6 Exercises for Open Hips

June 25, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

6 excellent hip mobility drills to open up the hips. No weights or machines needed - bodyweight alone is enough! 

Most men have very inflexible and stiff hips (women tend to do better in this area). The reason is often the lack of focus on the basic leg raises and overemphasis on heavy lifts like the squat and deadlift.

Whether you are care about overall fitness or you are a martial artist or an athlete, the mobility of your hips will play a major role in both performance and health.

Hip mobility is typically not done enough and when it is done the execution tends to be poor.

Core stability plays a surprisingly big role when it comes to properly training the hips. This is because when you move the legs or hips, it's very easy to assist and dominate the movements with your core muscles.

This creates poor activation and range of motion in the hip muscles you want to target. For example, when you do a side leg raise (standing hip abduction from below), it's very easy to raise the hips upwards with the strength of your obliques. 

Similarly, it's very easy to use abdominal muscles or the lower back muscles when you are flexing or extending the hips: i.e. front leg raise or donkey kick.

When you work on the hip mobility drills below, you need to keep your core tight so all of the work will be done solely with the hip muscles. Your core will work, but only to keep the core stable and stationary.

Focus, control and slow tempo are the keys to results. Learning how to contract the correct muscles is already half of the battle. 3 sets and 10-20 repetitions per set per exercise can work, but ultimately the mind-muscle connection is what will count the most.

For a complete mobility program (upper and lower body), see Movement 20XX course.

1. Supine Hip Adduction

supine hip adduction 2
supine hip adduction

Supine hip adduction will stretch and strengthen the inner thighs (adductor muscles). 

You will mainly strengthen the inner thighs when they are in their lengthened states which is why this exercise will very nicely "open up" the hips. 

You can make the exercise harder with a kettlebell or ankle weights, but bodyweight should be more than enough in the beginning.

An important part of the exercise is to learn how to do it correctly without using any momentum or poor mechanics of the hips.

2. Lying Side Kick

lying side kick
lying side kick

Lying side kick will hit the smaller glute muscles: gluteus medius and minimus. TFL muscle is also worked to some extent.

You want to feel the glutes worked with mind-muscle connection and avoid creating excess momentum with your knee joint (extending the knee).

Keep your core stable - your obliques need to be kept in place so you can purely abduct from the hip!

This one is great for martial artists and will improve your kicking ability quite well.

3. Glute Front Raise

glute front raise

Glute front raise will target all 3 glute muscles: glute maximus, medius and minimus.

The common mistake is to move the hips forward and backwards to make the movement easier. This is not good since it takes activation away from the glute muscles.

Aim to keep your hips and core stationary (not moving an inch during the movement) while you purely focus on moving the leg (horizontal hip abduction). 

4. Standing Hip Abduction

hip abduction

Standing glute abduction will target both gluteus minimus and medius. Your body should move a lot because you are using both legs to abduct. The movement just needs to be generated with your legs and not with your body!

Although only one leg is raising off the floor at once, the bottom leg is also working hard with the same muscles (otherwise your body would stay upright and not move). 

Feel a nice burning sensation in the glute muscles on both sides. You can take support from a wall if balancing is difficult.

5. Horizontal Hip Abduction (supporting leg)

hip abduction rotation 2
hip abduction rotation

Horizontal hip abduction will target the same muscles (all 3 glute muscles) as the front glute raise, but this one requires more focus and control to do it right.

You are completely focusing on the supporting (bottom) leg while the other leg and your core is kept stable.

You kind of rotate your body "open" by horizontally abducting with the bottom leg. Bending over is needed and required to do this exercise correctly (you can't be completely upright).

Similar to the standing hip abduction, use a wall for support if you need to.

6. Horizontal Hip Abduction (both legs)

transverse abduction

In this 2-leg horizontal hip abduction you are abducting with both legs. This means that the leg in air is also abducting the hips.

Keep the core stable and rigid while you 100% focus on the hips and legs. Use a wall for support if you need to.

With this exercise and all the other exercises the key to results is found in the execution: control, slow tempo and mind-muscle connection.

samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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