Very Stiff Hips - How to Release Them?

How do you increase hip mobility in general if you have really immobile hips to start with?

I have both short hip flexors and hamstrings, so I have limited range of motion both flexing the hip and extending it. Abduction is even more limited and painful at the end ranges.

I’ve also noticed that I have very tight internal AND external hip rotators. I though that if you had tight internal rotators it might follow that you’d have loose external rotators to compensate, but both are definitely tight which means I have very limited hip external and internal rotation. On internal rotation and flexing of the thigh there is also a clunk but I’ve had this since an early age. External rotation and abduction (like you would when doing an exaggerated sumo deadlift) is very painful at the end ranges.

I static stretch every day, and foam roll the hip flexors and hamstrings every day in addition to doing 2 minute weighted glute bridge holds and planks â?? but nothing is increasing my hip mobility.

Short of seeing a physio (they’re expensive) what would you suggest to someone stiff like me who wants to increase their hip mobility?

Thanks in advance!

This might not interest you, and might be rejected by a forum like this, but adding yoga on my off-days helped my hip tightness a lot.

Also, a stretch that helps me a lot:

Sit cross-legged, and bend your torso forward slowly. You’ll feel it in your whole hip area.

If your current routine of stretching foam rolling and planking isn’t helping, you’re probably doing too much. It’s quite easy to do too much stretching. And remember to be patient with flexibility.

get yourself a PVC pipe, and roll around on that so it gets up into your hip flexor, TFL, and upper glutes. Foam roller won’t cut it.

Also, get your self a lacrosse ball and get it up into your piriformis. I hope you like pain because there’s going to be plenty of that in your future.

I have the tightest hips, lower back and hammies on the planet and that’s the only thing that works. Grit your teeth and do it before any lower body workout and you’ll be grand.

you can thank me later

[quote]rds63799 wrote:
get yourself a PVC pipe, and roll around on that so it gets up into your hip flexor, TFL, and upper glutes. Foam roller won’t cut it.

Also, get your self a lacrosse ball and get it up into your piriformis. I hope you like pain because there’s going to be plenty of that in your future.

I have the tightest hips, lower back and hammies on the planet and that’s the only thing that works. Grit your teeth and do it before any lower body workout and you’ll be grand.

you can thank me later[/quote]

Embrace the pain!!!

thanks, but I already foam roll every day!!

Mobility WOD

Regaining mobility can be a long and arduous process, especially if you are going to do the whole lot yourself.
ie no physio, or other manual therapies. Not saying it can’t be done, just takes longer.
Mobility Wod demonstrates some clever concepts regarding joint capsular stretching and mobilisations. I suggest you have a look as they tend to work really well. That combined with the above mentioned soft tissue work with a pvc pipe/foam roller, stretching and maybe some massage will help.

Its a long journey to regain mobility like that, especially if you happen to be a stiff bastard, however you have to be consistant.

Read what you can but if you fail to see improvements it may be wise to consult a professional and have them to check you over for anything serious and to give you some more ideas. Tell them you want to do most of the work yourself but really just want advice.

Good luck

Well the good news is it sounds like you are tight everywhere which crazy as it sounds is actually safer than only having an area of restirctions due to potential strength imbalances. As some of the other commentors mentioned becoming more aggressive with the foam roll and introducing trigger-point releases would be the next recomended step.

Much like strength training therapy it needs to be progressed to achieve higher levels of mobility. Think about if you only squated with 225, you would maintain that level until you introduced a new stimulus to your body. Progressing from the foam roll to either a more dense roll, or pvc pipe should help and if you haven’t done trigger point work invest in a softball, baseball, and lacrosse or cricket ball.

The effectiveness of SMR work is very dependent on technique, so you need to be dilligent and finding the areas that are the tightest(often the most painful) and applying direct pressure for 20-30 seconds. This will sometimes cause the muslce to release, but not always. It may take multiple applications to an area to decrease tissue density to the point where you can reach the deeper bands of tightness.

I would recomend using the softball for adductors and hamstring, pvc for quad and IT Band, and baseball/lacrosse ball for the TFL( lateral portion of quad closest to the pelvis) psoas region ( medial portion of quad/inner thigh) and glute region. Couple this with active range of motion work, lunge progressions and stepovers are a couple practical excercises that don’t require any equipment.

