Due to sitting all day, our back and hips get tight and weak. Most workouts focus on our back body or front body, but we rarely get into our outer hips, which are integral to feeling good and preventing injury.
If our hips are strong and flexible, they allow us to lift out of our lower back when we are sitting in the car or at a desk.
Tight hips pull on the lower back, making it tighten too, so it’s important to maintain both flexibility and stability in the hips through stretching.
Try a simple stretch that you can do anywhere (yes, even at the airport between flights):
Lie on the ground, place your right ankle over your left knee, and flex your right foot/ankle. Flexing it protects your right knee. After all, our knees are susceptible to twists and turns, and when we go to stretch our hips and our hips are tight, our knees will assist in a way that is actually dangerous.
Flexing the foot/ankle allows muscles to contract around the knee to protect it from getting twisted or stressed while stretching your hip. Grab your left thigh with both hands, and pull it toward you. Stay here and hold for 1-2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
If looking to go deeper this time, use a wall to assist. Lie with your hips close to a wall. Place your right foot with your knee bent on the wall. Cross your left ankle on your right knee, and flex your left foot. Press the left knee toward the wall. To go even deeper, continue to scoot your hips closer to the wall.
You can also do a version of this stretch in your chair at your office or on a plane (if there’s room). Sitting tall in your chair, cross your ankle over your knee, flex your foot, and round forward. Repeat on the other side.
Side Kick Series
The Side Kick Series is a great strengthener for the hips and allows them to stay open. It prevents sciatica and piriformis issues because it builds strength throughout all the glute muscles. (If you already suffer from these issues, focus on the aforementioned stretch instead.)
To perform this series, lie on your right side, and place your head in your right hand. Maintain a straight line from right elbow and shoulder to waist and hips.
Then take both legs in front of you at a slight angle (think 45 degrees, not 90).
Flex your bottom foot, and press it down (this will activate your bottom hip and waist for stability and strength). Lift your top leg up to the level of your hip. Kick it forward and then back. Only kick as far as your spine remains still. Repeat five to eight times.
Then turn your top leg out, point your foot to lift up, and then flex the foot to lower it. Repeat three to five times. Finally, reach this leg back behind you, and draw little circles forward and backward — five times in each direction. Flip over, and repeat on the other side. Do three to four times a week.
Here’s a video to demonstrate the entire Pilates Side Kick Series described above. It’s easy to do anywhere you can lie down:
Lesley Logan is a fitness business coach and a PMA-certified Pilates teacher who leads international Pilates retreats. She is the author of Profitable Pilates: Everything But the Exercises, and her advice has been featured in Pilates Style Magazine and Vogue. Her Pilates workout and business coaching tutorials can also be found on PilatesAnytime.com.