Last summer I went through a little rough patch with my hips.  My right hip was extremely tight, and it hurt during any type of exercise I would do.  Turns out I had a slight case of hip bursitis (I’d hate to know what a worse case feels like?), and basically without going into all the science behind it, I was experiencing a lot of pain and stiffness around my right hip joint.  I specifically remember the Tuesday night Kickboxing class I was in when I thought to myself “uh oh” because I could barely lift my knee to hip level.  For the next month or so, I had to really modify my workouts because I would feel pain in my hip flexor (front of the hip), down my IT band (side), and in my glutes (bum) too.  I ended up going to physical therapy a few times, and my physical therapist said that the bursitis could have been caused by strain from overuse, but that it also seemed like my gluteus medius was really weak and causing a slight imbalance as well.  The imbalance was then in turn causing my IT band to rub against the hip joint in ways it definitely shouldn’t have, which was causing my pain.

Sounds fun, right?!

my hips don't lie


Sidenote for anyone in the Boston area who ever needs a physical therapist:  Erin at Boston Sports Medicine in Allston is AMAZING.  She has corrected both my shoulder and hip imbalances over the last couple years.  She truly took the time to listen to my issues and never rushed me  through the exercises just to get to her next patient.  She also not only took the time to answer my questions, but put in the effort to answer them intelligently and with MY goals in mind.  Whenever I have to go to PT, I have a LOT of questions.  Most of them involve how I can still remain active (safely) while managing an injury.  Saying “you have to completely stop what you are doing” is just NOT an option for me.  I always appreciated the modifications and alternative suggestions Erin had for me.

Anyways, along with the exercises from this post that helped strengthen my gluteus medius back up, Erin introduced me to a TON of hip stretches that I wasn’t doing on a regular basis.  She had me go through them on both sides of my body, and then again an extra time on the right in attempts to “even things out.”  And I quickly found that they really worked.  Now I make hip stretching (along with foam rolling) a priority, so I can take all necessary steps to prevent my hip from acting up again.  And sometimes it feels tight, but when that happens I stretch a little extra, and usually I’m all set.

I remember when I was going through my hip issues I would get a lot of questions from people on what they could do for tight hips.  If that was you, here you go!  I wanted to share some of my favorite hip stretches with you guys!  Some of you may recognize this series as part of my typical cool down in my classes.

My Favorite Hip Stretches

Note – When stretching, you want to feel only a mild discomfort, never pain!  Hold for somewhere between 10-30 seconds.  The pictures below show the stretches on the right side only, make sure to reverse and do on the left to keep balanced.

Lying Hamstring Stretch
– Lying flat on the floor, place one foot flat on the ground.
– Pull the opposite leg in toward you until you feel a stretch down the back of your leg. 

Hamstring Hip Stretch


Knee and Foot Pull In
– Take the leg that was just in the hamstring stretch, and bend at the knee.  Keep the opposite foot flat on the floor still.
– Gently press the knee forward with your hand as you gently pull the foot in toward you.

Knee & Foot Pull In Stretch


Lying Figure 4 Stretch
– Take the foot that was flat on the floor in the previous exercise, and pull it in toward you so it meets the opposite ankle.
– Gently pull
your thigh in until you feel the stretch in the opposite glute.  This one can also be done seated, by crossing the legs in the same way and leaning forward.

Lying Figure Four Stretch


Lying Crossover IT Band Stretch
– Still lying on the ground, extend one leg flat on the floor.
– Gently grab the opposite leg (the one you’ve been stretching through the previous exercises).  Make sure you grab onto the outside of the leg somewhere that isn’t too difficult for you to reach.
– Gently pull the leg so it crosses your body, but don’t cross it all the way over.  This is a great one for your IT band, and you should feel the stretch down the side of your thigh.

Lying Crossover IT Band Stretch


Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
– Start kneeling on two knees, then place one foot flat on the floor in front of you.
– Lean forward so that you are pressing the top of your thigh (of the leg on the floor) forward.  You should feel a gentle stretch in the front of your kneeling leg.  That is your hip flexor.  Make sure not to extend the front knee over the toe, keep it over the ankle.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch


Butterfly Stretch
– From a seated position, bring your feet together so the insides of your feet touch.
– Lean forward so you feel a slight stretch in your inner thighs.  You can use your elbows to press down gently on your knees.

Butterfly Stretch


Pigeon Pose
– Start by having your hands and feet on the ground with your hips in the air. 
– Slide your foot forward so it is in between your hands, then inch your foot toward the other direction.  So if it is your right foot, inch it toward the left so your right knee falls to your right.
– Extend your other leg behind you so your shin and top of the foot are on the ground.  Keep your shoulders square.  You can either stay as I am in the picture below, or lift your chest so your sternum is looking up to the ceiling.
– Note this is a more advanced stretch.  You can modify by doing the same on a raised surface, such as a bed or table top that lines up well with your hip.

Pigeon Pose

Some other hip stretches/openers that I love but don’t do regularly are wide squat, happy baby, standing IT band stretch, and seated glute stretch.

Disclaimer:  While I am a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, please make sure you check with a doctor before starting any kind of new exercise or stretching program. 

Have any of you had any hip problems before?  Or get tight hips during or after certain kinds of exercise?  What’s your favorite way to stretch your hips?

PS.  Hope you’ve kept up with this week’s ab challenge!  Did you do your obliques last night before bed?  Don’t forget that today is Tabata Thursday!

Week 3 Tabata Thursday

Catch you later!