Hip-Opening Stretches

Overview/ Anatomy:

Some of the Movements of the Hip are:

  • Flexion: Bending at the hip, the leg moves forward and upward toward the torso.
  • Extension: The return from flexion
  • Abduction: The leg moves to the side away from the midline of the body.
  • Adduction: the return from abduction – bringing the leg sidewards toward the midline of the body.
  • Medial Rotation: Inward rotation
  • Lateral Rotation: Outward rotation


watermarked piriformis

The Piriformis muscle originates on the anterior surface of the sacrum and inserts at the superior portion of the greater trochanter of the femur. It’s primary action is to laterally rotate the hip. When the hip is flexed, it abducts the hip.





Gluteus Maximus:
Originates at the posterior iliac crest, edge of sacrum, coccyx, sacrotuberous and sacroiliac ligaments. It inserts at the upper fibers of the iliotibial tract and the lower gluteal illustration small wmark (1)fibers of the gluteal tuberosity. It extends the hip, laterally rotates the hip, and abducts the hip. The lower fibers adduct the hip.

Gluteus Medius
Originates at the outer surface of the ilium between the posterior and anterior gluteal lines. It inserts at the Greater trochanter, lateral surface (side of hip). It’s action is to abduct the hip. Anterior fibers medially rotate the hip. Posterior fibers laterally rotate the hip.

Gluteus Minimus
Originates at the outer surface of the ilium between the anterior and inferior gluteal lines. It inserts at the greater trochanter (anterior/ front) surface. It’s action is to abduct the hip, medially rotate the hip and flex the hip.

 Activities that use the Gluteals are climbing stairs, cycling, running, walking, skating

Opening the Hips: Stretches For the Gluteals, Piriformis and Quadriceps
Get more from your stretch with Mindfulness, Intention, and Breath 


Stretch 1:

(featured image above) Begin supine (lay on back) with both legs bent, feet on the floor underneath your hips. Take one foot and cross it over the other leg. The ankle will lay just above the knee of the other leg. Both hands wrap around the leg (as shown in above image). As you pull the leg towards you, imagine the knee of crossed leg easing away from you towards the opposite wall. Breathe into any tight areas.


watermark sitting fig 4

Stretch 2:
Begin by lying supine on a mat. Cross one leg over the other to make a figure four. Bring yourself up so that your hands are on the floor, fingers pointing back behind you. Keep your back straight in order to feel the stretch. I like to feel as though my foot, ankle, lower leg is rotating towards me while my knee is easing back in the opposite direction.

Stretch 3: 
Lay supine (on your back) on the floor, legs stretched out. Bend one leg and bring it up in a flexed position. Take the opposite hand and place it on the knee of the flexed, raised leg and draw your leg straight across to the opposite side. Imagine the face of a clock underneath you with the number 6 in the direction toward your pelvis and the 12 toward your head. If you are stretching the right leg, you would be moving across your body towards the number 3. Left leg would be towards the number 9. Your shoulders stay on the floor. As you move across, your hip can leave the floor and follow the movement. Come back to center. Draw your leg across and up towards the opposite shoulder. Your shoulders and hips stay on the floor. Come back to center. If you have the flexibility and it feels like a ‘good’ stretch, change hands so that the same hand clasps your knee and the opposite hand clasps around the lower leg or ankle. Take this stretch in the direction towards your head (12 o’clock). Explore the stretch and find out what works best for you.

sitting crossed legs 640 wqtermqrked

Stretch 4:
One way to get into this position (above image) is to begin on your hands and knees. Cross one leg over the other and sit back to a seated position as the image above shows. Hands can be as shown or lightly placed on knees. Breathe. I find breathing into the tight areas goes a long way in helping tight areas melt and release. To increase the stretch, bend at the waist and fold over legs.


Stretch 5:
Quad Stretch: Begin kneeling on a well padded mat. Place one leg forward with foot on the floor, knee over ankle. Drop your pelvis down towards the floor so that your back is straight and not in a sway back position. Engage your abdominals. Lunge forward. Put your attention on your breath. On your exhale pull your navel back towards your spine. It’s not about how far you go in your lunge but instead keeping good alignment with the pelvis in order for the stretch to be effective.

Suggested External Links:

Why Is Breathing Important During Stretching?:

Piriformis  – Attachments, Action & Innervation:

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Here is a good demonstration of a quadricep stretch with foot on a chair. If you need a simple stretch for tight hips check it out here


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