It should go without saying – hip mobility exercises are essential for high-level cyclists, runners, and triathletes.
Restricted hip range-of-motion is the plague. Not only is it one of the most neglected and difficult areas to address, but hip dysfunctions can be a mysterious proponent of injury.
Here we share some of our favorite movements to free-up tight hips. By dedicating 15 minutes a day practicing some of these hip mobility exercises, you can experience wider hip range-of-motion, better glue activation, and greater efficiency in both your pedal stroke and your running stride.
Even if you’re not injured, dabbling with these hip mobilizations can help liberate hip impingements and tissue restrictions that may be inhibiting your breathing mechanics, muscle function, and overall output.
First, Diaphragm Mobility Exercises
Prime Yourself For Deeper Hip Mobilizations With Global Gut Smashing
The muscles of the diaphragm are often the most neglected yet tacked-down tissues, especially in cyclists. After a 5-10 minute session of performing one of these mobilizations, you may experience immediate improvements in diaphragm mechanics and ability to take super deep breathes.
The first diaphragm mobilization is a global gut smash presented by Dr. Danny Matta at Athletes’ Potential. Find a soft, basketball-sized ball (like a children’s ball) for this.
Dovetailing on the previous video, Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up® shares a few tips to get the most from your global gut smashing. Keep in mind that your focus should be on deep breathing and relaxation to get the most from the mobilization.
In addition to a children’s ball, you can also lay over kettlebell handle or perhaps try gut smashing with something a bit more abrasive. A few tools I like to use are the MobilityWOD Supernova Ball or the Alpha Ball from Yoga Tune Up on top of thick text book. With this more targeted approach, you can hunt for specific spots that may feel knotty or tight. Below is a picture of myself using a large kettlebell handle to bring life back into my iliacus muscles.
This type of gut smashing is also great way to down-regulate at night, or unglue your diaphragm muscles after a long ride in the aero position. Not only do these global abdominal and hip mobilizations help free-up tight diaphragm muscles, but the down-regulation benefits can help you get great sleep.
Next, The More Yogi/Stretchy Hip Mobility Exercises
It’s nice to have hip exercises that you can go to without any tools. This series put together by the guys at The Run Experience is a great set of movements to learn and always keep in your back pocket. They’re great as a pre-run/ride warm-up or to loosen-up after training.
Taking the video above to the next level, the next anterior hip mobilization is pigeon pose on steroids. Using a band (or “banded distraction) can intensify the stretch and create deeper change in tight hips. For optimal results, use medium-resistance band with a lot play (I suggest the green “Monster Band” at Rogue Fitness).
Perhaps more focal to the run leg of triathlon, this early MWOD video from Kelly Starrett centers on hip extension mobility. In the video below, he delves into the infamous “Couch Stretch”, which is not only a great hip mobility exercise, but also an amazing stretch for your quads. I do at least 2 minutes on each leg after every bike ride. It’s also critical if you spend a lot of time sitting.
Lastly: the deep squat hold. Inspired by (you guessed it) Mr. Starrett, maintaining a deep squat position can help restore pelvic tilt and rotation of the spine. Here’s my abbreviated, amateur version of this tedious hip mobility exercise.
Lastly, The Gnarliest Hip Mobility Exercises
Go To Battle On Tight Psoas & Iliacus Knots Restricting Hip Flexion & Hip Extensions
Similar to the gut smash mobilizations above, these next flossing and smashing techniques are more precise in softening gnarly knots found deep in the psoas and iliacus muscles (two common culprits to poor pedaling mechanics.)
Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD shares a solid mobilization targeting the hip flexors (psoas and iliacus), as well as hip capsule.
Note: “Make sure to add movement,” sneak in obliquely,” and maintain a “pleasant disposition face.”
Limited hip range-of-motion can not only inhibit a triathlete’s cycling potential, but also running mechanics off the bike. If this mobility exercise is too uncomfortable, you’ve definitely got some work to do. Try more subtle techniques of laying over lacrosse ball, Kettlebell handle, or perhaps something softer like a tennis ball.
What to Remember When Doing These Hip Mobility Exercises
Even if you’re not injured and feel great on the bike, I encourage you to try these hip mobilizations. Chances are you may experience subtle improvements in your pedaling economy and the ability to generate more wattage to the pedals.
Below are few preliminary pointers to keep in mind when performing these hip mobilizations:
- Breathing is number one. Lead into each mobilization with your breath, gradually and mindfully.
- If certain mobilization cause a hot, burning sensation, then lay off.
- Dedicate at least 2 minutes to each mobilization. 5-10 minutes will create the greatest change, but let 2 minutes be the minimum.
- Experiment with 2-5 second contraction and slow releases when you find tight knots and hot spots. Combine this with deep breathing and long exhales on the release.
- Take systematic approach to your mobilization exercises. Test (before mobilizing) and retest (after mobilizing) to note changes (i.e. do a few squats before and after each hip mobility exercise and notice any changes.)
Do you have any kick-ass hip mobility exercises to share? Let me know in the comments below.