Most of us these days are dealing with tight hips—in particular, tightness in the hip flexor is extremely common. And it’s not always a mark of a stationary lifestyle (though that can definitely be a contributing factor); athletes get tight hips, too.
There’s actually a 30-second test that physical therapists use to see if you need a little TLC for your hips. It’s sometimes referred to as the “90/90 Hip Switch.” Physical therapist Ashley Taylor, DPT, in La Jolla, California, says, “This can be a great self-assessment tool.” And it’s one that also ends up being educational—you learn more about your body in the process—because “you are testing hip movement in all planes, bilaterally.” In layman’s terms, you’re testing both sides, in all directions of movement.
So… Do you need to work on your hip mobility? You’re about to find out!
Start sitting on the floor with both of your knees bent to 90 degrees—one leg in front and one to the side.
Without using your hands, rotate to the other side while keeping your butt and heels on the floor.
Once you’ve flipped sides, go back in the other direction.
What your results can tell you
Could you do it without lifting your booty or your heels? If not, you may have tight iliopsoas muscles, also known as the hip flexors. “The iliopsoas muscle is a strong hip flexor and becomes even tighter with prolonged sitting (like at work or a long drive),” she says. “This is very important to be mindful of.”
And remember that we’re not always equal on both sides of our bodies. “Make sure to assess how you feel on one side so you can compare it to the opposite side,” says Dr. Taylor. “Take mental notes so you can be more in tune with your body!”
Also, if you can see a physical therapist in person (or even on a video consult!) and do this test in front of them, that’s even better, she says. A practitioner will be able to assess your hips and determine if the issue is coming from the joint or tight muscles.
So if you find you can’t quite make it to the other side without lifting your heels or booty, it’s time to get into some hip openers. “If you have tight hips, it’s crucial to stretch and train the hips in all planes,” says Dr. Taylor. “I like to use yoga!”
Three ways to open up those hips
1. Try supine twists (thank you, yoga!) for the piriformis and glute muscles. Relief of tightness in these areas can also help your hips to release.
2. Practice stretches for the adductors (inner thighs)—try these inner thigh stretches.
3. Do stretches for the hamstrings (since tight hamstrings also contribute to hip stiffness and pain).
If you really want to give your hips some love, don’t stop there, says Dr. Taylor. “I would take additional steps by attending a beginners yoga class, as you will complete movements on both sides, as well as begin to get in tune with yourself and your body,” she says.