Mobility exercises are the not-so-secret way to fast track your fitness goals, whatever they are. Not only is mobility important for your overall physical health and longevity, but it also promotes muscle activation, decreases pain and tightness, and reduces your risk of injury.
So what is mobility exactly? “Mobility is having control throughout one's available range of motion,” says certified physical therapist Grant Yoder, DPT, of Indiana Physical Therapy. It's key to performing your best in all your active pursuits. “Without the prerequisite mobility, we are missing out on being able to become as fit as we are capable of,” says Yoder.
Meet the experts: Samantha Ciaccia, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of Bell Mechanics. Michael Esare-Beckson, DPT, is a physical therapist at Life Care Centers of America. Grant Yoder, DPT, is a physical therapist at Indiana Physical Therapy.
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Hip mobility deserves some extra attention thanks to the hours spent sitting, which can tighten, shorten, and cramp hip muscles and joints (thanks, #WFH).
Hip mobility also plays a role in daily activities like picking up kids, walking up or down the stairs, and sitting down on the toilet (it's true!). “Humans are built to move and if we can’t move well due to poor mobility, the body eventually lets us know through pain,” says Michael Esare-Beckson, DPT, physical therapist at Life Care Centers of America. (Ouch!)
In addition, if you have poor hip mobility, the joint tends to wear out faster, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Samantha Ciaccia, CSCS. As a result, the surrounding tissue gets tighter, which can cause pain and eventually lead to osteoarthritis, she explains.
There's good news. It doesn't take much to combat all those painful effects. Simply include hip mobility on the reg to prep your bod for workouts. Read on for the easy and quick exercises trainers recommend to improve your hip mobility.
4 Best Hip Mobility Exercises
Whether your range of motion feels infinite or your hips barely budge, try out these four exercises for a complete and efficient routine to improve your hip mobility. FYI: These are the only hip mobility exercises you need, according to Ciaccia.
While mobility training can be done any time (and every day), Ciaccia recommends including this four-move hip circuit at least three times a week. The prime time for this hip mobility circuit is before and after a lower-body workout.
Instructions: Complete the recommended reps for each of the four moves and repeat the circuit two to three times.
1. Hip Shifts
- Stand on one leg and brace your core.
- Bend your supporting leg, hinge at the hips, and slowly lower your chest slightly forward.
- Rotate your torso toward one side (think belly button to standing leg) and hold for 30 seconds.
- Rotate your torso to the other side (think belly button away from standing leg) and hold for 30 seconds.
- Return to standing position and switch legs. Do 3 reps on each side.
Pro tip: Even if you feel like your hips are super tight, trust the process! “Staying consistent with routine is key for more long-term changes,” says Ciaccia.
2. Loaded Beasts
- Start on all fours with knees under hips and hands under shoulders.
- Lift knees one inch off the ground and hover.
- Inhale and push back into a crouched position.
- Pause, then exhale back to the starting position. Do 10 reps.
3. Elevated 90/90 Hip Switch
- Sit up straight with both legs bent at 90 degrees. One leg bends in toward your body (internal rotation) and one leg bends away from your body (external rotation).
- Hold your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height and keep your heels on the floor (in the same position).
- Raise your hips and come up tall to a kneeling position while maintaining the 90-degree angle in both knees.
- Pause at the top, then maintain an upright posture as you sit back down.
- Focus on movement from the hip joint and switch legs. Do 3 reps on each side.
4. Supported Marches
- Stand upright and keep your chest tall with your head, shoulders, and hips stacked in a line.
- Place your hands on a wall and slowly lift one leg. Stop when the knee rises above the hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly lower your leg to standing position and switch sides. Do 3 reps on each side.
Pro tip: Don't collapse into your standing leg, let your hip sink to the side, or arch your lower back during the hold.
Is mobility the same as flexibility and stability?
Nope. It’s important to note that hip mobility is different than flexibility and stability. They are all related, though. You can’t master one without the other, and keep in mind that your body responds to each differently. Here’s the breakdown, per Esare-Beckson:
- Mobility is your ability to move through a range of motion.
- Stability is your ability to maintain a position.
- Flexibility is your muscles’ ability to elongate so you can get into said position.
They all work together, though. “If you're not flexible enough for a task, your mobility will be limited and you won't be able to stabilize the position, even if you’re able to get into it.”
So, when does stretching come into play? “Stretching can help with mobility as it will improve your available range of motion,” says Yoder. But once you gain that extra range of motion to reach new depth, it's important to incorporate strengthening exercises within your new available range of motion, he explains. Think lower-body push exercises, squat variations, and resistance band training.
Bottom line: Working on your hip mobility will help you breeze through daily movements and achieve your true fitness potential.
Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.