In this article, I’ll be covering some basic stretches and exercises to improve hip mobility. Healthy hips are important both in everyday life and also at the gym or in various sports, so there is really no reason not to make it a priority to at least have decent hip mobility.
Can You Squat?
If you can’t high bar back squat ATG (ass to grass) with a fairly upright torso or you’re unable to keep a vertical torso when front squatting, there is a pretty good chance hip mobility is at least part of the reason why. Usually it’s not the only issue of course, but it tends to be a contributing factor.
A full squat is a natural movement that every person should be able to perform. Optimally, you should be able to spend a long time in the bottom position of a body weight squat with your heels on the ground, your feet pointing forward or slightly outward (about 15 degrees) and your knees at least tracking your feet (possibly outside of your feet, if you have excellent hip mobility). It’s a natural way of sitting. It forces you to use muscles that are basically inactive when you’re sitting on a chair.
A squat performed properly will also stretch your hips, so the squat stretch is a great start for a hip mobility routine.
The Squat Stretch
This is a great way to stretch your hips, among other things. It also gets you used to sitting in a natural position and will have direct carryover to a lot of lifts like any squat variation, the clean, the snatch, etc. If you can’t spend 10 minutes in the bottom of a body weight squat, you have some work to do. I embedded the first Mobility WOD 10 minute squat video below and linked some more of the 10min squat test videos from Kelly Starrett as well. It shows you some different variations of the squat stretch you can try out whenever you test your ability to stay in the bottom position of a squat for 10 minutes. Push your knees out at the bottom with your elbows, if you can.
If you’re unable to get into the bottom position or unable to stay in the bottom position for longer than a minute freestanding, feel free to hang onto something in front of you to get your 10 minutes in. Try to progress to a point where you can do 10 minutes freestanding and beyond. Another good method is using a jumpstretch band to support yourself like this. The band-supported squat stretch also allows you to work on ankle mobility while you’re in the bottom position of a full body weight squat.
My personal experience with the 10 minute squat stretch test: The first time I tried the 10 minute squat stretch test, I was able to get about a minute of freestanding squat stretch time in the bottom position and I spent the rest of the time hanging on to a pole in front of me. About a month later, after daily squat stretches with mostly 2-3min sets of squat stretch adding up to 10mins/day, I was able to sit in the bottom of the squat stretch for 11 minutes straight. Mobility work is mostly about persistence. If you do it often, you will see progress fairly quickly. It also helps to work through soreness, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
Going Beyond the Squat Stretch
Once you can hang out in the bottom of the squat stretch for 10 minutes, it’s fairly easy to maintain that level of hip mobility. I rarely go beyond 20 seconds at a time in the bottom of the squat stretch now, but sometimes I test myself and I can still do 10+ minutes easily. Just do it as part of your warmup and outside of the gym when you have time to keep the hip mobility you’ve earned through hard work. Paused ATG squats and front squats also help, along with the Olympic lifts if you do them.
Beyond the squat stretch, there are some other things that can be done to maintain good hip mobility. I’ll start with a nice set of hip mobility drills from Jonnie Candito. I do these exercises immediately after my lower body workouts like he suggests and I really feel like they help prevent soreness and maintain good flexibility in the hips.
The Lower Extremity Basic List below from MWOD will also benefit your hips.
Here is a great hip opener to do before a lower body workout courtesy of powerlifter Mark Bell.
Another one from Kelly Starrett.
Also foam roll your hips (along with just about everything else that’s tight) and do the couch stretch!
Some more hip mobility videos on YouTube: Hip opening with a box and lacrosse ball | Hip opener yoga | ‘Couch Stretch’ against a wall | Desk athlete hip rescue | Clearing hip impingement | Deadlift or pulling prep with hip mobility work | Better hip extension
That about wraps up hip mobility. I like to keep things basic, but if you feel I missed anything important, leave it in the comments. As always, it’s just my approach. I’m not a doctor.