13 Feel-Good Hip Openers

Today’s informational blog is republished from our friends at PaleoHacks.

Are your tight hips putting a cramp in your lifestyle? Tight hips can lead to back pain and sciatica, and prevent you from doing activities that you enjoy. Try these 13 feel-good hip openers to loosen those muscles today.

Whether it’s an occasional twinge or a full-blown injury, having tight hips is a literal pain in the butt.

Here I’ll share easy hip openers that you can do at home to increase mobility in your hip joint, which can help reduce aches and pains in your pelvis, low back and legs.

Can you guess the major causes of tight hips? Try these on for size:

– Weak core strength
– Weak legs (particularly glutes and hamstrings)
– Weak hip flexors and instability at the hip joint
– Imbalanced muscle development
– Old injuries
Incorrect seated posture
– Daily lifestyle habits, including sitting or being stationary for too long and not taking the time to stretch each day

The Correlation Between Hip and Low Back Pain


As a Pilates trainer, I see many clients who want to free themselves from low back pain. But instead of heading straight to the spine, I’ll often start them on a lower body program that strengthens their legs and hips and releases the muscles that surround the pelvis. The hip and lumbopelvic region are so close that pain in the back is often caused by an issue (weakness, tightness or injury) in the hips.

In particular, studies have shown a direct correlation (1) between having tight hip flexors, weak gluteal muscles, and lumbopelvic pain. Chronic tightness in the hips can also drag other muscles and joints out of alignment, including the low back and the knees.

The Bottom Line: Your hips need to be strong, stable, and have appropriate mobility to support your body above them and your limbs below them.

Hip Function in a Nutshell

1.The hip joint has two main functions: it provides mobility for the lower body and stability for the pelvis. It’s also a major weight-bearing joint.
2.Chronically tight hips can lead to pain and injury, but being too loosey-goosey in those muscles isn’t good either. The hips need to be strong enough to support the pelvis, spine and knees during movement
3.A wide range of motion in the hip joint allows the legs to move freely in all directions. Doing the same limited movements every day (exercise or lifestyle habits) will decrease hip mobility over time.
4.Tight hips flexors aren’t strong hip flexors. Sitting for extended periods of time at work, during your commute, and at home keeps the psoas muscle in constant (passive) contraction. This passive position shortens the muscles without strengthening them.

The Bottom Line: Ideally, you’ll find a happy balance between pelvic stability and mobility. To do so you need to incorporate exercises that strengthen the hips and gluteal muscles, do targeted stretching, and move your body frequently throughout the day.

13 Hip Openers to Ease Pelvic Pain

Keep in mind that the key to success is making this a daily practice. Choose one or two of the following hip openers to do each day this week, or try them all from start to finish as a 20-minute hip-opening routine. This sequence starts with basic hip openers and finishes with the more advanced; it stretches the front, sides and back of the hip.

Windshield Wipers | Repeat 30 Seconds


Start seated on your backside with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, wider than hip distance. Place the hands behind the hips to support yourself. Gently drop the knees from side-to-side, keeping the hips as still as possible. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Seated Criss-Cross | Hold 3 Breaths Per Side


Start seated with the legs crossed and the right shin in front. Drape your body over your legs and stretch your arms forward along the floor. Walk both hands to the left side, breathing into your right-side hip; stay for 3 breaths. Walk hands to the right side, breathing into your left-side hip; stay for 3 breaths. Roll the spine up, switch to the left shin in front and repeat.

Shin Hugs | Hold 6 Breaths, 3x Per Side


This position stretches the piriformis muscle. Keeping this muscle flexible reduces your risk of developing piriformis syndrome (a type of sciatica). Start lying on your back with your legs extended. Hug your right knee to your chest, slightly across to your left chest and shoulder. Hold for 6 breaths. Release the stretch and repeat for 3 rounds before switching sides.

Reclining Pigeon | Hold 30 Seconds


This modified version of Pigeon is more suitable if you have tightness in the knees or low back. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh, squeezing the right knee away from your chest. Hold 30 seconds.

To advance: hold the back of the left thigh and pull the whole thigh in towards your body, keeping the back of the pelvis heavy and relaxed into the floor.

Runner’s Lunge | Hold 5 Breaths Per Side


Stand with the feet under the hips. Step the right foot back as you bend the left knee to 90º, and place both fingertips on the floor. Keeping your spine straight, inhale and exhale for 5 full rounds of breath. Step the back foot up and switch sides.

Twisted Lunge | Hold 5 Breaths Per Side


Start in your lunge position, with the right foot back. Place the left hand flat to the floor and lift the right arm to the ceiling, rotating the spine so that the chest faces the inner thigh. Hold for 5 full breaths before releasing and switching legs.

Seated Figure Four | Hold 30 Seconds Per Side


Start seated on your backside with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh, flexing the right foot to protect the knee. Lean your spine forward, bringing your chest closer to your legs. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Down Dog | Hold 5 Breaths, 3X


Start in a pyramid position, with the hands and feet on the floor and the hips towards the ceiling. Draw your navel to your spine and gently press the heels closer to the floor. Hold for 5 breaths before resting on hands and knees. Repeat three total rounds.

Three-Legged Dog | Hold 5 Breaths Per Side


Start in Downward Facing Dog. Lift the right leg to the ceiling and then bend the right knee, bringing the heel to the left bum-cheek. The right knee is pointed up to the ceiling, and you’ll feel the stretch at the front of the right hip and thigh. Hold for 5 breaths before resting and switching sides.

