When we first start running, it usually seems pretty straightforward. Buy a pair of running shoes, lace up, and head out to log some miles. However, after some consistent runs, we start to hear about all of the “extras” we should be doing. Cross training, strength training, yoga, stretching – and now hip mobility exercises too?
Many runners struggle with hip pain or tight hip flexors.
It’s easy to blow off those “extra” activities we need to be doing until it is too late. When we’re not feeling any pain, dedicating more time after an already time-consuming run feels counter-productive.
However, creating a healthy strengthening routine for your entire body has many benefits for runners.
One of the primary areas we should be focusing on is our hips.
Hip strengthening and mobility exercises can greatly improve your running.
Luckily, these exercises take only a few minutes to complete. When completed consistently over time, they can really help reduce your chance of suffering from hip pain after running.
Hip mobility plays a key role in our running form and overall function on the run. The natural movement of running involves our hips with every step, so it makes sense that over time we might begin to experience pain in our hip joint.
How can you relieve hip pain from running?
While the odds of experiencing hip pain after running are fairly high, the odds of being able to reduce it on your own are just as high. Hip mobility exercises help strengthen your hips, improve your range of motion, and loosen tight hip flexors.
Including some hip mobility exercises and stretches in your weekly routine is a great way to prevent hip pain after running. While runners are certainly not the most flexible group, maintaining healthy mobility is important for all – whether you’re a beginner or an elite.
Strengthen your hip flexors for running
Most runners don’t love the extra conditioning that comes with the sport, but luckily, it doesn’t have to take long. Spending a few extra minutes each week completing these simple hip mobility exercises will not only improve your range of motion, but it will help keep your hips strong on the run.
Increase your power, promote a healthy stride, and encourage proper form with some simple hip strengthening exercises.
7 Hip Mobility Exercises for Runners
Single Leg Deadlift
This exercise may not look like it improves hip mobility at first glance, but after a few attempts you will likely already start to feel the burn in your hips.
While standing, take a single step forward with one foot. Bend at the waist as you reach toward the floor with the opposite hand. While reaching to the floor, lift your back leg into the air, keeping it straight at all times.
Hold the position for a few seconds: your fingertips should be touching the floor and back leg straight in the air, parallel to the floor. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
This hip mobility exercise is also great dynamic warm up exercise to include in your pre-run routine. As you bring your heel up to your glutes, you’ll engage the hip flexors to activate the muscle.
While standing, take a step forward with one foot. Bring the opposite foot up towards your glutes, attempting to touch the heel to your butt. After making contact, straighten your leg and step forward with the opposite foot.
This exercise can be completed in place, while hopping back and forth and quickly alternating feet, or slowly as described, while walking forward.
Not only does this exercise help improve hip mobility, but it also is a great way to strengthen both the glutes and hips. It can be completed during a strength training workout or during your pre/post run routine.
Lie on your side with both legs stacked. Bend your knees, bringing your feet in towards your body. Keeping your feet stacked, lift your top knee into the air until it forms a 45 degree angle with the floor. Lower back to the original position, and repeat.
This is a great hip strengthening exercise as it promotes mobility while strengthening all the surrounding muscles – from the glutes to IT band, quads and hip flexors.
Begin by standing with both feet next to each other. Squat down slightly and step one foot directly out to the side, landing with your feet slightly wider than hip width distance apart. Bring the other foot in and continue side stepping in one direction before switching sides.
Regular squats are a great hip mobility exercise on their own, but this slightly deeper version takes the mobility and strengthening benefits to a different level.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width distance apart. Bend at the knees and send your hips back, as if you were about to sit in a chair. Continue to lower, deepening the squat until your hips are about level with your knees. Rise back up to standing and repeat.
This hip mobility exercise is an excellent addition to your running warm up routine to help prevent tight hip flexors on the run.
While standing, bring one knee into the air, hugging it to your chest. From this single leg stance, extend your elevated leg straight out in front of you. Keep your foot flexed as you push your leg forward – almost as if you wanted to foot print the wall in front of you. Step forward with this foot and then repeat on the opposite side.
Here is another excellent hip mobility exercise to add to your dynamic warm up routine.
Begin by standing with your feet together, and then lift one foot slightly off the floor. Keeping your leg straight, swing the elevated leg forward and backward.
Next, turn to the side and swing the same leg in the same direction, now moving across your body side to side. Repeat in both directions on the opposite leg.
In addition to these mobility exercises, here are a few hip stretches to consider adding to your regular cooldown or recovery day routine. These stretches help relieve any lingering tightness in the hip flexors and encourage maximum hip mobility.
7 Hip Mobility Stretches for Runners
Kneeling Quad & Hip Flexor Stretch
This kneeling stretch is an effective way to help relieve hip pain after running and reduce hip flexor tightness. The stretch promotes healthy hip mobility on the run and will help keep you injury and pain free.
Begin by kneeling in front of a chair or couch. Extend one leg straight out in front of you, placing your heel on the floor. Lean back slightly with your upper body until you feel the deep stretch in your hip flexor.
This kneeling lunge stretch, or “runner’s lunge” as it is often called, offers a great deal of relief for tight hip flexors.
Start by kneeling on the floor, and then step forward with one foot. Plant your foot on the floor in front of you, keeping your back knee grounded. Lean back with your upper body as far as is comfortable to deepen the stretch.
This stretch looks easy at first glance, but can often surprise runners as they attempt to complete it.
Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees spread wider than hip width distance apart. Push back with your arms, moving your upper body backwards towards your feet until you feel the stretch in your hips.
This is a popular yoga pose that creates a beneficial glute and hip stretch for runners.
From a kneeling position, bring one knee forward, crossing your foot to the opposite side and lowering your outer thigh until it reaches the floor. Straighten the opposite leg behind you, and lower your entire body until it rests on the floor. Lean forward to touch the floor as much as possible.
Figure Four Stretch
Many runners utilize this figure four stretch to help loosen their glutes after a run, but it actually packs in quite a bit of hip mobility support as well.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Cross one foot over the opposite thigh and reach around to grab behind the thigh of your grounded foot. Pull this thigh in towards your upper body until you feel the stretch in your outer hip and glute.
IT Band Foam Roll
For many runners, hip pain and poor hip mobility can be related to a tight IT band. Spending a few minutes rolling out your IT band, hips and glutes with a foam roller can help reduce tension and improve mobility throughout this region.
While lying on your side, place a foam roller underneath your hip and slowly roll up and down your IT band. Turn your body in towards the floor and up towards the ceiling to roll out your glutes and hips as well.
Another way to reduce tension, promote healthy mobility and relieve tight hip flexors is to massage the area with a small massage ball.
Lie face down on the floor and place the ball beneath one of your hips. Roll up, down, and side to side to encourage blood flow and help relieve any tension throughout the hip flexor region.
While hip mobility may seem like just a small facet of running in the grand scheme of things, it can really play a role in your success and health on the run. Spending time focusing on the smaller, minute details of running like mobility, form and strength will not only improve your performance, but help keep you healthy and injury free.
Try adding a few or all of these hip mobility exercises and stretches to your weekly routine to enhance your running and promote optimal performance during training.