Hips don’t lie, but that isn’t their only great quality. Your hips help you walk, run, and dance! If you’re asking too much or too little of them, though, they can get tight or weak and that can lead to pain and physical limitations.
So how do you whip your hips into peak condition? We’ve rounded up some of the best exercises for strengthening and opening your hips.
Hip openers rock because they can prevent hip issues and help fix them.
The prob: Tight or weak hip muscles can mean you have a smaller range of motion, less stability, poor posture, or pain.
A solution: Stretch and strengthen your hip muscles with hip opening exercises.
Exercises and stretches for opening your hips can help you become a stronger, more flexible badass! But the perks don’t stop there. Doing hip openers also have other benefits, like:
- improving your body alignment and balance
- boosting your circulation
- reducing your risk of injury
- increasing your mobility
- developing your muscle tone and efficiency
- lowering pain in the hips and back
- ditching or complementing more invasive therapies (like dry needling)
If you’re in pain or discomfort, you want relief ASAP. Even if you’re just eager to become a human pretzel, you’ll want to make these hip openers count. Here are some tips to get the most out of your stretching.
Get with the program
- Set goals. Establish realistic objectives and milestones along the way. Track your progress periodically and adjust your workout plan as needed to meet your goals.
- Start small. Don’t overdo it. Begin gradually and slowly add in more time, reps, or sets of the exercises as you gain flexibility and strength.
- Experiment and have fun! Try a variety of techniques to see what your body responds well to. You’re more likely to stick with your newfound routine if you’re enjoying yourself.
Take it to the mat
- Warm up. Before making big demands on your hips, prime the surrounding muscles. Warming them up gets your circulation pumping. It can also help ensure a safer, more effective workout.
- Pay attention to alignment. To be the most effective and to minimize risk of injury, make sure your body’s in the right position for each exercise.
- Modify as needed. Listen to your body. Feel free to omit openers that don’t do it for ya. Use props — like yoga blocks and strap, a chair, or pillows — if they make the exercises more accessible or safe. You can even add weights or resistance bands for an extra challenge.
Alright, now get your butt in gear and start opening those hips!
1. Basic lunge
There are tons of lunge variations (low, runner’s, side angle, lizard) to try, but a basic lunge is a great place to get started.
- From a standing position, step your left foot forward, planting your left heel as far in front as you find comfortable.
- Bend left knee so it’s directly over your left ankle (a 90-degree angle).
- Activate thighs and glutes as you settle into the pose.
- Hold this position (no bobbing around!) for 5–10 breaths.
- Press through left heel to return back to standing. Switch and perform on the opposite side.
2. Scorpion Dog
Popular on the yoga circuit, this stretch will open your hips (and then some!) while working your arms and abs.
- In Downward-Facing Dog, extend and lift your left leg so you have a straight line from head to toes.
- Bend your left knee so it forms a 90-degree angle.
- Engage (point or flex) foot in the air.
- Gently start rotating left hip outward.
- Maintaining proper upper body alignment, hold this posture for 5–10 breaths. Switch and perform on the opposite side.
Pigeon is a stretch with plenty of variations, so feel free to modify it in a way that works for you.
- From a tabletop or plank position, draw your left knee to meet your left hand (or as close as you can get).
- Rotate your left leg so the pad of your left foot is facing your right hand. Ideally, your leg will be parallel with the top of your mat. (If you’re not here yet, don’t force it!)
- With your right leg extended straight behind you, sink down to the floor. Keep your weight centered on the outside of your left leg and the top of your right leg.
- Use the toes of your right foot to settle into position, then uncurl them so the top of your foot is on the ground.
- Your upper body should be upright with a neutral spine.
- Hang out in this pose for 3–5 minutes before switching sides.
4. Bound Angle and Forward Fold
Also known as Cobbler’s Pose or Butterfly, this opener and its variants are great for undoing the effects of sitting in a chair all day (anyone much?).
- Sit on the ground, moving the flesh away from your sit bones.
- Bring the soles of your feet together.
- Clasp your feet with your hands.
- Bend forward from the waist, keeping a straight back for 5–10 breaths.
5. 3-way leg extension
A strap will help you get a deeper stretch, but this opener is totally doable freestyle by using your arm. Just remember not to lock or hyperextend your knee.