Natural Flat-Footed Squat (Modified) | Hold 60 Seconds


The squat position is a natural resting place for the human body. It puts the hip into deep flexion. From standing, squat down until your backside rests near your heels. Stay for 60 seconds and then stand back up. Option to repeat for a second minute.

To modify: place a prop under your heels if they can’t stay flat (see photo); hold a pole or stable object to help you lower your hips to the floor.

Pigeon | Hold 30 Seconds Per Side


Start on the floor with your front knee bent between 45º and 90º. The back knee can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you. Rotate the back hip forward, so that the pelvis is square and the back knee points down to the ground. Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as you can comfortably maintain. Hold for 30 seconds before releasing and changing sides.

Camel Pose | Hold 5 Breaths


Start kneeling with the toes tucked under and the spine upright. Place the hands on the low back and gently extend the spine, pressing the pelvis forward and stretching the front of the thighs. Hold for 5 breaths before resting.

To advance: place the hands on the heels. Repeat three total rounds.

Frog | Hold 60 Seconds


This stretch is quite intense, so only participate if it feels right for your body. Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable. Keep the inner edge of your feet on the ground, with toes pointed outward. Slowly lower to your forearms, and move your body weight forward and back a couple of times. Finish by gently sitting the hips back into the stretch and holding for up to 60 seconds.

(Original source article can be found here.)


About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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  1. At 90 years young, these moves are priceless, never boring. Thank you Sponsor. I am grateful for this site.

  2. I’m in PT right now I’ll do these on my off pt days whatever my therapist says she so great helping me alot

  3. Thanks for the moves. I’ve been looking for something just like this and I can afford it. Thank you, again

  4. Any of these good for spinal fusion I had 6 months ago?

  5. People with knee replacements

    I have to need replacements can you modify these exercises for People with knee replacements

    • Two knee

    • My right knee was replaced 7 years ago and it is was fine after 2 months. I had my left knee replaced 8 months ago and still have pain especially when I go down steps. I have physical therapy once a week and my PT has given me exercises like you have recommended but I still have pain. What else can I do?

    • I have both knee replacements can you modify these for people with knee replacement, please???

    • I have 2 knee replacememnts and tight fascia from sittng too much. Can you modify so I can get started?

  6. These look like I can do most. However, my knees hurt so much, they hurt just watching these exercises let alone trying to do them. I will definitely try them all but I know already the ones using the knees I will be a fail for me.

  7. One of the best stretches for sciatic pain is a side body stretch. Stretching the waist can greatly relieve tightness in the low back and create space for the disks to sit properly so as not to create nerve pain.
    Thank you for these hip openers.

  8. If I could do these, I wouldn’t need to. Do you have any exercises that don’t require me to get down on the floor? Or could I possibly do these on my bed? Does doing them in the water help? I go to a rehab pool twice a week and do some of these.

    • As a massage therapist many of my clients suffer from piriformis syndrome and tight hip flexors due to excessive sitting at a computer and driving long distance. Once these muscles have relaxed their lower back issues are usually resolved.

  9. I can’t do anything that involves getting down on the floor. In my book, that’s called “falling,” and I have to call the EMT’s to come and get me up. Almost every joint in my body has osteoarthritis and when I fall, I can no longer use my knees to get up. Pain is unbearable if I try to get on my knees to get up. It’s been a long time since I was able to do even that. I have other fun diseases, too: fibromyalgia and diabetes. I’m not that old, just falling apart ahead of time!

    • António Maria Coelho de Carvalho

      I am a portuguese old man (93….) in Portugal. I recovered from diabetes changing my food and from knee pains with homeopatic mnedicine. Try to change to natural medicines, and good luck…
      Antonio Carvalho

      • Virginia Sullivan

        Could you give me some additional info about what changes you made in your diet to help with diabetes and also what you use for your knee pain problems. I try to watch my diet and I also take several homeopathic meds but haven’t found the right ones yet. I would really appreciate any information you could share with me.

      • Dear Antonio

        Thank you for replying to Yvonne. I am in good health but have become lazy. I would like to know what your diet is, and how it improved your diabetes. As well as your medicines. Because of lack of excerise I know I need to stretch my hips and joints before they get too stiff. My wife who is from Brazil have visited your wonderful country twice in the last four years. Last year from ale gave to Porto. Which we really enjoyed. Keep up your efforts you help many people around the world with your dedication.

    • Phyllis M. Spagnuolo


      You not alone!!!

    • Do as many as you can in your bed

  10. I have a torn labrum in my left hip which I caused by using a hip adduction & abduction machine for which I have had physical therapy for about 2 months. This has helped a lot but I am afraid to do some of those exercises for fear of causing more damage. Could you advise me about this?

  11. Could you email me the pics of these exercises so I can print them my printer won’t print them off this web site. Thanks

  12. If I could come close to being able to do any of these, I’m sure my hips and back would not hut.

  13. I love these exercises and have been doing several of them for years. I am 82 and my back gets stiff and I get down on the floor to do some of these which my chiropractor showed me when I was in my 50s to keep away back pain. God bless you for showing these moves. I only wish I could print them out as my memory is not so good that I can remember them all. Thank you, thank you.

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