You just need a kettlebell and 3 mobility exercises to unlock tight hips and boost hamstring flexibility

Muscular male holding a kettlebell overhead while performing a lunge during outdoor workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Calling all exercisers (especially you, weightlifters) with tight hips and hamstrings — add these three exercises into your next lower body mobility routine. 

The quick follow-along video, curated by Darren Liu Fitness, helps you mobilize your hips and hamstrings before performing squats, deadlifts and lower-body workouts. “If you only gave me three mobility exercises to do for the rest of my life, I’m taking these, hands down,” he says. 

As a trainer myself, I’m slightly envious that I hadn’t already shared a couple of these with my clients. The three moves can be performed as bodyweight exercises, so you’ll only need yourself and an exercise mat if you don’t have one of the best kettlebells to increase the intensity.   

Watch Darren Liu's 3-move mobility routine

1. Asian squat

Also referred to as a yogi squat in yoga circles, the deep squat helps unlock tight hip flexors, ankles and lower back muscles, and it’s a functional way to warm up the lower body for heavy weightlifting, alongside exercises like the candlestick roll.

Liu holds a kettlebell in both hands close to the chest, but you could start using your body weight. Add gentle movement to the squat hold by rocking onto the outer edges of your feet, massaging into the hip flexors.

Once you reach a full squat, Liu demonstrates dropping deeper into the muscles surrounding the pelvis by adding gentle rotation of the hips and knees or reaching one knee forward at a time to tap the floor, stretching the fronts of the legs. 

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward
  • Send your hips backward and sit into a squat position, keeping your chest lifted and back straight
  • Sit your weight through the midfoot and heel, drawing your bum toward the ground
  • Hold a kettlebell at your chest or hook both elbows into the inner knees and gently push the knees outward, aligning with your toes
  • Add any variations as above

2. Jefferson curl

Increase spine mobility, shoulder health, hamstring flexibility and release tight lower backs and glutes using the Jefferson curl. 

Stand on an elevated surface if you use a kettlebell, as this creates a deficit and helps you curl further past your toes for a deeper stretch. If you’re using your body weight and have limited flexibility (you can’t touch your toes), you may not need the extra room, so focus on lowering toward your feet.

  • Stand on the edge of a step or similar. Your feet should be firmly planted with your toes aligned with the edge of the raised surface
  • Slightly tuck your pelvis toward your spine and allow your arms to go heavy. Stand tall
  • Slowly roll down to a forward fold, leading with your fingertips and creating a curl through your spine. You should feel a stretch down the back of your body
  • Reach as far as you can, drawing your chest toward your thighs and hang for a moment
  • Reverse the motion slowly upward, allowing your arms and head to lift last and uncurling the spine
  • To add weight, hold a kettlebell with both hands throughout

3. World's Greatest Stretch (WGS)

The hip flexors, back, abs, hamstrings, glutes, quads, spine, shoulders, arms and chest all benefit from the exercise dubbed “The World’s Greatest Stretch.” In short, it’s a bang for your buck exercise. You can lift your back leg and engage the quad, or lower the knee to the floor for extra support if preferred. 

  • Start in a low lunge position with your left leg forward and back knee resting on the ground. Keep the toes of the right foot tucked
  • As you inhale, lift your left arm toward the ceiling, rotating toward your left leg
  • On the exhale, sweep your arm down to the right side, across the body, tapping the hand down to the ground if you can reach
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides
  • For a deeper hip stretch, lift the back leg away from the ground in a high lunge position, engaging the quads and hips

Liu doesn't provide reps, sets, or time caps here, so scale this to your warm-up routine accordingly. I would recommend spending at least 60 seconds, if not longer, in the squat, feeling into the hips, knees and ankles and breathing deeply throughout.

To program Jefferson curls, aim for 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps, moving slowly and with control, or moving continuously for several minutes. Perform the WGS for 8-10 reps per side and 2-3 sets. 

More from Tom's Guide

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.