5 Best Hip Stretches That Every Athlete Needs to Know

You might not even recognize these as yoga.

Photo: skynesher | Getty

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Your hips are both an anatomical miracle and a pain in the (literal) butt. An estimated 40 percent of adult athletes experience chronic hip pain. It isn’t exactly a surprise that many of us experience at least occasional tightness and trouble with our hips considering the intricacy of this ball-and-socket joint and the relative lack of information on the best hip stretches for athletes.

Why Athletes Need Hip Stretches

Each hip is surrounded by more than a dozen muscles that allow you to move your legs forward, backward, side to side, in and out, and in rotation. Various combinations of these muscular actions allow you to stand, run, jump, hike, cycle, dance, kick, dive, flip, and climb stairs.

Anatomical illustrations of the hip flexors and extensors that, when tight, require the best hip stretches for athletes
Three of the nearly two dozen muscles contributing to hip movement—and soreness. (Photo: Sebastian Kaulitzki Science Photo Library | Getty)

5 Yoga-Inspired Hip Stretches for Better Mobility

Because of the anatomical complexity of the hips, the possible number of issues you can experience is wide-ranging. Hip pain can be even more confounding than many other types of soreness because subtle indicators can include symptoms such as back pain, knee and ankle pain, poor balance, and bad posture.

Research indicates that one contributing factor to hip soreness and decreased range of motion is strength or mobility imbalance in one or more of the muscles that control your hips. This imbalance is often due to lifestyle factors such as imbalanced athletic training or, for non-athletes, being sedentary.

The following yoga-derived hip stretches can help mobilize the hips. It’s ideal to practice them after a workout or when your muscles are warm. If you experience hip pain, always consult with your physician or physical therapist.

5 Best Hip Stretches for Athletes

Woman athlete practicing one of the best hip stretches for athletes known as Frog Pose
One of the best hip stretches for athletes, Frog Pose can improve your hip rotation and reduce knee strain. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

1. Frog Pose

Benefit: Mobilizes the hips, inner thighs/groin, shoulders, and chest. Improves lateral strength and speed, reduces knee strain, and allows for better rotational capability in the hips for sports such as martial arts.

How to: Get into a tabletop position with your elbows under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Slowly slide or walk your legs apart as far as you comfortably can, keeping your knees in line with your hips and your ankles in line with your knees. Your toes should be pointing left and right. Engage your abdominals to keep your lower back from sagging. When you feel a stretch in your hips, stop there and breathe there for 1 to 2 minutes.

Modify: If you’re feeling particularly inflexible in this position, place a yoga block, rolled towel, or pillow underneath your chest or pelvis. This helps support your weight and prevents overstretching or strain in your hips.

Inspired by: Frog Pose

Woman athlete practicing prayer squat, or Malasana, to strengthen her hips and support her knees
Practicing prayer squat can release tension in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

2. Prayer Squat

Benefit: Mobilizes the hips, shoulders, ankles, glutes, knees, hamstrings, and lower back. Increases squatting depth, enhances explosive power, improves running efficiency, and contributes to improved Achilles tendon health.

How to: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your legs turned slightly outward at your hips. Bend your knees and hips and slowly descend into a very low squat, keeping your heels on the floor, your chest lifted, and your knees in line with your toes. Press your palms together in front of your chest and place your elbows against your inner thighs to gently push outward against your knees. Draw your tailbone down as you lift the crown of your head up. Breathe here for 1 to 3 minutes.

Modify: If your heels don’t reach the floor, place a rolled or folded blanket or a small set of weight plates underneath your heels for support. This enables your muscles to release slowly and without strain.

Inspired by: Squat

Woman athlete practicing half split, which is one of the best hip stretches for athletes
Half splits can be integral in stretching your calves, hamstrings, hips, and lower back—not to mention increasing your running efficiency. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

3. Half Split

Benefit: Mobilizes the hips, hamstrings, calves, and lower back. Improves squat depth and power, increases running efficiency, improves range of motion for sports like gymnastics and dance.

How to: Begin in a lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the ground. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot under your shoulders, then shift your hips back over your left knee and slowly straighten your right leg, flexing your foot and pulling your toes toward your shin. Keep your back as straight as possible as you walk your hands forward and hinge at your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Breathe here for 1 minute. Switch sides.

Modify: If you experience difficulty reaching the floor or find yourself rounding your back, place yoga blocks or stacks of books underneath your hands to allow for length in your spine and back body. You can also keep a slight bend in your right knee.

Inspired by: Half Splits

Woman athlete in a cross-legged seated forward fold, which is one of the best stretches for athletesThis seated hip stretch for athletes targets the IT band and other potential problem areas for runners and cyclists.(Photo: Cory Sorensen)

4. Cross-Legged Forward Fold

Benefit: Mobilizes the back, shoulders, hips, piriformis, knees, and ankles. Improves gait, increases power and flexibility, supports superior balance for sports such as cycling.

How to: Sit cross-legged with your knees stacked over your ankles. Relax your feet and thighs as much as you can. Press your sit bones into the floor and then slowly walk your hands forward, hinging at your hips and keeping your back straight. When you can no longer fold forward, allow your back to round forward and release your neck and head. You can rest your head on a block if that’s comfortable for you. Breathe here for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch the crossing of your legs and repeat.

Modify: If your sit bones lift off the floor, place a blanket, yoga block, or pillow underneath your glutes until your hips are higher than your knees. This can often increase your range of motion.

Inspired by: Easy Pose and Baddha Konasana

Woman athlete practicing a lizard lunge, which is one of the best hip stretches for athletes
One of the most challenging and best hip stretches for athletes, High Lizard Lunge melds elements of three yoga poses to bring release to several muscle groups at once. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

5. High Lizard Lunge

Benefit: Mobilizes the hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, and lower backHigh Lizard Lunge. Increases overall lower-body power, improves agility and speed, enables a more refined running stride.

How to: Find a Plank or push-up position with your head, hips, and heels aligned. Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and clasp your hands. Step your right foot outside your right elbow with your knee bent 90 degrees and your left leg straight behind you. Press down into your elbows and right foot to partially support your weight. As your left hip flexor along the front of your thigh begins to relax, redistribute your weight toward your left side to enhance the stretch. Breathe here for 1 minute.

Modify: If this is a super-challenging position for you, perform this move on your hands rather than your forearms. You can also place your hands on a yoga block.

Inspired by: Lizard Pose and Low Lunge and Forearm Plank

RELATED: 9 Best Shoulder Stretches That Every Athlete Needs to Know (and Practice)

A version of this article originally appeared in Oxygen Magazine.

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