Static stretching can be very useful but i prefer to use it as a targeted technique such as for the lateral hamstring or hip flexor. Keep in mind that this all follows the same concepts as lifting with regards to training volume, if you attack this for an hour a day everyday and then roll back to 15 minutes a couple times a week your gains will diminish accordingly.

Your coorective excercises like bridging and planking are good ideas but expand on those as well, add more time in and begin using more specific excercises, the cook hip lift progression is very useful as are band walking progressions. Without building endurance and strength in those areas flexibility gains will diminish much quicker.

Finally, take into consideration your routines that might exacerbate these problems, Do you sit for most of the day with your hip flexors shortened? or are you hunched over on a computer or playing video games constantly. Do you do long bouts of lighter cardio on machines like the recumbant bike or lift heavy on machines without much freespace work? Whatever therapy you do to combat this problem with be directly affected by activities that work against it, so take that into consideration as well when you are struggling to see results.

[quote]alternate wrote:
thanks, but I already foam roll every day!![/quote]

foam roll not enough! PVC pipe! Seriously, foam rollers are great for quads and other muscles but if you really want to get up into your hip flexors/TFL you need something harder

i’ve been learning different ways to get at the hip flexors and let me tell ya it’s work in progress before honing down some good stretches with foam/ball rolling. For example, squeeze the glutes when stretching the hip flexors, if you are feeling a warm sensation in the area you are hitting that area, i find if you don’t squeeze you don’t get much of a stretch.

The psoas muscle which is really hard to get to, since it runs from groin area to the lower stomach (between the belly button and hip bone) i use a tennis ball or softball and works really well along with a kneeling stretch. I do the stretch till it burns about 30 seconds. I may lift one arm to the side to get a fuller stretch. when i foan roll if i go over any tightness i stay there until the it goes away generally, foam rolling the IT band is great and it works like a charm, other areas around the hips its really depends on the person and how their body responds to different treatment. Like i said, it’s been work in progress for me and so far it’s improved my mobility but it’s a neverending quest to keep the hips mobile.

How long should you stick with something before you acknowledge it is not working?

For example, I have held two sets of 2min planks and weighted iso glute bridges, done static hip flexor and hamstring stretches for two sets of 2 minutes (for each leg), foam rolled psoas, quads and hamstrings and completed a lateral lunge complex every day without fail for close to 2 years now, and there is no improvement in hip flexion or hip extension - both are still just as limited as before I started.

Do I just keep at it, and maybe on the 10th year I will notice some improvement?

Or if not, how would you change my routine?

Alternate –

All of the advice given on here is good advice; however, the problem is figuring out WHY your hips have such limited range of motion (ROM). A second problem is the pain at the end of your ROM. That’s not normal, period.

Is is tightness that is training-induced? This would be from working out at a high intensity which causes muscles to become fatigued/tired and tight. Probably not. In fact I would say definitely not, from the description you have provided us.

Is the tightness due to pelvic alignment? I would say no. Reason being – if your pelvis has a malalignment (such as an anterior pelvic tilt) then generally you will have greater ability to touch your toes (because your hamstrings are lengthened). It would not have such a large affect on your internal or external rotation, and many times their his a hypermobility involved. Pelvic alignment problems also eventually respond to the right stretches and core work (especially planks).

So, what else could it be? My guess is the arthrokinematics of your hip joints. I suspect that the femoral head is not able to glide properly within your hip socket (acetabelum). This is usually caused by 1 of 2 problems – too little hip coverage (dysplasia) or too MUCH bone to the point part of your hip or part of the head of the femur is not shaped properly and “impingment” occurs.

I am not saying for sure that you have this but I can empathize with your frustration. If you do not have a secondary cause to tightness (such as training or hydration or something easily treated) then you can do all the stretching in the world but it is not going to fix a mechanical issue in the joint. I don’t care if you spend 10 hours on a foam roller a day. It’s not going to do much but alleviate symptoms temporarily.

Is the pain you feel at the end range of motion a pincy feeling? Do either or both of your hips ever click/pop? Do you suffer from groin pain such as when squatting or hip flexing or sitting for long periods of time? Does it bother you to get in/out of a car?

