Dynamic stretching, static stretching, warm up, cool down, cross train, strength train…now I’m telling you to add in hip mobility work too?!
Don’t worry, I’m watching your clock! These quick moves take just seconds to do and you can use them as part of your dynamic warm up or your cool down.
Hip mobility is incredibly important for runners. In fact, if you lack hip mobility, you will likely have tight muscles in the hip flexors, lower back, and front of the hips which can lead to injuries and pain around the body.
If you’re curious to know what the best hip mobility exercises are, and why hip mobility matters in the first place, you’re in the right place!
In this article, you’ll learn what mobility exactly means, why it’s important for runners and the 6 best hip mobility drills that will help improve your running performance.
How Does the Hip Work?
To understand what hip mobility is and what hip mobility exercises to do, we need to first understand how the hip works and the movements it helps us make:
The hip basically has 3 main movements. These are:
- Hip Rotation: This involves moving the foot left and right, as well as moving the straightened leg towards the toes.
- Hip Flexion and Extension: This involves moving the leg forward and backward.
- Hip Abduction and Adduction: This involves moving the leg out to the side, and in towards the other leg.
What is Mobility?
Mobility is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but you might not know what it means.
Essentially, mobility relates to the body’s useful range of motion.
It’s regarded as the foundational tenant of athleticism.
As runners and athletes, we must have adequate ranges of motion, strength throughout our ranges, and full control over our individual joints in order to achieve our performance.
Only then can we operate properly, producing smooth coordinated action and evenly distributing forces throughout the body.
Symptoms of poor mobility include stiffness, restrictions, and sometimes even pain.
Here’s why that matters as explained by C Shante Cofield, Doctor of Physical Therapy.
“The best example is that person who’s trying to do an overhead squat and they’re just struggling to squat down.That’s energy that’s being used just to fight against their own body.
When people gain mobility and they have this freedom of motion and they can just get into the squat they suddenly have this whole reserve of energy to direct into the actual movement and into whatever they’re lifting as opposed to just trying to get into the shape.”
Does Stretching Help with Mobility?
While stretching is a common method for improving mobility, the benefits are typically short lived. This is because stretching alone only provides a ‘temporary’ increase in range of motion.
If this isn’t followed by some form of dedicated strength work, it will quickly reverse.
There are 17 muscles that contribute to your hip movement And your hips can move across three different planes of motion as we discussed above in how our hips work.
To open up and enhance your hips for good, you’ll need to do more than simply stretch those hip flexors. You’ll need to focus on your hip flexibility, hip stability, and hip strength to enhance your hip mobility more permanently.
In this article, I’ll share a few hip mobility exercises with you that incorporate stretching and strengthening to increase your active range of motion, ie, your mobility.
Working on your hip mobility as a runner is a definite technique to enhance your running performance and avoid injury.
Why Is Mobility Important for Runners?
Mobility drills make us more aware of our bodies and our range of motionwhich leads to better running form and less injuries!
Runners hips are notoriously tight and we often use them only in a straight forward motion, this move helps to increase range of motion in the joint and can loosen up tight areas.
For example, if your hips are too tight, you begin rotating them with each step which creates torque on your knees and leads to pain. Or you can’t fully extend your back kick to create an optimal force against the ground for speed.
Mobility exercises can help you not only avoid injury in the first place but also regain strength and flexibility after you’ve been injured.
Mobility exercises must address both joint flexibility and muscle strength to be as effective as possible. Hip mobility in particular can play a big part in preventing runners from getting injured.
This mobility workout for runners that takes just minutes to do, but as always yields great results.
What Causes Poor Hip Mobility?
Sitting in one spot for long periods of time is one of the leading causes of hip mobility issues in most people. Plus, stretching alone isn’t going to solve the problem as we mentioned above and that’s generally what we do to deal with those tight muscles.
Of course, sitting isn’t the only issue.
Hip mobility is complicated, and a variety of factors can contribute to decreased hip mobility or even pain and discomfort while moving the hips.
The other thing is that we’re all built differently.
Because our hips are at slightly different angles, our positions and depth in motions may be different from others. That’s fine! Your anatomical differences should not make you feel ‘tight’ and they should not be causing any pain or discomfort.
