If you have tight hips from running, cycling or sitting too long, there are several hip-opening stretches that will invite more flexibility. Static stretching is one way you can reduce the tension in your butt and lower back -- so you can strengthen hip muscles, reduce pain and prevent injury.
When and When Not to Stretch
You may already know static stretching since you were in elementary school when your P.E. teacher asked you to touch your toes. Static stretching is holding a stretch of a muscle group for a specific amount of time, which is usually about 30 seconds. Although stretching your hips can increase muscle length, you should not perform this type of stretching before a strength workout. Static stretching reduces muscular strength and decreases your workout performance because of a decrease of neural stimulation, says exercise physiologist Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico. And so, you should stretch after a workout, not before.
The tabletop stretch targets the buttocks and hip rotators in your hip joint. Stand in front of a table that is about as high as the top of your pelvis. Put your right outer thigh and outer shin on top of the table without hunching your back. Your kneecap should be pointing forward. Put your hands on your leg and slowly bend your torso forward at your hip joint like a bow. When you feel that you can't move any further, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. As you do so, bend forward a few inches. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat the stretch on the opposite hip.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor stretch targets all muscles that flex the hip, parts of your upper thigh and lower torso that attaches to the hip flexors. If you sit often at work, this stretch may be the best for you. Kneel on the ground on your left knee with your right foot in front of you. Keep your chest up and push your hip slightly forward. Raise your left arm over your head to increase the stretch and hold this stretch for 15 seconds. Then lean your torso to your right to increase the lateral stretch in your ribs and hip flexor. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
Supine Hip Stretch
If you have lower back stiffness from standing too long, this position takes away load from your spine and allows you to stretch your hips with very little or no discomfort. Lie on your back on the ground and put both feet against a wall about hip-distance apart. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh and gently push your left knee toward the wall with your left hip, not your hand. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat the stretch on the opposite hip.
- Dr. Len Kravitz: Stretching: A Research Retrospective
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.