While your butt muscles have different functions than your hip flexors, they also tend to work in tandem with them. That’s why, as you’ll see below, some of the best stretches for hips target those surrounding muscles as well.
What’s the problem with tight hips?
Tight hips aren’t just uncomfortable—they can lead to all sorts of aches and pains in other areas of your body.
“People focus on the hips and say their hips are tight, but we don’t always think about the fact that the lower back connects to our legs at the hip,” Charlee Atkins, CSCS, registered yoga instructor, and creator of Le Sweat workout app, tells SELF.
Tight hip flexors make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly during exercise and everyday movements, which can cause your lower back to overcompensate, “and this can be a setup for lower-back injury,” Teo Mendez, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at NY Orthopedics who focuses on operative and nonoperative management of sports-related injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and arthritis, tells SELF.
Too much tightness in your hips can also make it harder for your glutes to activate. Since they’re opposing muscle groups, when one is really tight, the other becomes lengthened. This takes away some of its ability to contract. When your glutes are in this compromised position, it can cause other muscles to do more work than they should, making your workouts less efficient and sometimes increasing your risk of injury. That’s a big deal, California-based trainer Holly Perkins, CSCS, tells SELF.
“Strong, powerful glutes create the anchor for your entire pelvis,” she says. When your glutes are lengthened, “that has profound implications for your alignment and movement,” she says. Compromised glutes can throw off your form up and down your entire body. As a result, you can become more quad-dominant, making your hamstrings weaker and possibly affecting your knees too, Perkins says.
Limitations in glute activation and hip mobility can also affect how you absorb impact, Carol Mack, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at CLE Sports PT & Performance in Ohio, tells SELF. And that can set the stage for injury.
“For movements like squatting, the hip needs enough mobility to be able to bend for hip flexion, rotation inward, and rotation outward,” she says. When you add plyometric exercises, like squat jumps, to the mix, your hips have to be able to go through that same range of motion, but at an even faster speed, Dr. Mack says. The quicker your hips, knees, and ankles can bend, the better the ability to absorb the impact or force from the ground, she adds. Joint mobility and muscle strength need to work together for that to happen effectively.
What are the benefits of hip stretches?
Hip stretches can help lengthen these muscles, helping to relieve discomfort, decrease tightness, and increase mobility. This can all ultimately get your entire lower body functioning more optimally, since your hips are connected to—and function in tandem with—everything from your lower back and pelvis to your glutes and legs. Since your hips are involved in so many of the movements you make, stretching them is a great way to keep them ready to work for you.