The Athlete’s Guide: 9 Hip Mobility Exercises To Improve Stability, Strength & Flexibility

Written By Ben  |  Mobility 

There are four ball and socket joints in your body. All of which are designed to have 360 degrees of motion, more than any other type of joint in the body.

Which brings us to our topic today: the two ball joints that connect your legs to your pelvic bone, aka your hips.

>>> Want even more hip mobility help? Check out our FREE hip mobility workout here.

What Causes Poor Hip Mobility & Why You're Struggling

In today's society we sit a lot! There is no such thing as bad posture, or bad positions. However, staying in any one position for too long is an issue! A body in motion, stays in motion. Hips that move consistently, should be able to move their full range of motion.

Many people recognize that there is an issue with sitting for long periods of time and think, "Oh I just have 'tight' hip flexors, so I just need to stretch them!" and they stretch away, never to actually improve their hip mobility.

There are 17 muscles that contribute to your hip movement and your hips can move across three different planes of motion; forwards/backwards, side-to-side, and rotating.

You'll need to do more than just stretch those hip flexors to open up and improve your hips for good! Fortunately, we don't think it is too much work, especially with this easy to follow guide. To improve your hip mobility, more permanently, you'll need to work on your hip flexibility, hip stability, and hip strength!

Sitting isn't the only problem of course. Hip mobility is complex and there are many factors that can lead to decreased hip mobility or even pain in hip movement.

We all are built a little differently too. Our hips are at slightly different angles which can make our positions and depth in movements look different than others. That is okay! Your anatomical differences still should not feel "tight" or cause pain.

An acute injury can cause issues with your hip mobility, or you may be struggling with a more chronic pain issue, like back pain. If you're struggling with hip pain and mobility, reach out to our physical therapists who will have your goals as an athlete in mind when designing your rehabilitation program.

Whether you're looking to improve your hip mobility to rehabilitate injury, or improve your performance in sport, this guide will provide you with the tips and hip mobility exercises you need to address the flexibility, strength, and stability of your hips! You can add these exercises in before or after your workouts, or even on a rest day.

Step 1 To Fix Hip Mobility: Improve Your Hip Flexibility (Not Just Stretches)

So let’s start with the foundation of great hip mobility - which is flexibility!

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion.

Remember how we said your hips are attached to your pelvis via a ball?

Well that ball wants to be able to move and express itself in a plethora of range of motion (ROM). Your hips are the most flexible joints in your body, along with your shoulders!

Let’s start with our example athlete - we’ll call him Half Repping Harry.

Hip Mobility Struggles

Harry has been doing CrossFit for two years and still can’t squat below parallel.

Harry always complains about his knees hurting in squats or wrists aching when he does front squats and he can’t comprehend why his clean and snatch PR’s aren’t anywhere near his half rep squat PR’s.

If you’re a coach, I’m sure you might be picturing exactly who I’m talking about… 

So, Harry? Are you ready to make your squats look like one of those top Olympic Lifters whose butts almost leave skid marks on the ground every time they squat?

Then you’re in the right place.

Hip Flexibility Exercises & How To Improve

I’ve created a hip flexibility video for you (below) to give you 3 drills that are going to trick your brain into squatting deeper, make your hips open up, and get you started on the process of squatting “better” - making sure those hips have full range of motion. 

If you’re strapped for time, here are pictures and coaching cues of the three hip mobility exercises from the video that you should start implementing right away.

Hip Mobility Exercise #1 (For Hip Flexibility)- 90/90 Stretch

Step 1: Start with both knees creating 90 degrees, demonstrated below:

90 90 stretch
hip stretch

Step 2: Bring chest towards knee, keep back straight and hinge from the hips. Do not round spine. Feel stretch in the glutes and side of the hip.

best hip mobility stretch
hip stretching and mobility

Step 3: Rotate back over the rear leg. If left foot is back, turn over your left shoulder, lean back and place that left hand on the floor.

  • Make sure back knee stays on the ground.
  • Feel the stretch in the front part of your hip.
  • Complete 10 reps on each side.
hip mobility
hip stretching

Why we like this hip mobility exercise:

  • This stretch does multiple things all in one, so it is a great bang for your buck.
  • We get good hip flexion and work on gaining full external and internal rotation. If any of the three are limited, it can prevent you from getting full depth in your squat.
  • Super simple yet super effective.

Hip Mobility Exercise #2 (For Hip Flexibility)- Deep Ring Squat Stretch

Step 1: Drop into a deep squat while holding rings as a counter balance.

