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The hip joint (made of 15 muscles and 3 major ligaments) is one of the most important joints in the body, which – when fully functional – allows us to walk, run and jump.

  • It supports the whole upper body and also acts as a base of support for the strong muscles of the hip and leg.
  • The unique anatomy of the hip makes it both extremely strong and flexible at the same time.
  • The hip joint is located where the head of the femur – or thighbone – fits into a rounded socket of the pelvis.

What are some of the hip muscles?

  • gluteals (minimus and maximus)
  • adductor (inside of thigh)
  • iliopsoas (hip flexor)
  • lateral rotator
  • piriformis (deep muscle under glute max)
  • rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps on front of the thigh)


Time to stretch

Hip mobility is essential for a fully functional body, and a program of stretching should be part of this. Having a strong and stable hip joint is also vital to assist in stabilising the knee joint as well, and so reducing the risk of knee pain and injury.

For an all-over-body basic stretching routine, see 14 stretches on a mat.

Here are 10 hip stretches that I use everyday with clients.

  • Focus on your breathing throughout this stretching routine.
  • Aim to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Breathe in as you move into the stretch and then slowly out.
  • Aim to complete the routine at least twice a week.
  • For a bespoke personalised program, send a message to Nick

Supine hip stretch
  • Lie on your back on the floor or a mat, with knees slightly bent.
  • Lift knee in towards your chest, and gently pull in with both hands round the knee.
  • If your knees prefer, hold and pull in with hands round (back of) your leg instead.
  • Breathe in, and as you exhale, increase the range feeling the stretch in your hip/ groin area.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on other side.

Butterfly hip stretch
  • Start in seated position; sit tall with your chest raised and soles of feet flat together.
  • Inhale and as you exhale, gently push knees away towards floor (maintaining your upright posture).
  • Feel the stretch in your hips and adductors (inner thigh).
  • Start with a small range and progress with knees towards floor if your flexibility allows
  • I have poor flexibility here so not a great example (but this shows I need to do this stretch more often)

Seated hip/ figure 4 stretch
  • Start in seated position with knees slightly bent and hands behind you.
  • Cross one leg over opposite ankle (makes a figure 4 shape) maintaining tall posture – chest high.
  • Feel the stretch in your hip (and in the deeper piriformis muscle under glute max).
  • To increase the stretch bring foot on floor closer in towards body, or lift chest and sit up taller, keeping your back straight.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat other side.

All about your hip flexors


Kneeling hip flexor stretch
  • Start in kneeling position hands on hips.
  • Back knee beneath hip on floor (on cushion if required), front foot heel beneath knee.
  • Inhale and, with an upright posture, gently push your hips forward (exhaling as you go) until front knee has (approx) 90 degree bend.
  • Avoid bending from hips, pushing too far forward, or arching lower back. Feel the stretch in hip flexor – front of hip – of back leg. Increase stretch with arm held up high.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat other side.

Standing hip flexor stretch
  • In standing position, place one foot flat on a bench or chair in front of you; bring your arms up straight ahead.
  • Inhale and, with an upright posture, gently push your hips forward (exhaling as you go) until front knee has (approx) 90 degree bend.
  • Avoid bending from hips, pushing too far forward, or arching lower back.
  • Feel the stretch in hip flexor – front of hip – of leg on the floor.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat other side.

Supine hip flexor stretch/ bench or bed
  • Lie on your back on a long bench, or edge of sofa/ bed.
  • Angle your body and hips, so that one leg is stretched out with back of heel on the floor.
  • Pull in other knee with both hands. If your knees prefer, hold with hands round (back of) your leg instead.
  • Breathe in, and as you exhale, increase the range feeling the stretch in your hip/ groin area of the outstretched leg.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on other side.

90/90 hip stretch
  • Sit on floor with both legs bent to 90 degrees.
  • Place one hand on floor in line with forward hip, other hand lightly gripping other ankle.
  • Tip your pelvis forward (like a bowl pouring liquid) and gently push your butt backwards.
  • Keep your head and chest up as your move forward over the front leg – maintain neutral curve in lower back (flat).
  • You should feel a comfortable stretch in your outer thigh and hip – inhale and press front knee and ankle into the ground (hold for 5 secs). Exhale and – if comfortable – move a bit deeper into the stretch.

Feldenkrais hip/ pelvis integrator
  • Lie on your back and bend your left leg, with your left arm at your side.
  • Gently push down into your left heel, and raise up your left hip – start off with a small movement and gradually increase, over 10 to 20 repetitions (one vertebrae at a time).
  • As you lift and start to roll onto your right side, bring your left arm across your body and over your head, touching the ground above your head.
  • Relax into the movement, breathing slowly. With each rep allow your hip and chest to open up.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Mckenzie Press-up
  • Lie facing the floor. Place your hands palms down just outside top of your shoulders.
  • Exhale and push yourself up, keeping pelvis on the floor.
  • Feel a stretch at front of hip (flexors). Relax your lower back and butt.
  • Inhale and lower back down.

Prone hip flexor/ quad stretch
  • Lie on your front resting your head on one arm.
  • Grab other heel/ ankle and pull foot in towards butt.
  • Breathe in, and as you exhale increase range, feeling the stretch in front of hip (hip flexor) and quadricep.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat other side.

References
  • How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy – Paul Chek
  • Manual of Stretching Anatomy (Global Book Publishing)

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