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6 Hip stretches that give major stress relief

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed. is a personal trainer, freelance writer and entrepreneur who works with a wide variety of fitness clients. She's the founder of the popular website, - Girls Gone Sporty, and she's the host of the High Impact Blogg...

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

Shakira had it right when she said the hips don't lie. Unfortunately, for most of us, that doesn't mean sexy, swinging hips à la the Columbian crooner. No, for most of us, that means tight, stiff hips with a side of low back pain.

The hip complex is an incredibly involved musculoskeletal unit that's responsible for linking the lower body to the trunk while absorbing and transferring significant amounts of force during movement. In fact, the muscles within the pelvic girdle aren't actually contained within the "hips" themselves — rather, they include the muscles of the low back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abductors and adductors.

In today's sit, sit, sit world, it's incredibly common for the hip flexors (the muscles that run along the front of the hips and into the upper thighs) to shorten, while the glutes become weaker. The muscles of the low back are also inclined to tighten up, and the low back and hips are particularly prone to "hold" tightness due to stress. In a nutshell, if you have tight hips, chances are you have low back or hip pain, stiffness when standing up or walking around and reduced range of motion.

Regular stretching can help "open up" the hip complex, relieve pain, reduce tension and just make you feel good. If you're feeling tight or cranky, take six minutes to perform the following six stretches. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

1. Sumo stretch

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. Stand with your feet in a wide stance, toes angled outward.
  2. Bend both knees and lower your hips toward the ground, as if performing a wide-leg plié squat.
  3. When your knees are at 90-degree angles, place your hands on your thighs for support and press your hips down while keeping your knees in line with your toes.
  4. If you want, carefully shift your weight from side to side, slightly extending one knee as you bend the other further, to deepen the stretch and target each side independently.
  5. Keep your core engaged and your torso tall throughout the exercise. You should feel the stretch through your inner thighs and hips and up into your low back.
  6. Hold for 45 seconds.

2. Kneeling hip flexor stretch

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. Kneel on the ground as if you were about to propose — one foot flat on the ground in front of you with the knee bent at a 90 degree angle, the other knee in contact with the ground, directly under your hip.
  2. Place both hands on the thigh of the leg bent in front of you for support.
  3. Keeping your torso upright and tall, shift your weight forward, so your torso is in front of your back knee as your back hip extends.
  4. Tuck your tailbone under and press your hips forward until you feel a stretch through the front of your back hip (along the hip flexors).
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

3. Pigeon pose

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. From the kneeling hip flexor stretch, place both palms on the ground on either side of your front foot.
  2. With your weight supported on your palms and your back leg, carefully walk your front foot across your body until the outside of your lower leg is in contact with the ground.
  3. As your flexibility allows, press down through your front hip, as if you were trying to press your hip to the floor. You should feel a stretch through the outside of your front hip.
  4. Look up and press your chest up and forward to deepen the stretch.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

4. Hip and spinal twist

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you, your torso tall.
  2. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over your left thigh.
  3. Keeping your torso tall and your core tight, carefully twist to the right, as you place your left elbow on the outside of your right thigh and your right palm on the ground behind you.
  4. Deepen the stretch through your spine and the outside of your right hip by pressing into your right thigh with your left elbow and looking over your right shoulder.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

5. Figure Four

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. Lie on your back, your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Cross your left foot over your right thigh, as if forming a "4" with your legs, your left knee pointing out laterally.
  3. Lift your right foot from the ground and grasp behind your right thigh with both arms.
  4. Deepen the stretch through your hips, hamstrings, glutes and low back by pulling your right thigh closer to your body. If desired, you can also press your left elbow into your left thigh to enhance the stretch. And, if you're feeling really motivated, you can increase the hamstring stretch by extending your right leg foot toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

6. Fire log stretch

These hip stretches will relieve some serious stress in six minutes tops

  1. Sit on the ground, and start in a cross-legged position, your torso tall.
  2. Carefully stack one leg on top of the other, as if you were stacking firewood. You should feel a good stretch through your outer hips, glutes and into your lower back.
  3. Stay here, or if you want to deepen the stretch, start walking your hands as far as you can in front of you on the ground to really target the low back and glutes. The trick is to keep your torso straight, rather than "collapsing" forward as you lean into the stretch.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

More on flexibility

Stretching know-how
A deeper look at the importance of stretching
6 Stretches for better posture

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