Also, one other question… does it bother you to do repetitive hip flexion activities such as run or bike? Especially treadmill running?

Biking, treadmill running do not bother me.

Getting in and out of a car doesn’t either.

But I do get a pincer type feeling when trying to flex and internally rotate at the same time, or flex, or internally rotate.

I wonder if this helps hip impingement;

By no means do I mean to sound judgmental (I am sure this guy is very knowledgeable regarding general strength and conditioning), but that video actually made me laugh out loud more than once. It is 110% impossible to “improve” FAI (femoral acetabular impingement) by yanking and torquing on your leg. If anything, it is the worst approach I could imagine for the problem.

Again, I am not saying you have FAI. You might not have it at all. What I can tell you is you have some key symptoms. Impingement is caused by not just the shape of your bones, but also by bony spurs/growths. Obviously these won’t disappear with stretching as he is doing. What he’s attempting to do is try and correct the positioning of his femoral head (without any real knowledge of the biomechanics of the joint). Truly, it made me cringe to watch because it’s a GOOD way to cause cartilage damage and damage to the labrum (which is the layer of cartilage that lines the hip socket).

I’m not saying not to attempt anything from the video - but if I was in your shoes I would get evaluated by an orthopedic who specializes in hips. I would want a X-ray done of each side and an MRI Arthrogram to evaluate the condition of the labrum. Even if you don’t have FAI, ANY type of problem should show up with those two types of imaging (if there is one at all).

[quote]neliah09 wrote:
By no means do I mean to sound judgmental (I am sure this guy is very knowledgeable regarding general strength and conditioning), but that video actually made me laugh out loud more than once…

Yer, some good stuff in MobilityWOD, but some of the stuff he does and says can be a little over the top.


Mobilitywod is not saying mobilising the joint will fix FAI. He is saying improving flexibility of the hip(which joint mobility is one component) will allow for the normal biomechanics of the hip thereby reduce the abnormal forces that a stiff hip may undergo. This will in turn prevent FAI.

If you try those traction exercises as shown on mobilitywod you will most definitely see an improvement in your movements. Try it squat, see how far you get down and then try the hip mobilisations as shown in the video, if you can’t find a big rubber band, you can even try using a rope or seatbelt of the equilivant.

Not as good but still useful. Do it right and i guarantee you will squat significantly deeper. Combine with some stretching, foam rolling and you will get deeper still, you will be plesently surprised.
He has other mobilisations for the hip joint which work well too, so try them and have a bit of a look.

A lack of internal rotation is one of the identified risk factors of hip arthritis and labral tears, so not a great start.

Now it has been suggested above that these mobilisation/distraction techniques are a good way to cause labral damage. I would like to see the evidence for this… Look research has shown that typical labral tears occur from twisting, sprinting, hyper abd/extn with lateral rotation. While the mobs shown by Kelly Starlet do take the joints into the “hyper” movements the one key thing missing is the force. A gentle distraction force is significantly different to the force you develop when you land and twist or from sprinting.
Even though the majority of the tears seen in western society are anterior labral tears they have been HYPOTHESISED that they may be caused by a hyper extension force. Remember that 75% of labral tears have no know etiology. So what if they are wrong what if the tears are caused in movements such as repetitive hip flexion movements such as squatting with poor hip biomechanics, not enough flexibility in the glutes, too tight hip flexors, a stiff restrictive joint capsule? Asians who typically can all squat really well don’t injure their anterior labrum, if they injure their labrum it’s generally their posterior labrum.

Now the FAI which causes restrictions in the hips such as this, is it the cause of the hip pain and faulty biomechanics or is the bone growth caused by the poor biomechanics…

Now the question you will be asking is whether you should try some techniques that have been around for a while, that show definite improvements and will help your squatting. Add them to your stretching program and see if there is a difference. But apparently one person thinks you could hurt yourself… Or you could see an expensive hip surgeon with expensive high dose radiation tests which may show you very little. Yes they may show some damage which would mean either 1) surgery or 2) rehab exercises which you are attempting anyways.

But yeah check out those exercises and nehilia maybe you’re mocking mobility wod because you don’t understand the concepts??? but u make yourself out to sound so knowledgeable, stange…

Oh and i do realise Shirley Sharmann did come up with a bow string theory that tight hamstrings and weak glutes will cause anterior translation ofthe femur at the hip joint causing anterior hip damage. It’s a good theory but i still don’t think this is evidence enough to suggest that glides with movement will cause a labral tear.