You may be suffering from hip mobility concerns as a result of an acute injury, or you may be dealing with a more chronic pain condition, such as back pain.
In particular if you’re having trouble with hip pain and mobility, contact your physical therapist who will build your rehabilitation program with your particular condition in mind.
What’s the Best Mobility Exercise?
The most common mobility exercise to identify and correct imbalances is the deep squat! It increases strength throughout the body, requires you to engage your core and is a functional movement.
Surprisingly hard to do a perfect squat:
- Feet hip width apart
- Weight evenly distributed through feet
- Butt pushing backward
- Back straight, chest and shoulders up
- Knees remain in line with feet – if they fall outside your toes don’t go any farther down
- Work to squat down with your bum below knees (all of the above still correct)
Ok, but we aren’t really here to talk about squats, we want to talk about how to increase hip motility to make you a better runner.
Here are 6 different ways you can improve your mobility ASAP. A few are easy to incorporate into your warm up, while others are perfect to add to your recovery routine (yes all that time I know you’re spending with the foam rollerright?!)
This mobility workout for runners that takes just minutes to do, but as always yields great results.
6 Hip Mobility Exercises for Runners
How do you loosen tight hips? It’s not just through stretching, these mobility moves are going to provide both flexibility and strength.
Plus, you don’t need to head to the gym to do these. They can be done anywhere and you only need a few things to do all of them.
On the off chance you don’t want to watch that great video demonstration, here’s a quick review of each move.
1. Standing figure Eight
Standing on your right leg, bring your left knee up to 90 degrees and then move it through figure 8 motion.
It might feel awkward, but that’s ok, you need to work the hip in multiple different planes.
2. Hurdle Step
Imagine you have a hurdle (yup the kind from track and field) on your right side. Swing your left leg up and over, then bring your right leg over.
Repeat by moving back across your imaginary hurdle – get that leg up HIGH!
3. Frog Stretch
This one looks deceptively easy. Start with both knees wider than your yoga mat and your legs straight behind you (no pulling the feet together like child’s pose).
Slowly push back and you should feel the stretch through your inner thigh, if not try legs wider or ensure your legs are straight.
4. Pigeon Pose
Yes the very one you may have tried in yoga class. It’s one of the ultimate moves for working in to our hips, glutes and IT Band.
It also helps improve your posture which can, in turn, improve your overall running form.
From a plank position, pull your right knee in to your chest then to the ground with your foot angled towards your opposite hip.
Make sure your hips are remaining square to the front of your mat (no leaning to one side). Then if you need more stretch, lean forward over your foot.
5. TFL Roll
Let me introduce you to a muscle you’ve probably overlooked: your TFL. This doesn’t work with a foam roller, you need a small PT ball.
You’ll place the ball where the seam of jeans pocket would be and slowly roll it around. This muscle helps to keep your hips and pelvis stability.
This is a big one for reducing hip pain that many aren’t aware of!
6. Foam Roller Rotation
Taking things up a notch, instead of just rolling back and forth, we’re going to work in to the muscles. (And remember NEVER roll your IT Band).
Laying on your right side with your hip on the foam roller, you’ll first have your foot pointing forward and then slowing rotate that foot towards the sky.
These 6 exercises should be enough to help you improve your hip mobility to be able to get full range of motion in your hips and improve your overall running performance.
But there are some other hip mobility exercises and variations you can try including butterfly stretch, lying piriformis stretchkneeling lunge stretches, hip internal rotation, and hip flexor stretch to help tight hip flexors.
Mobility Beyond Our Hips
While I focused on our hips here, it’s not the only thing that matters for runners. You’re whole body is connected, so all the tension you hold in your shoulders matters too.
Throughout the week, I include a few other mobility moves that help to open up my shoulders as I know they get tight and a little out of whack from all the time I spend here with you, clickity clacking on the keyboard!!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we could be doing to improve our runs, so instead pick one or two things at a time to work on.
Maybe you add in a day of yoga each week or add in a few mobility drills and stretching after a run. It’s amazing how much just a few little things can add up and quickly become a natural part of your routine.
BONUS: Try adding in some collagen for additional benefits and checkout my full list of tips for loosening tight runner hips.
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