  • Be sure to make sure heels stay down.
  • Get hip crease below the knee.
  • While in stretch exhale each breathe out hard and empty out your lungs each time.
  • The exhales will engage the abdominals and help you create a posterior tilt in the hips.
  • Hold for 15 deep breaths.
hip mobility stretch
best hip mobility stretch

Why we like this hip mobility exercise:

  • This one is a great way to teach the brain to get into the deep squat and if you are an athlete who is stuck in over extension, it will teach your hips how to get a posterior tilt.
  • Loading and holding your body with the rings will help create a counterbalance for you if you struggle with gaining depth and allow you to get deep in the squat.

Hip Mobility Exercise #3 (For Hip Flexibility)- The Cossack Squat

Step 1: Get in a wide stance like so...
hip mobility routine

Step 2: Go down into a deep side squat, to a depth that is comfortable.

  • Be sure to keep the heel down and knees tracking over the toe.
  • The leg out to the side is there for balance while getting a stretch in the groin.
  • If you can’t get deep while keeping the heel down, hold onto a doorway or on a pull up rig to use as a counter balance.
hip mobility and flexibility

Step 3: Switch to the other side while staying in a low squat and do the same on the other leg. Complete 10 cossack squats while holding for 3 seconds on each side.

Why we like this hip flexibility exercise:

  • This exercise allows us to load one leg more so we are getting a stretch through load. 
  • It also allows us to work on ankle mobility at the same time since we are isolating the one leg.
  • It allows us to stress our adductors (the muscle on the inside of the legs).

Your Hips Mobility & Flexibility: Why It’s Important

When you start to gain more flexibility, you’re going to start to notice a few things happen.

1. As your squat gets deeper, your PR’s are going to go down.

Because now you are going to have a longer distance to move that weight, which means you are going to have to produce more force through more range of motion.

As you start your hip mobility journey, don’t expect to be able to lift the same numbers you could when you were lifting in a shortened range of motion. So, don’t be surprised if your numbers start to drop, it is normal. 

But don’t fret - because something else that is awesome will start to happen. Which brings me to our next point.

2. Your OLY PR’s will start to go up!

Why? Because now you are able to catch that clean or snatch in a deeper squat, meaning you don’t have to make the bar travel up as high to catch it!

Not only that, during front squats you will now be able to mimic the exact squat you do in the clean. So you’ll be strengthening in better positions that are going to have a greater carryover effect to your olympic lifts, and thus improve your PR’s.

More flexibility means more capacity to strengthen in the positions required to execute high level OLY lifts!

3. Hip aches and pains will start to melt away.

Why? Well for one, now you’ll start to be able to squat without looking like a lawn chair.

Hip mobility struggles

What will this do? It’s going to help you squat more upright, taking pressure off of your wrists and elbows during a clean or front squat.

It will also help your shoulders feel better in your snatches because if you start catching snatches in a more upright position, you’ll be able to receive the bar in a much better shoulder position.

When we “lawn chair squat” in our snatches, our shoulders are more inclined to roll forward. Combine this bad position with multiple reps and you have a recipe for some overworked shoulders.

You never see a high-level olympic lifter receive the bar in this position, because it is not ideal for maximum efficiency and power.

(In other words... keep yo hips flexible fo' life!)

hip mobility snatches

Step 2 To Better Hip Mobility: Improve Your Hip Stability

Alright Harry, now that you have flexible hips... what’s next?

Well, your hips have something called stabilizers. These muscles include the gluteus medius, the gluteus maximus, piriformis, and core muscles. Their job is to "stabilize" or hold everything in control while we are in motion.

If we have lots of ROM but no control, this too can also be as equally bad as having tight hips. Having no control can lead to going into positions past our ROM where we are more trained in and could cause an injury or aches, if not progressed properly.

Flexibility allows us to get there, and stability keeps us there! Someone who is flexible but maybe not stable, might initially catch a lift in the bottom of the squat, but can’t hold it.

Improve Your Hip Stabilizers With Hip Stability Exercises

Gain control of all the new range of motion in your hips. 

In the video, we dive into 3 hip mobility exercises that are going to re-teach your stabilizers how to work in the new ROM, and we also get to see Coach Ben struggle with some of these movements!

Here are the three hip mobility exercises in picture form for you...

Hip Mobility Exercise #4 (For Hip Stability)- Side Box Step Offs

Step 1: Stand up tall with one leg off the side of the box - make sure you start with hips locks out.

hip stability drill

Step 2: Proceed to lower your self like you are going into a squat and lightly tap the outside heel on the ground.

