No matter what you're doing—walking down the street, attempting to master the splits, or even busting out some dance moves at a friend's wedding—your hips are externally and internally rotating to grant you the mobility you require. Yet this rotation often gets very little attention when figuring out how to get better hip mobility.
It’s no wonder hips stay tight despite copious amounts of stretching. Overlook the hip rotation in your flexibility workouts, and you're missing out on optimizing a critical component of overall mobility, stability, and athletic performance.
But fear not. Here are four exercises for improving hip internal and external rotation—one stretch for each movement followed by a strengthening exercise. Ideally, you’d do the stretch and follow it immediately with the strength exercise to lock in that newly acquired hip mobility.
Just be warned, you’ll feel muscles you didn’t know existed.
How to get better hip mobility by improving external rotation
Stretch: 9090 hip external rotation
Start in a seated position
Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Keep your spine upright and core engaged. Bend your knees and position both legs so that you have two 90-degree angles: one at the front leg's knee and hip and one at the rear leg's knee and hip.
Your front shin should be parallel to your body, and your rear shin should be perpendicular to the body.
Rotate your hips
Rotate your pelvis towards the front leg, aiming to bring your belly button in line with your front knee.
Keeping your front leg on the ground, lean your upper body forward, directing your chest towards your front knee. Keep your back straight and hinge at your hips.
Focus on keeping your hips level to ensure you're isolating the external rotators in your hip.
Hold and breathe
Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds while focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Feel the stretch along the external rotators in your hip and possibly also in your gluteal muscles, depending on your level of tightness.
Repeat on the other side.
Resist the temptation to round your back by bringing the chest to the ground. It might seem like you’re going deeper into the stretch, but it shifts the stretch away from the hips.
Strengthen: Active 9090 hip external rotation
Follow the setup from the previous exercise
Then, lean your body forward from the hip while keeping your back straight.
Think you’re trying to bring your chest and the front leg together. Keep your front leg engaged. You should feel the muscles of your inner thigh of your front leg doing the work.
Lift your upper body back into the starting position
Reverse the previous step. Push the front leg into the ground and bring your upper body upright. Feel the glute of the front leg doing a lot of work.
Repeat for 5-10 reps on each side.
Focus on the movement coming from your hip, not from the back. Keep your ribs tied to your hips on the way up to avoid arching.
How to get better hip mobility by improving internal rotation
Stretch: 9090 hip internal rotation
Sit on the ground with your legs folded in a 9090 position
Your front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle with the shin parallel to your torso. Your back leg is bent at 90 degrees but with the shin perpendicular to your torso.
Align your torso
Rotate your torso and align it with your back leg. Your belly button should point towards your back knee. Or as close as possible.
Engage your core muscles to maintain a neutral spine and prevent unnecessary arching in your lower back. Keep both legs tight on the ground.
Hold and breathe
Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds, maintaining consistent breaths. Focus on inhaling deeply into your diaphragm and exhaling fully to facilitate relaxation and deeper stretching.
You should feel the stretch in the internal rotators of the hip.
Repeat on the other side.
To increase the stretch, drive the knee of the back leg into the ground.
Strengthen: Active 9090 internal rotation
Follow the setup from the 9090 external rotation stretch. Your torso should be upright and facing the front leg.
Once in position, lock your upper body and front leg in place and lift the heel of the back leg off the ground while keeping the knee grounded.. You should feel a muscle contraction outside your back leg.
If you feel a cramp coming on, try to sit with that feeling as long as possible, as it’ll teach your body that this position is safe to work in.
Repeat the leg lift for another 5-10 reps on both sides.
If you’re new to internal rotation work, there’s a chance you cannot get the back foot off the ground. If that’s the case, add a slight forward lean in the hips.
How to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine
These are great movements to start your hip mobility workouts. Working on the hip rotation first will likely increase the available range in the other stretches.
If your hips feel particularly jammed, complete these exercises 3-4 times weekly. You can even do them while watching TV or as a break from sitting at your desk.
If you're looking for a structured path to hip nirvana, look no further than the STRETCHIT app
STRETCHIT is goal-driven, science-based, and, unlike some other flexibility practices, 100% dogma-free. You can try STRETCHIT risk-free with a 7-day free trial.