Your hips are the MVP of your entire body -- and that's not an overstatement. Think about how much you do with your hips, every time you walk, sit down, bend over, run, cycle, kick, jump and dance.
All that movement can cause the hip muscles to contract and shorten. And sitting at a desk all day doesn't help either. Give your hips some love and you'll move better, prevent injury and be able to shake it on the dance floor -- if you're so inclined.
If it were up to your physical therapist, you'd stretch your hip muscles every day. Lengthening your muscles keeps your joints mobile, makes your muscles more supple to prevent strains and can relieve common ailments like lower back pain.
Stretching before and after strenuous activity is a must. Dynamic stretches before a workout will warm and prep your muscles for activity. Static stretches after exercise will do wonders for your hips and speed up recovery for your next workout.
Dynamic stretching involves movement. While lengthening the muscles, you're taking your hip joints through their full range of motion. This type of stretching warms up the muscles and loosens them just enough so that you're not working out with tight muscles that are prone to strains.
1. Lunges: Take a big step forward with one foot. Bend the front knee but keep the back leg as straight as possible. Come down as low as you can in the front leg, then rise back up. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on both sides.
2. Traveling butterfly: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees falling out to the side. Place your hands on the floor beside you, pick up your hips and travel forward toward your feet until you feel a stretch in your groin. Hold for 3 seconds then back up again to your starting position. Repeat 15 times.
3. Hip circles: Get on all fours. Raise one leg, keeping the knee bent. Move the leg around in circles as big as you can make them. Do 10 circles in one direction, then reverse. Repeat on the other side.
As the name implies, static stretches are held stretches. These are best after a workout when your muscles are already warm. You'll be able to move deeper into the stretch to release tightness and help your muscles recover.
1. Single-leg knee-to-chest: Lie on your back and pull your left leg in toward your chest, wrapping your hands around the top of the shin. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.
2. Pigeon pose: Start on your hands and knees, then pull your right knee toward your right wrist. Rotate the knee outward and place the shin and knee on the ground. Lower your hips to the ground and reach your arms forward. Lower your chest toward your shin as far as you are able, feeling the stretch in your hip and buttocks. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.
3. Single-leg groin stretch: Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Keeping your knee bent, let your right knee fall out to the side. Your foot will come off the floor so the sole is facing the other leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then return to your starting position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite leg.