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A lack of flexibility can lead to decreased mobility in a joint. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends including two stretching sessions per week to stay balanced and mobile. Stretches to improve hip mobility are particularly important, because many people sit all day, thus weakening the muscles around the hip. Keeping the hip mobile helps decrease back and knee pain or injury. A full stretching routine should include static stretches, dynamic stretches and myofascial release.
Leg swings are a dynamic stretch that helps improve hip mobility. Start by standing next to a wall or other support. Place your left hand on the wall and put your weight on the left leg. Swing the right leg forward and backward while keeping your balance with the left hand. Do five to ten swings before switching sides. Once you've done front/back leg swings, change position so that you are facing the wall or support with both hands on it for balance. Shift your weight to the left leg and swing the right leg across the body and towards the left. Swing it back to the right and out to the right side. Repeat five to ten times before changing legs.
The hurdle step is a dynamic stretch that moves the hip through full range of motion. Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lift your right leg by bending at both the knee and hip. Step forward as if you were stepping over a track hurdle. Lift the left leg by bending at the knee and hip and bring it over the imaginary hurdle. Take five to ten steps in this manner with each leg. Do the same moving backward as well as to the side.
Knees to Chest
The knees-to-chest stretch is a static stretch that focuses on the glute muscles. Lie on your back with your legs extended. Draw the right knee to your chest and hold it in place by wrapping your arms around it. Hold for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Do this four times on each side.
The hamstrings could also limit hip mobility when tight. To stretch the hamstrings, lie on your back with your knees bent. Straighten your right leg and raise it toward your chest while keeping the knee straight, but not locked. Clasp your hands behind the leg just below the knee and draw the leg closer to the chest. If you are not flexible enough to clasp your hands together, you can use a towel or strap to draw the leg in. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, relax for 30 seconds and repeat. Do this four times on each side. Do not hold onto the knee joint.
Self Myofascial Release
Myofascial release works on the connective tissue around muscles. The piriformis muscle in the gluteal region of the body works during abduction and rotation of the hip. Sit on a foam roller with your left hand on the ground behind the roller and your left ankle resting on the right knee. Roll your glutes slightly on the roller until you hit a sensitive spot. Hold there until the pain or sensitivity fades. Once you've worked out all of the sensitive spots on one side, change sides.
The iliotibial band runs on the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee and functions as a stabilizer for the hip. To work the IT band, start in a side plank position with the foam roller just below the right hip. Place your left hand and left foot on the ground in front of you for support. Slowly roll the roller to just above the knee joint, stopping and holding on sensitive spots until the pain/sensitivity fades. Do this on both sides.
About the Author
Erin Zeggert is a writer specializing in fitness and wellness related articles. Her work has appeared on various websites, including CliftonPark.com, Technorati.com and BalancingLifeAndFitness.com. She holds a Bachelor of Science in management from Siena College, and is a certified wellness coach and certified personal trainer.