tall. Lean forward at the waist to deepen the stretch. Hold here for 30 seconds before returning your knees to the center and shifting them to the left, bringing both shins to the floor and keeping your knees bent 90 degrees. Do three sets of 30-second holds per side.
10. Pigeon Pose
Start in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Then, bring the right knee forward toward the right wrist. Lay your shin flat on the floor, parallel to the chest. Keep the left leg extended. Hold for 30 seconds. Lean forward at the waist to deepen the stretch. Then switch sides. Do three sets of 30-second holds per side.
11. Child’s Pose
Start on hands and knees. Then, spread your knees wide while allowing big toes to touch. Sit back into hips to rest butt on heels. Inhale and sit up straight to lengthen your spine through the crown of your head. On an exhale, fold forward at the waist, allowing the chest to rest between or on top of the thighs, and bring the forehead to the floor. Keep arms extended in front of you with palms on the floor. Keep your butt touching your heels. Hold here. Do three sets of 30-second holds.
12. Couch Stretch
Start in a half-kneeling position, right foot forward and knees bent 90 degrees. Place the top of your left foot on a couch, chair, or bench behind you. Hands can go on the hips or on the front knee. With the chest tall, gently press hips forward and hold for 30 seconds. Do three sets of 30-second holds per side.
13. Frog Stretch
Start on hands and knees. Spread knees slightly wider than hip-width apart but keep feet in place and turn the toes outward. Then, come down onto your forearms and keep your spine straight as you try to “spread the floor” with your knees and sit your hips back toward heels. Hold here. Do three sets of 30-second holds.
14. Supine Figure-Four Stretch
Lie flat on your back with your legs extended. Extend arms out to the sides and flat on the floor. Bring your right knee toward your chest and grab it with your left hand. Gently pull your knee across your body, making sure your right shoulder stays flat on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Do three sets of 30-second holds per side. Place a yoga block, pillow, or folded blanket under the bent knee for support, if needed.
15. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start in a half-kneeling position, right foot forward and both knees bent 90 degrees. Place hands on front thigh for support. Tuck your hips forward and pull your belly button toward the spine. Then, rock forward gently without untucking the hip or rounding the back. Hold for 30 seconds. Do three sets of 30-second holds per side.