- Lay on your back with both legs extended and feet flexed.
- Slip strap around the arch of your right foot.
- Hold the strap in both hands and raise your right leg upward.
- Pull your right leg toward your chest. (Both bum cheeks should stay on the mat and your left leg should stay engaged.) Hold for 5 slow breaths.
- Grab both ends of the strap with your right hand.
- Draw your right leg sideways and down toward the floor on your right. (Keep your hips pinned to the mat. Your left arm can be in a T or cactus position.) Hold for 5 slow breaths.
- Bring your right leg back up to center and switch the strap to your left hand.
- Pull your right leg across your body, down toward the floor to your left. (Your right arm can be in a T or cactus position.) Hold for 5 slow breaths.
- Repeat the trio on your left leg.
6. Leg pendulum
This simple but sweet dynamic stretch will loosen your muscles and keep your hip joint lubed up.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight to your right foot.
- Keeping your left leg straight and activated, lift it off the ground.
- In fluid motions, sweep your left leg from side to side several times and then front to back several times.
- Repeat with your right leg.
7. High-knee psoas hold
Your psoas is a core muscle that lets you bend and lift your hip joint. This muscle is in motion every time you walk or run.
- Stand tall and shift your weight to your right foot.
- Keeping your hips even, bend and raise your left knee so it’s above your hip height.
- Hold this for about 30 seconds, then lower your left foot to the floor. Do 1–3 sets.
- Repeat with your right leg.
8. Squat and lift
If you didn’t know squat before, you will soon. Your hips gyrate with joy after this compound exercise!
- Stand with your feet a tad more than hip-width apart.
- With your weight in your heels, drop your bottom down and back toward the floor, like you’re sitting into a chair. Keep your knees behind your toes and hold your head and chest up.
- Pushing up through your heels and squeezing your glutes, return to standing.
- As you straighten your legs, shift your weight to your right foot and lift your left leg to a 45-degree angle. Keep your foot flexed and torso upright.
- Hold for a breath and then engage your thigh and glute muscles as you lower the left leg.
- Repeat the squat on the other side. Do 20 squats, 10 side lifts per leg.
9. Single-leg deadlift
No loaded-up barbells for this one! (But you can add some weights for an extra challenge.) Using just one leg at a time, you’ll be able to really focus on your balance and the target muscle groups.
- From standing, raise your left foot slightly off the ground.
- Slowly hinge forward at the waist, bending your right knee slightly while lifting your left leg behind you for balance.
- Flex your airborne foot and keep your hips squared to the floor. (You don’t want the left hip to go higher than the right one or for your body to open up to the left side.)
- Engage your thighs and glutes and pause for a moment.
- Reverse the movement to come back to standing.
- Do 3 sets of 10 reps on both legs.
10. Dog and pony
This fire hydrant/donkey kick lovechild offers compound movement and lots of bang for your hip opening buck.
- Start in tabletop position.
- Dog: Lift your left leg out to the side, holding the 90-degree angle in your knee. (Your thigh should be parallel to the top of your mat, with the inside of your leg facing the mat.) Keep your foot flexed.
- Return your left leg to the starting position, but don’t rest your weight on the mat. Instead, continue right into the Pony.
- Pony: Bring your left foot back and upward, like a horse kicking. Engage your glutes during this movement. Imagine your flexed foot tapping the ceiling.
- Squeeze your glutes as you bring the left leg back to the ground.
- 1 Dog + Pony = 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
11. Abductor and adductor side leg lift
Here’s another dynamic duo that’ll help you reach Shakira status.
- Lay on your right side with legs extended and stacked.
- Abductor lift: With your foot flexed and leg straight, raise your left leg as high as you can. Hold for a few beats. Lower your leg 90 percent of the way down. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Adductor lift: Plant your left foot on the floor in front of your right leg. With your foot flexed and leg straight, lift your right leg as high as you can. Lower your leg and pulse it back up again. Do 3 sets of 15 pulses.
- Flip over and repeat the sequence with your right leg.
Your hips are a powerful system of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Hip muscles are what make upper leg movement possible and help with body stability.
Tight or weak hips could lead to pain and limited mobility, but there are plenty of stretches and exercises for opening hips that can improve your hip strength and flexibility.