Hip pain? Build lower body strength and boost flexibility with 3 moves and 15 minutes

Woman sitting on yoga mat outdoors performing a spinal twist with left leg extended and right leg bent, twisting to the right
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you suffer from hip pain, try these three moves to build lower body strength and boost flexibility without weights. 

Hip pain can result from various sources like underactive, tight, or weak surrounding muscles, overuse, injury, or muscular imbalances. But boosting lower body flexibility and strengthening the muscles surrounding the hips, including the hip flexors, glutes, lower back, hamstrings and core muscles could ease symptoms.

Below, we cover how to do each lower body exercise, the benefits and scaling options you can try. And if you don’t have one already, roll out one of the best yoga mats for home workouts to try these on. 

What are the 3 exercises for hip pain? 

Add these to your existing routine or try them as a standalone stretching session the next time you want to release tension from your hips.

Laying pigeon pose

For some people, pigeon pose can be sore on the knees, so laying pigeon is a great low-impact alternative. The move targets the glutes and hips and can even reduce sciatica symptoms.

Start on your back and place your right foot across your left knee, creating a 90-degree shape with your right leg. Slightly tuck your chin toward your chest and press your lower back into the mat. 

Stay here, or draw your left leg toward your chest to deepen the stretch. If you can, wrap your hands around the back of your left leg. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

90 90 stretch

Another variation of the pigeon pose, the 90 90 stretch provides a deep glute stretch and targets the hip flexor muscles, building mobility and flexibility in the muscles around the pelvis. I find the exercise delivers a deeper stretch than the laying variation and helps me sit deeper into my hips. 

Your glutes, hip flexors and external rotators are the main players. Sit on your mat with both legs extended, bend your right knee and flex your right foot. Place your left leg behind and create a 90-degree shape with both legs. Align your left knee with your left hip, then gently press down with the inner left leg. 

Square your hips and sit tall, then hinge forward at the hips and lower your chest toward your right thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds, switch sides and repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

Fire hydrants

Fire hydrants can be used as a mobility exercise to improve the depth of your squats and lunges and the range of motion around your hips using your body weight. 

Start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, shoulders stacked over the wrists and hips over the knees. 

Gently brace your stomach, then lift your right knee toward the right side, keeping the leg bent as you open your hip. Pause at hip height, squeeze your glute, then slowly lower the leg to the starting position. 

Complete 8-12 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat for 2 to 3 sets. You can add a resistance band to increase the intensity of the exercise, but you can still benefit from using your body weight. 

Bottom line

Writer Sam performing a seal pose during mobility exercises routine

(Image credit: Sam Hopes)

Your hips and lower back play a role in posture, lower body strength and exercise performance. The International Journal of Yoga found that yoga poses (such as 90 90 and laying pigeon) and postures that require pelvic and trunk movement engage your core, hips and diaphragm. 

If you find holding stretches difficult, I use breathing exercises to regulate every inhale and exhale and it can help take your mind elsewhere. If you have particularly tight hips, prevent forcing your knees or hips into positions and listen to your body, focusing on the difference between an uncomfortable stretch and pain. 

Follow the steps for each exercise above and gradually deepen the stretch as your flexibility and mobility improve without rushing into any postures. Stop immediately and speak to your physician if you have a diagnosed injury or illness or experience sharp, prolonged pain.  

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified 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.