When it comes to which elements of your stride you can improve, your hips don’t lie. That’s because hip flexors—the muscles that allow flexion at the hip joint—play a huge role in fluid running, and a set of tight ones can really mess with your mechanics.
Strategically opening and strengthening your hip flexors needs to be part of your routine. The easiest place to start is with active warm-up drills that are often underrated and underutilised. Two to three minutes of high knees, butt kicks, skipping, and running backward will open up the hips in the front, side, and backplanes of motion.
Incorporate strength work in different planes of motion to keep all the muscles in and around your hip flexors, especially your glutes, firing correctly. You can’t have good hip flexion if your glutes are tight or weak, it’s important that you’re always stretching and strengthening the front of your hip flexor and the back, which are the glute muscles.
Whether you’re at the gym or just training at home, these five moves will strengthen and open your hips, keeping them loose long-term. Below, is five hip stretches.
1. Crescent Lunge Knee-Up:
What it does: Strengthens glutes (especially the gluteus medius) and hip flexors.
- Start in high lunge with left foot forward, knee bent at 90 degrees, hips square, and toes facing forward.
- Lift arms straight up as you stand and draw right knee toward the chest.
- Return to starting position.
- Complete 10 reps, then repeat on opposite leg.
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2. Full-Range Figure Four:
What it does: Opens hip joints and stretches glutes.
- Sit upright with knees bent, hands resting behind you.
- Cross left ankle over the right knee.
- Let the right knee travel out to the right, then back to centre.
- Slowly move the right knee through a full range of motion, then hold for five breaths when you feel a good stretch.
- Repeat on the opposite leg.
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3. Low Lunge Variation:
What it does: Strengthens quads and hips, lengthens psoas.
- Start in a low lunge with the left foot planted, knee bent to 90 degrees, and right knee on the floor.
- Place palms flat on each side of the left foot.
- Un-tuck right toes and lift the right arm above the head as you lean to the left side.
- Hold for five deep breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
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4. One-Legged Bridge Lift and Lower:
What it does: Activates glutes and lengthens and strengthens hip flexors.
- Lie face-up with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms resting at sides.
- Press into heels and engage glutes to lift hips.
- Transfer weight to left leg and extend right leg straight out for five breaths.
- Inhale as you lower your right leg to hover over the floor for five breaths, then exhale as you lift it back up.
- Perform 8 reps, then repeat on the opposite leg.
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5. Skating Squat:
What it does: Strengthens glutes and strengthened hip flexors.
- Stand with legs just wider than hip-width apart.
- Send hips back and bend at knees to lower into a squat.
- Shift weight to the right leg as you rise up to standing and extend the left leg back (like you’re gliding on skates) while tightening your glutes.
- Return to squat and repeat on opposite leg.
- Continue alternating for 60 seconds.