Hip Flexibility
These exercises develop mobility and range of motion in the hip joint - a connection between your leg and pelvis. Some of them are good for strengthening the muscles surrounding your hip joint. You can move your leg relative to the pelvis, or your pelvis relative to the leg. You do not need to do them all. Choose one or two from each sector that appeal to you.
1. All around stretch
Make sure the surface of your floor is not slippery. Stand in front of the mirror, feet parallel to each other, legs straight and apart. Spread your legs only to the feeling of the very comfortable stretch in your hip joints. Mildly engage all muscles in your legs to feel really sturdy. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Breathe evenly and hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Now start pushing your left hip forward and your right hip back. Do this slowly. Watch yourself in the mirror. Keep your hips level and legs straight and toned. You will not be able to push a lot, so do not try to go beyond the mild stretch feeling. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Do the same in the opposite direction. Observe in which direction you have more range of motion. Hold longer for the stiffer side. For someone who knows Yoga, the triangle poses, angle poses and lunge poses are good exercises to stretch the hip joints. All of the above stretches have a benefit of strengthening ligaments and muscles around the hip joint.
When you stretch any joint you have to strengthen surrounding muscles too. Otherwise, it will become very mobile and weak, predisposed to a trauma.
2. Hip Extensors Stretches
  • Hamstrings (back of your thigh) stretch (a) - You can use any table or other piece of furniture sturdy enough to put your leg on. Do not use anything too tall, otherwise you will not be able to keep your leg straight. Stand in front of it, put your leg on the top and keep it straight. Keep your standing leg taut and lean forward from the hips. Keep your back straight. When you feel a mild stretch hold it for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg, hold longer for the stiffer leg.
  • Hamstrings stretch (b) - Stand straight, feet just slightly apart. Engage your leg muscles. Create an abdominal push in your core and bend down from the hips. Do not worry if you didn't go very far down. Do not try to reach down with your arms. Instead of trying to pull your arms and shoulders down, try to pull your pelvis down, which requires activating the hip flexors. It is hard at the beginning to really feel them, but with practice you will get better. What we are doing here is using our body weight to stretch the hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds while breathing into your stomach.
    Do not lose abdominal push, otherwise this stretch can create stress in your lower back.
  • Hamstrings stretch (c) - Sit on the floor with your back and legs straight, legs together. If your hamstrings are short you will not be able to keep your back straight. In this case, choose another, more comfortable, stretch for the time being. Engage the front of your thighs to keep your knees straight and lean forward from the hips. Do not try to reach your toes with your hands, really concentrate on bending from the hips (same thing as with the standing hamstring stretch). Hold for 30 seconds, while breathing into your stomach. Notice that with each exhale you can go down a little bit more.
  • Buttocks stretch - Lay on your back, bring your knees toward your chest and pull them down with your hands as much as you can. Keep your pelvis on the floor, otherwise it will move up with the legs and causes you to lose the stretch. Child's and pigeon Yoga poses and deep squats are also very good buttocks stretches.
2. Hip Flexors Stretches
  • Modified Bridge - Lay on your back, bend your knees, and put your feet slightly apart. Raise your hips in the air by squeezing your buttocks and engaging back muscles. Lift as far as they go. Squeeze as much as you can with your buttocks. Hold this position as long as you can, building up to 30 seconds. Repeat several times. If you are familiar with Yoga, a full bridge is also a good stretching exercise for hip flexors.
  • Cobra - Lay on your stomach, legs slightly apart, hands by your shoulders. Engage all of your leg muscles, especially buttocks. Create a light abdominal push. Breathe into your stomach and slowly raise your head and shoulders using your back muscles at first, then arms. Do not hang your upper body between your arms. Instead, engage the muscles around your shoulders to keep the shoulders down and the body up and tall. Hold for several breaths. Slowly lower yourself down controlling the movement with your back muscles.
    Keep the abdominal push and the buttocks engaged all the time. Otherwise, your lower back will arch more than it should and may sustain injury.
  • Upward-facing dog - Start the same way as in Cobra. The only differenceis that your hands are beside your chest, not beside your shoulders. After you have raised your shoulders you continue to push upwards with your arms until the pelvis starts raising off the floor. Hold for several breaths.
3. Adductor (inner thigh muscles) Stretches
  • Adductor stretch (a) - Sit on the floor with your back straight. Bend your knees, open them and let your feet meet sole to sole. Put your elbows on your thighs (not knees!) and push down. At the same time, try to engage your buttocks as much as possible to aid with the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. If your adductors are very short, it will be hard to sit in this position. In this case, lay down on your back. Bend your knees, grab them with your hands and pull them appart as much as you can. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Adductor stretch (b) - Sit on the floor with your back straight. Put your legs apart and keep them straight. This exercise can be challenging for someone with short hamstrings (back of your thigh). In this case, use the previous exercises until you lengthen your hamstrings. Keeping your back straight, lean forward from the hips. Watch out for the possibility of bending in the middle of your back. If you do you will lose the purpose of the exercise. When you start feeling a mild stretch hold it for 30 seconds.
3. Hip Rotators Stretches
Twist - This exercise is one of my favorites. I have discovered that it is great for stretching the hip joint, especially small muscles inside your hip, lateral rotators. Sit with your back and legs straight. Bend your right leg and put your right foot outside the left leg. With your left hand grab your right leg. Hold it and try to pull your right hip joint backwards. You will immediately feel the stretch in your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side. Hold longer on the stiffer side.
Medial Rotators stretch - Sit on the hard chair - back straight, feet on the ground, legs bent 90 degrees in the knees. Put your right ankle on your left thigh, somewhere behind your left knee. Start leaning slowly forward from the hips, keeping your back straight. When you feel a moderate stretch, hold it for 30 seconds. Switch legs. Hold longer for the stiffer leg.
Irina Yastrebova, Riding Instructor and Trainer.
My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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