hip mobility stretches

6 Hip Mobility Stretches for Runners and Ultrarunners


By Sarah Scozzaro,

A popular song in the early 2000’s told us that the “Hips Don’t Lie”. For runners with tight or sore hips, this takes on an entirely new – and relatable – meaning. Hip mobility stretches are an essential component to a runner or ultrarunner’s routine.

Several muscles make up the hip complex. You have your glutes, including maximus, medius and minimus. When people talk about their ‘hip flexors’ they are usually talking about the iliacus and psoas muscles. Then there are the adductors on the inner thigh and hamstrings on the back, as well as several muscles that make up your deep hip rotators. To be a healthy and functional runner, you can’t understate the importance of the strength, mobility, stability, and dynamic balance these muscles must have, as well as their ability to work within the entire hip complex.

There is a correlation between strong hips and running performance. Runners with strong hips exhibit improved running mechanics and reduced risk for certain issues, including patellofemoral and ITB pain. Stronger hips can lead to greater pelvic stability and improved hip drive as well.

If strong and mobile hips are such a good thing, why do so many runners have tight/weak hips?

Prolonged hours of sitting (like Monday-Friday at work) are part of the problem. Spending lots of time with muscles in a shortened position reduces hip mobility by reducing range of motion. This is particularly the case for hip flexors (iliacus and psoas) and hamstrings. In addition, some individuals are just tighter in the hip complex, be it from muscular imbalances, movement patterns etc.

Running and Hip Mobility

If prolonged sitting allows for hip flexors and hamstrings to remain shortened for long periods of time, your running stride demands that those muscles lengthen, considerably. Running and sitting are at almost opposite ends of the spectrum for hip mobility, which is why so many modern runners have sore hips, a shorter and less powerful stride, and higher risk for injury.

Showing your hips some love goes a long way to ensuring this important area stays healthy, strong and run ready!

Here are a few simple stretches and hip strengthening exercises you can do right now, with minimal equipment:

Straddle Rocking with Rotation

Start on your hands and knees and extend one leg out to your side. Ankle mobility here may determine how far up you can extend this leg. From here begin rocking back towards your bent leg’s heel, staying within your range of motion. You should feel a nice stretch in the adductor (inner thigh) of your straight leg. You can stay here, or, after a few rocks, with the next rock back you can come up and rotate towards your extended leg, getting a nice deep stretch of hip rotators. Repeat this for 10-12 reps on one side before switching legs.

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Crab Hip Rotations

Sit up, and then bend legs in front of you and lean back slightly. Then, alternate rotating each leg/knee in towards your midline, aiming to maintain some contact with your foot on the ground throughout the movement. This is a great way to work your internal hip rotators. 10-12 reps per leg.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

From a tall kneeling position, shift your weight forward, moving your whole torso as a unit, rather than leaning forward. Raise and straighten the arm on the same side as the leg that has the shin on the ground. Reach toward the ceiling while pressing the opposite hand towards the ground.

You can progress (see this clip for an alternate version) to a more advanced version of this stretch by reaching behind and either grabbing your foot or using a strap or belt around your ankle/foot, and then rotating behind you. Either way, work up to a 60 second hold on each side.

Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch

This movement stretches your psoas/hip flexor at the hip joint while working on some mobility as well. Prop yourself below the waistline using a half cylinder or a thick rolled blanket. From here, bend one knee and bring your knee towards your chest and hug here, and extend one leg out straight in front of you. Hold here, and then slowly sweep the legs from side to side. Repeat for 30 seconds on one side before switching legs.

Psoas Release

This position stretches your psoas/hip flexor at the hip joint. Prop yourself below the waistline using a yoga block, thick towel, or cushion. Aim to keep your feet flat on the floor, directly under or slightly ahead of your knee joint. Hold this for 5+ minutes, allowing the low back to drop towards the floor (do NOT force this movement). You may notice your ribs dropping, which is a great sign!

Banded Clamshells with Lift and Extension

This not only works on strengthening the lateral hip, but also on pelvic stabilization through extension. Place a mini band around your lower leg, and lay on your side with knees partly bent. Perform a clamshell exercise, driving your knees apart while keeping feet together. After a few reps of this, at the top of the clamshell position, raise the top leg so your feet are no longer together, and then extend the leg straight out. Hold here and repeat for a total of 10 reps before you switch sides.


The benefits of improved hip mobility can include a more comfortable running gait and longer running stride. If you do not have significant issues with tight or sore hips, you may not need to do all of these stretches all of the time, although some hip mobility work is a good idea for anyone. If you struggle with tight or sore hips, try to fit these stretches into your routine three times a week. Just be patient and don’t push any of the stretches too far. Remember, stretching doesn’t need to hurt to be effective.


Comments 6

  1. Muchísimas gracias! Mañana mismo voy a hacerlo, ya que tengo una lesión, y luego volveré a trabajar.!

  2. Pingback: 5 Essential Hip Mobility Exercises For Runners

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing these informative articles. There are lots of people who don’t know the importance and benefits of hip mobility stretching and I think if you are not a runner then too you should do stretching.

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