Tight hips are commonly caused by spending too long sitting down or performing activities that require repetitive movement, such as running and cycling. Hip tightness can affect more than just your hip joints and muscles, it can also affect your lower back and lead to back pain. There are several muscles that cross your hips, and as the hip is a ball and socket joint capable of a variety of movements, you must work your hips using a variety of exercises to ensure all of the involved muscles are adequately stretched.
Before you Stretch
Muscles stretch best when they are warm, so perform a few minutes of light cardio before you stretch. Once you are warm, ease gradually into each stretch and never jerk or bounce, as doing so may lead to injury. Hold each stretch for 10 to 60 seconds, while you breathe deeply. If you experience any pain, muscle cramping or shaking, ease out of the stretch as you may have gone too far too fast.
The Runner's Lunge
Your hip flexors are located on the fronts of your hips at the tops of your thighs and lower abdomen. The main hip flexors are called your iliopsoas. To stretch these muscles, kneel down on an exercise mat and move one leg forward into a lunge position. Make sure your front shin is vertical and your foot is flat on the floor. Move your rear leg back until you feel a stretch in the front of your back leg and hip. Keep your torso upright and place your hands on your front thigh for support. Let your hips drop gently down toward the floor.
Lying Glute Stretch
Your primary hip extender muscle is your gluteus maximus, better known as your glutes or butt. To stretch your glutes, lie on your back and bend your legs so that both feet are flat on the floor. Cross your left ankle over your right leg just above the knee, then grasp the back of your right thigh with both hands. Pull your right leg toward you but keep your head and shoulders on the floor. If you are unable to reach your thigh, loop a towel around your leg to extend your grip. Change legs and repeat.
Seated Groin Stretch
The muscles on the insides of your thighs are your hip adductor muscles. Their main job is to draw your leg in toward the midline of your body. There are three adductor muscles -- longus, brevis and magnus. These muscles are also known as your groin muscles. To stretch your adductor muscles, sit on the floor with your legs bent and the soles of your feet touching. Sit up straight, pull your feet toward you and gently push your knees down toward the floor with your elbows. If this position proves uncomfortable, sit on a pillow or low step to raise your buttocks off the floor.
Wall Iliotibial Band Stretch
Your hip abductors are located on the outsides of your hips and thighs and include the gluteus minimus and medius as well as the tensor fasciae latae and the iliotibial band. Their primary job is drawing your leg out and to the side of your body. Stand slightly more than an arms' length away from a wall and turn so your shoulders and hips are perpendicular to the wall. Place your nearest hand on the wall at shoulder-height. Keep your arm straight and place your opposite hand on your hip. With your legs straight, lean your hips in toward the wall until you feel a mild stretch on the outside of the hip closest to the wall. Push your hips gently forward to extend your hips and maximize the effect of this stretch.