Flexibility plays a crucial role in our overall well-being and unfortunately, our hips are often overlooked.
As a physical therapist, I see this all the time and more times than not, anytime a patient’s dealing with pain from the waist down, hip stretching is involved in the treatment plan.
Sure, most of us are aware of the importance of hamstring stretching, but when it comes to healthy hips, there’s a lot more to do than that.
There are hip flexors, adductors, and extensors to think about too, just to name a few.
Well, I agree that static stretching can get time consuming and boring, but luckily dynamic stretches are also an excellent way to enhance hip flexibility.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of hip flexibility and introduce you to a variety of dynamic hip stretches that will leave you feeling more agile and ready to conquer any physical activity.
Why Dynamic Hip Stretches?
Dynamic stretches are a form of stretching that involves controlled, repetitive movements through a full range of motion.
These stretches are typically performed as part of a warm-up routine before engaging in more strenuous physical activities.
Unlike static stretches, where you hold a position for an extended period, dynamic stretches involve continuous movement, helping to increase blood flow, improve flexibility, and prepare the muscles and joints for activity.
You’re likely already doing dynamic stretches as part of your warm-up, whether you know this or not.
Arm circles, high knees, leg kicks… these are all forms of dynamic stretching.
Well, the hips are a complex joint and maintaining flexibility in this area is essential for various reasons.
And whether you’re healthy or dealing with stiff, achy joints, incorporating dynamic hip stretches into your routine can offer numerous benefits:
- Improved Range of Motion: Dynamic stretches engage the muscles around the hips, helping to increase their flexibility and range of motion.
- Injury Prevention: Flexible hip muscles and joints are less prone to injuries. Dynamic stretches prepare your body for movement, reducing the risk of strains and sprains.
- Enhanced Performance: Athletes can benefit from dynamic hip stretches as they activate and warm up the muscles, optimizing performance during sports or workouts.
8 Dynamic Hip Stretches to Try
Now, let’s dive into some effective dynamic hip stretches that you can incorporate into your warm-up routine today:
1. Leg Swings
Stand near a support and swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner and then switch and swing your leg side to side.
Repeat on the other leg.
The forward/backward swinging stretches out your hip flexors and hamstrings, while the side/side swing stretches your adductors and abductors.
So doing both swings, hits just about every muscle group in your hips.
2. Standing Hip Circles
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and elevate one knee up to waist height.
While keeping your knee bent, rotate your knee out to the side, down and back, and then back to the starting position.
The PT in the above video is impressive, but don’t feel like you have to do this without holding on – by all means, grab something for support if necessary.
This is a great dynamic stretch for the hips because it involves all planes of movement – hip flexion, abduction/adduction, internal/external rotation, and extension.
Start with 5-10 circles for each leg.
3. High Knees
This is a classic exercise that stretches out the hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings), but also gets the heart rate up and the body warm.
From a standing position, bring one knee up toward your chest and then rapidly bring back to the floor, alternating sides.
It’s basically just marching in place really fast.
Aim for 20 – 30 seconds.
4. Butterfly Stretch
This is another classic exercise that can be performed either statically or dynamically.
We’re talking about dynamic exercises, so we’re going to do the version that includes movement.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together.
Let your knees fall toward the floor and gently flutter your knees up and down, like a butterfly’s wings.
You can also use your hands to add a little overpressure, just make sure not to push past the point of your comfort level.
This is a great exercise to open up your hips, stretching out your adductors and internal rotators.
Flutter comfortably for 20 – 30 seconds.
5. Dynamic Pigeon Stretch
This one’s a little more advanced, so if you have any knee problems, you’ll want to be careful with this one.
But if you perform it correctly, it’s a great way to stretch pretty much everything in your hip with a single exercise.
And it’s awesome that you get to stretch the opposite side’s hip flexors while stretching the active side’s rotators.
Starting in kind of a plank position, place one leg on the floor in front of you, similar to the position used for a butterfly stretch.
Your other leg will be extended behind you.
Ease into the position, hold for a second or two, and then switch sides.
Carefully go back and forth for 5 – 10 reps per leg.
6. Dynamic Frog Stretch
I first discovered the frog stretch back in my P90X days and I’ve been using it off and on every since.
This really targets your adductors and it’s a great move to help open up your hips and improve overall mobility.
Start on your hands and knees and open your legs as far as comfortably possible.
Keeping your knees bent, slowly rock back and forth, feeling the stretch change as your hip angle changes.
Depending on your flexibility level, you may be more comfortable resting your elbows on the floor as you do it.
Aim for 10 – 15 reps and be careful with your knees.
Oh, and a mat comes in handy here.
7. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings are a great exercise for improving strength, power, cardiovascular health, and pretty much any other aspect of fitness, but they can be used as a great dynamic warm up too.
I’ve had tightness issues with my right hip for awhile now and I started using lightweight kettlebells swings as part of my warm up and they’ve helped greatly.
Grab a lightweight kettlebell (or dumbbell) and set your feet in a wide position.
Gently bend your knees as you hinge forward from the hip and drive your hips forward as you bring the kettlebell up to shoulder-height.
Keep your core engaged throughout and try to use the power from your hinge to do the majority of the work here.
I like to do 3-4 sets of 15, depending on the workout.
8. Side Lunge
Side lunges make great dynamic stretches because they target your adductors and hamstrings, while also engaging the quads and glutes.
This is a great recipe for getting your legs warm and ready for any workout.
Start with a wide stance and bend one knee as you lunge to that side.
Hold for a second or two (or longer) and then repeat to the other side.
Shoot for 10 – 15 reps per side.
And as the instructor above mentions, try to push your hips back as you lunge to the side – this’ll take it easier on your knees, but it’ll also give you a better hamstring stretch.
Incorporating dynamic hip stretches into your fitness routine can lead to improved flexibility, reduced muscle tightness, and enhanced overall performance.
You know, stuff we’re all probably looking for.
When warming up for leg day or any other exercise routine, pick out a few of these exercises and try ’em out.
Feel free to mix and match to see what works best for you.
And I may not’ve mentioned this earlier, but it’s always a good idea to get a little warm before diving right into these stretches.
Walking, jogging, cycling, or any other light cardio for a few minutes is a good idea to get the blood pumping and the muscles warm.
Remember to listen to your body, start gradually, and make these stretches a consistent part of your warm-up routine.
And regardless of your fitness level, these dynamic stretches can certainly help contribute to better flexibility and improved mobility.