Bodybuilders and mobility exercises? Yep. Despite their sizeable bulk, bodybuilders are surprisingly mobile. After all, you don’t get to lift heavy weights for a living without having some degree of mobility.
As a fitness writer and coach, I am constantly navigating a balance between the time spent at my desk and practicing what I preach in the gym — prioritizing movement. But while I can be found happily throwing barbells around my local CrossFit class (see what happened when I trained like a top UK CrossFit athlete), finding the time to wind down and stretch is an entirely different ball game.
With that in mind, I decided to take matters into my own hands and bed down on one of the best yoga mats to upgrade my recovery routine with some quality hip mobility exercises and stretches. And what better person to turn to than bodybuilder Obi Vincent, an athlete from the mobility and recovery app Pliability, which focuses on teaching yoga, rehab, mindfulness and more.
Discover these stretches that help tight hip flexors and this one move for hip flexor pain I swear by, or read on to find out what happened when I put this bodybuilders recovery routine to the ultimate test.
Hip mobility exercises: Why do they matter?
Mobility exercises play a pivotal role in keeping your joints healthy, allowing you to perform activities using your full range of motion; this is crucial for keeping your body stable, safe and injury-free during exercise. But people confuse what flexibility and mobility mean.
According to the International Sports Sciences Association, flexibility refers to your muscle's ability to ‘lengthen passively’ through a range of motion, like performing a hamstring stretch. On the other hand, mobility is the ability of your joint to move actively through a range of motion, like how far you can open your hip, for example. Mobility also accounts for your motor control, which is key if you’re wielding a dumbbell above your head.
Whether you’re a keen gymnast or prefer to perfect your deadlift in the gym, working on your mobility and flexibility can improve your athletic performance and help you lift heavier, move better and become more efficient and effective as an athlete. What’s not to love?
Obi Vincent’s hip mobility exercises for hip flexor pain
Vincent is one of the UK’s leading fitness content creators and considers mobility flow a crucial part of his routine. “The beauty of training and movement is that we can see that change every day,” he says.
“For me to perform at my best, practicing my mobility is a non-negotiable part of my training. The mobility flow I have provided is perfect for pre, post, or off-training days and can easily be incorporated into all training plans.”
1. Traveling seated cross shin
This stretch strengthens your back muscles, knee and ankles and opens up your hips, groin and outer thighs. Extend one leg if cross-legged is not achievable.
- Start seated
- Cross your legs so that your right shin is in front of your left shin
- Lean forward allowing your back to round and your head to dangle free
- Walk your hands out as far as it feels comfortable
- Walk your hands back in, then slowly lean backward onto your elbows to reverse the stretch, and gently lift your chest and hips
- Move between the two
- Swap legs every 10 reps and repeat. Hold for up to 1-minute to make this a passive stretch.
2. Seal / Sphinx
This pose lengthens the abdominal muscles and hips, and strengthens the spine.
- Start by lying down facing the ground
- Place both hands just outside of your chest
- Resting on your forearms, lift your chest toward the ceiling
- Allow your head to relax as you lift your chest and allow your abs to soften toward the floor
- Hold for up to 1 minute.
3. Dragon pose
This stretch mobilizes and stretches your hips and quads to avoid any tightness.
- Stand upright, then step forwards into a lunge position with your back knee rested
- Reach upwards with both hands and lift through your spine, then push your hips forward while keeping your core tight
- Avoid over-extending your back
- Lean away from your back leg until you feel a stretching sensation in your hip flexor.
- Hold for about 20-30 seconds. Change 2-3 times on each side.
4. Sumo squat
This pose activates muscle groups throughout your lower body including your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves and lower-back muscles.
- Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointing out
- Squat down as far as your mobility allows
- Press your elbows into the inside of your knees and press your hands together in a prayer position
- Allow your hips to sink toward the ground while keeping your chest up and heels firmly planted
- Avoid turning your knees inwards. Roll onto the ball of one foot then transfer your weight to the other foot. Continue to move between the two.
5. Rolling pigeon pose
This pose will help release the hips, glutes and lower back muscles and improve flexibility.
- Start on all fours, then cross your right leg forwards with your heel just behind your left wrist and right knee behind your right wrist
- Extend your left leg behind you, then square your hips toward the front
- If your glute doesn’t touch the ground, pop a block or cushion underneath for extra support
- Slowly lower your chest forwards over your leg
- Try to maintain a 90-degree angle with your front leg. If you are feeling any pressure in the knee or have trouble keeping the 90-degree angle, slide your front foot closer to your body to feel the stretch deeper in your hip
- Spend 1-2 minutes on each side, moving between pushing your chest to your knee for 10 seconds and releasing
- Practice tucking the toes of your back foot under and rolling on the ball of your foot.
I just tried this bodybuilder’s mobility exercises for hip flexor pain — here’s what happened
Tight hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and a weak core contribute to common injuries like lower back pain and knee pain because other (overused) muscles have to pick up the slack. And considering many people live sedentary lifestyles or work sitting down, it’s easy for these muscles to become weak, underused and tight, which ramps up the chances of injury.
In a bid to slot exercise into the day, I sadly neglect mobility exercises before working out and stretching post-workout (I know, poor form for a PT). I consider myself lucky to have pretty open hips, but I do occasionally experience hip flexor pain and I find it difficult to achieve full range of motion in my back squats (when the body is loaded posteriorly and works more of the back body).
I decided to put these hip flexor mobility exercises to the test to find out once and for all if they could help me. I initially performed this mobility routine dynamically, moving between each exercise for three rounds. I then grimaced my way through three minutes per stretch, passively. Throughout, I focused on my breathing (well, I tried) using each exhale to drop further into the stretch. But did it help?
Well, yes. But practicing this routine as a one-off won’t do much. Research suggests that stretching only has a short-term effect on our muscles, so you’ll want to include this routine regularly if you want to benefit long-term. That said, I have noticed a better range of motion in my squat (my only criterion for this routine) and surprisingly, less pain. Time will tell how well these mobility exercises serve me, but I’m already noticing freer movement and also enjoying the mindful 15-minutes I get to spend on myself.
Next up: I just tried this yoga for knee pain workout and this lower back stretch is amazing for back pain. Also check out how I did 20 pike push-ups every day for a week — and what happened and how I did the Z press every day for a week — here’s what happened to my shoulders.
Obi Vincent is one of the UK’s leading fitness content creators who has developed a global appeal due to his unique blend of conditioning and bodybuilding training. Pliability has several smart mobility flows which utilize a combination of yin yoga, specific movement flows and stretching to reduce the risk of injury, and tightness and optimizes your body for performance.
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Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.