The outer hip muscles – the gluteal musculature – help move your hips in certain directions and stabilize your pelvis during activity.
These muscles can get tight from sitting at a desk all day, and HSS physical therapist Kimberly Baptiste-Mbadiwe suggests a few stretches to loosen them up.
Stretching the Hip Flexors
If you’re suffering from tight hips, stretching your hip flexors can be a great way to help ease pain and improve mobility. Fortunately, it’s easy to find stretches that are effective and don’t require you to invest in expensive equipment or spend hours doing static stretches.
There are a number of different types of stretches that can help stretch your hip flexors, from dynamic stretches to static ones. If you’re suffering from pain or a chronic condition, however, it’s best to seek the help of a physical therapist or medical professional before trying any type of stretch.
Regardless of what stretches you choose, it’s important to warm up your body before performing any of the moves. Ideally, you’ll have walked or done some light activity for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching.
Once your body has warmed up, you can do an outer hip stretch to target your hip flexors. This is a common yoga move and can be performed daily to improve your mobility.
To perform this stretch, you’ll need to get into a lunge position with your knee and foot about hip width apart. This should feel like a deep stretch in your hip flexors, inner thighs and groin.
Next, you’ll want to lean forward. To do this, contract your glute muscles and pull your tailbone down. You can also use your hands to hold onto something, like a wall or another leg for support, while you lean forward.
You can repeat this stretch several times, holding each position for 30 seconds or more. Once you’ve mastered this, move on to other stretches that target your hip flexors.
When doing any type of hip flexor stretch, it’s important to maintain a tall spine and make sure your hips aren’t angled down or backward. This will keep your spine in proper alignment and prevent injury.
Tight hip flexors are common, and they can lead to serious issues if left untreated. So, it’s important to get up and stretch your hips regularly.
Stretching the Hamstrings
Tight hamstrings are common among many people, especially those who engage in sports and sit for long periods of time. Tight hamstrings can cause discomfort and pain in the back of the leg, but stretching your hamstrings regularly can help ease stiffness or tightness, improve your performance, and prevent injury.
The hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh and cross the hip joint. They work with the gluteal muscles to extend and flex your knee during exercise.
If your hamstrings become tight, it can make it difficult to bend forward or stand up straight. It can also cause lower back pain and sciatic nerve root irritation.
While there are many ways to stretch your hamstrings, it is important to know what works best for you. Some stretches are easier to do than others and some are more effective for relieving tightness and improving flexibility.
One of the most effective stretches for the hamstrings is the outer hip stretch. This is a great way to stretch your hamstrings and gluteus muscles at the same time, as it focuses on the abductor muscle group.
To perform this stretch, lie faceup on the floor and loop a towel or resistance band around the ball of your right foot. Holding the towel or band with both hands, gently push your leg up, keeping your knees straight.
Continue until you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Repeat on the opposite leg.
This stretch can be done on the floor, on a chair, or on a yoga block. You can even do it outside if you have a curb nearby.
Another easy way to stretch your hamstrings is by lying on your back with your legs extended. Place your feet together and bend forward from the hips to touch your toes with your hands. You can hold this position for about 10 seconds, or longer if you feel comfortable.
If your hamstrings are very tight, you may want to contact your doctor for an evaluation. Your doctor can determine if your hamstrings are inflamed, over-lengthened, or damaged from an injury.
Stretching the Gluteal Muscles
The gluteal muscles are a very important muscle group that you should be stretching regularly to ensure they are able to perform their normal functions. This is especially true when they feel tight after a workout or long period of sitting.
Keeping these muscles loose can help improve your flexibility, prevent stiffness and even enhance your performance in your next workout. Besides that, it can also reduce back pain and make certain yoga poses easier to do.
One of the best ways to stretch your glutes is to do dynamic stretches before you exercise. These moves get the blood flowing to your muscles and prepare them for movement and activity, according to Nicole Von Schleis, a trainer at NASM.
Dynamic stretches involve swinging your leg in a forwards or backward motion, which stretches your hip flexors and groin. They should not be forced, though, as this can cause injury to the muscles involved.
A classic, but often overlooked hip stretch is the figure-four. It not only stretches your glutes, but it also loosens the hip flexors and piriformis, Kam says. It can be done lying down or sitting, and can be complemented by a foam roller to further loosen the muscles.
If you are suffering from an inflamed piriformis, this stretch can be helpful to ease the tightness. It can also be used to relieve back pain caused by the overactive muscle, Kam explains.
Another great glute stretch is pigeon pose. It is a gentle but effective stretch for your hips that can be done either sitting on a mat or standing on the ground. This is a great stretch for those who have had knee or hip injuries, as well.
The pigeon pose can also be complemented by using a strap to further stretch the muscles. A yoga strap can be wrapped around the thigh of the leg you are lying on to help lift it higher.
These stretches can be done before or after any workout and can also be beneficial when you have tight hips due to prolonged sitting. Tightness in the glutes can inhibit your performance and even increase your risk of injury, so if you are experiencing any problems, give these stretches a try.
Stretching the Quadriceps
Tight quadriceps muscles can lead to pain and injuries in the front of your knee. This is why stretching the quadriceps before and after your workout is essential.
Stretching the quadriceps can also help you to maintain your flexibility. Tight quads can cause a loss of range of motion in your knee joint, which can make it more difficult for you to perform the activities that you love.
When you are feeling tight in your quads, it is important to do a specific stretch that targets the area where you feel the pain. There are a few different options you can try including the following:
Seated Quad Stretch: To perform this stretch, lie down on your back with your legs straight and your hips on the floor. Then, gently bend your right knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your right hand. Breathe slowly and, as you exhale, gently pull your left foot towards your butt until you feel the stretch in your quads.
Then, repeat this exercise with your left leg. This is an easy stretch that can be done anytime and anyplace.
Upright Quad Stretch: If you want to stretch your quads in a more challenging way, try an upright exercise. One of the most common is the kneeling lunge. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, then push your pelvis inward toward your navel, and slowly lean forward, bending your right knee until you feel a stretch in your quads.
You can also do an outer hip stretch by lying down on your back with both of your legs bent and your feet on the floor. This is a simple stretch that can be done anywhere and is good for people who are not able to do the standing or seated quad stretches.
Another prone quad stretch is to place your hands on the inside of your knee and bring your heels towards your bottom. This is a great stretch that will target your inner hip muscles as well. You can also use a towel to create overpressure on your hips, which will give you an even deeper stretch.