i amn theory, the hips are one of the most mobile joints in the body, since they are able to move along multiple axes in flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, and internal and external rotation.
In practice though? Anyone who works at a desk all day knows that it takes hours of sitting before the butt starts feeling…
That’s because when we sit for long periods of time, our hip flexors and lower back muscles become accustomed to the shortened position, says Tanner Neuberger, a physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy in Des Moines, Iowa. And, when we spend long periods without moving, our synovial fluid thickens, he says, creating more resistance to the joint.
Beyond the sheer discomfort of having tight hips after sitting, you may find that you have reduced mobility in other parts of the body, such as the knees or lower back, Neuberger says, and it may take longer to warm up for safe exercise. Hard work.
But seated exercises aren’t destructive to gluteal hips: We asked Neuberger for exercises that combat hip stiffness. He recommends spreading these seven moves throughout the day to avoid long periods of sitting.
1. Half knee hip flexor stretch
With your right leg planted in front of you and your left knee on the ground (making two right angles with the knee) and spine lengthened, contract the left glute to gently bring the pelvis forward until you feel a slight forward stretch. Left hip. Rock back slowly, being careful not to arch the back. Do two sets of 15 on each side. If you feel your hip flexors begin to relax, engage and stretch the lumbar spine: When right foot is planted, reach left arm up and right over your head as you step forward.
2. Pigeon stretch
Extend the left leg straight to the floor behind you, with the right leg in front of you, the right hip externally rotated and the right knee shin bent perpendicular to the body and the leg flexed. With hips square, lean forward to stretch, landing on hands or elbows, depending on how tight your hips are. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
3. Front lying internal rotation
Lying face down on your stomach, bend the right knee to a 90-degree angle. Internally rotate from the hip joint, gently sending the right leg out. Do two sets of 15 repetitions on each side, holding the stretch with the legs for a few seconds if desired.
4. Front lying leg lift
Lying on your stomach with both legs straight, contract the right glute to raise the right leg. Range of motion will be short – stop before the lower back is involved. Keep both hips pressed to the floor throughout the exercise. Do two sets of 15 repetitions on both sides.
5. Side lying or standing leg lifts
Lying on your side with your bottom leg bent, raise your top leg up and slightly back, feeling the activation of your glute medius (the upper corner of the working glute). If you feel the front of your hips, focus on lifting the leg further back. Do two sets of 15 repetitions on each side. To advance the exercise, try it standing up, making sure your upper body stays still and your hips square.
6. Glute bridge
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor and bring your heels as close to your seat as possible. Engaging the core and pulling the belly button toward the spine, squeeze the glutes to lift the hips into a bridge position, feeling the stretch in the hip flexors. Do two sets of 15 repetitions.
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and arms extended or on your hips, squat, breaking the hips and sending the weight back into the heels to send the seat toward the floor. Do two sets of 15 repetitions.