I can’t believe I am replying to you again, Mr. Stern :slight_smile: But I will give it a go…

You are correct, I am criticizing a large component to that video. However I am doing so as someone who was an elite post-collegiate athlete, who had bilateral hip impingement and labral tears on both sides, and has worked with about a dozen different orthopedics, as well as close to two dozen PTs, chiros, and some really truly great minds in the strength and conditioning field.

I can truly appreciate the info in your post. You are dead on with a lot of the current literature regarding types of hip impingement, etiology of labral tears and the difficulty in diagnosing them, as well as the biomechanics and forces that are believed to cause acute tears.

The reason I am criticizing that video is because I have had quite a few PT’s and also strength and conditioning professionals attempt to help me do those very techniques. Some of them felt oddly good while others did not feel so great. Oddly, I could not feel too much acute pain (except for the obvious pinching sensation that is classic for impingement). These mobility type exercises and stretches were combined with some very general movements in terms of easing back into squats with lighter weight, dead lifting, lunges, etc. I started to notice that my ability to generate power was slowly decreasing, I was feeling tighter after a few months of this “therapy”, and my hips felt unusually stiff (although I had no debilitating pain).

The reason I suggest imaging to the OP is because he has mentioned to most of you that he’s tried most of these techniques till he is blue in the face and seen little to no response from his hips. I was unfortunate to find out that all of the stretching and mobility type drills (many of which are in the video above) were adding to my problem. They caused excessive cartilage damage within the joint. I can attest for this because I had multiple types of imaging taken BEFORE I did these exercises and was able to compare them after close to 3 months of doing them.

Now, that doesn’t mean that would be the case for the OP. If you go back and read my post I said:
“I’m not saying not to attempt anything from the video - but if I was in your shoes I would get evaluated by an orthopedic who specializes in hips. I would want a X-ray done of each side and an MRI Arthrogram to evaluate the condition of the labrum. Even if you don’t have FAI, ANY type of problem should show up with those two types of imaging (if there is one at all).”

I still stand by that. Having been through 2 major hip surgeries, I am extremely big on taking caution and knowing what you are dealing with before you attempt to blindly treat it or force a joint into a range of motion it doesn’t want to go in. I don’t mean to call you out a second time, Mr. Stern, but have you had bilateral hip surgery? Have you worked with 2 of the top 5 hip surgeons in the United States as a patient? The surgeon who I decided to work with works on mainly athletes, and ones at every level from HS to professional. He’s VERY conservative. He was unwilling to even discuss surgery as an option until we tried just about every type of therapy possible. The trick to getting good imaging and advice is seeking out someone you feel comfortable with. Not all surgeons are out to take your money. Some are truly passionate about what they do and helping people get back to the sports/activities that they love. Again, for a second time, you disappoint me. Consulting with a surgeon does not mean surgery is the ultimate outcome.

The fact that you are regurgitating demographic facts about labral tears and hip impingement means absolutely nothing. By “Kelly Starlet” I am assuming you mean Starrett. Quite frankly, I think he is awesome. He has some great advice for individuals who do not have ARTHROKINEMATIC or CONGENTIAL joint problems. His advice can be applied to a wide population of people who have chronic tightness and imbalances and decreases in mobility due to soft tissue problems and poor postural habits or overuse. If you have read his blog or watched enough of his videos, you will know he gives the following advice:

“Be cool. Use at your own risk and stop if you think it?s gonna hurt you, your spine is going to come out your throat, or your face goes numb.”

He does not pretend that his techniques and ideas are for every case. Speaking from personal experience, I dearly wished someone had explained to me the risk factors involved for different types of strategies (such as WOD). I don’t expect anyone to know exactly where I am coming from (it’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes) but I can say that my only intention from the post above was to warn that depending on the problem within the join, it CAN CAUSE HARM. Doesn’t mean it will happen to the OP, or you, or anyone else, but it’s a possibility. Sometimes sucking it up and paying a co-pay for a consult and an MRI is smarter than attempting to tip-toe through a field full of land mines when it’s dark out.