  • Maintain control throughout the whole range of motion.
  • Stack your knees so that they don't go in front of your toe line.
  • Keep your heel down and chest up.
  • Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg or until the glutes are burning.
hip stability and mobility

Why we like this hip stability exercise:

  • It develops the often underdeveloped glute medius.
  • It creates good single leg stability and control.
  • It's a good starting progression for the pistol.

Hip Mobility Exercise #5 (For Hip Stability)- Single Leg Deadlift

Step 1: Stand with one kettlebell in your hand with hips locked out.

hip mobility exercise

Step 2: Proceed to lower the weight to the ground with a straight back while keeping the knee “soft” . Do not keep the knee locked out.

When executing this exercise - start light and work your way up to a comfortable weight.

You should be able to feel the exercise in your hamstrings and glutes, if it’s in your lower back, shorten the range or lower the weight.

If it's painful on your hamstrings, shorten the range of motion to take out some of the tension to shorten the range of motion - lower the KB to a 45 bumper plate or some sort of small ledge.

For this exercise, complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

hip mobility drills

Why we like this hip stability exercise:

  • It is very important to train single leg exercises in the double leg positions and lifts that we do. 
  • It helps create structural balance between the adductors and abductors.
  • Helps prevent groin pulls and will help you learn to control your new mobility.

Hip Mobility Exercise #6 (For Hip Stability) - Bulgarian Split Squats

Step 1: With your back foot elevated and two dumbbells in your hand- proceed to drop into a lunge like so:

  • When executing the bulgarian split squat - be sure to keep you knee tracking inline with your toes.
  • Allow your knee to come towards the end of your toe line to mimic more of a single leg squat.
  • Executing this movement will help you work on knee tracking for your two legged squats.
  • For this exercise, complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
hip mobility and stability
Hip mobility drill
hip stability

Why we like this hip stability exercise:

  • This exercise mimics the squat very well but only on one leg.
  • It will help work with knee tracking and strengthening glutes and quads.
  • This will provide more stability and control in your squats.

Here’s what’s cool about training hip stabilizers. In the gym you may be consciously thinking about them... but once you go and apply that to sport and movement where you’re not thinking about them, you’ll find that the new movement and stabilization you trained will start to become subconscious. 

That’s when the magic starts to happen. You can start training harder, putting on more volume, doing more, because your body and hips are moving more efficiently.

Not only that, they will help take unwanted movement and torque out of the knees, you’ll start loading your glutes more instead of your lower back and you start to feel right as rain.

Now for the fun part…. you’ll be able to start slabbing on some serious strength, in the appropriate fashion.

Which brings us to step 3 on your hip mobility checklist...

Step 3 To Better Hip Mobility: Increase Your Hip Strength

Make sure you have some seriously strong hips.


Because the hips are your big weight bearing joints, for them to stay healthy, they like to be loaded and moved for life.

Your hip strength is what produces your movement!

Because let’s face it; if your hips aren’t strong, you will be that old person who has a tough time getting up and down, can hardly move, and can no longer do the things they want to.

Hip Strengthening Exercises

Did you know though that there is more to hip strength than just big movements like squats and deadlifts?

Look at any big-time lifter, or high-level athlete, and they are always adding extra movements and auxiliary lifts to make sure all their prime movers in their hips are developed appropriately and have adequate strength.

If we do single leg and muscle isolation movements, you will actually make your hips stronger, which in turn will make your squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, OHS, thruster, all go up!

Let me show you three of our favorite side-strength exercises that you can easily throw into your weekly routine after a heavy day of squatting. Let’s make sure those hips are stttrrronnnggg!

Hip Exercise #7 (For Hip Strength) - Hip Thrust

Start out with dumbbells and as you progress in strength, move up to a barbell to achieve heavier loads.

Step 1: Put upper back on bench and DB in hip crease.

Start with locked out hips, like so...

hip mobility and strength drills

Step 2: Dip slightly.

hip thrust strength drill

Step 3: Drive hips towards ceiling and lock them back out in position 1. 

When executing this exercise, if you feel it in your lower back and not your glutes, that means you usually are using too heavy of a weight. If need be you can use body weight.

For this exercise you will complete 3 sets until failure. The glutes are a slow twitch muscle so they must be trained till fatigue for maximum development.

Why we like this hip strength exercise: 

  • It trains all three gluteal muscles and helps develop and isolate the glute maximus.
  • If you are an athlete who has weak or inactive glutes, this will help develop them like doing a bicep curl for your biceps, if we can isolate them, make them stronger, it will only make your squat stronger.

Hip Exercise #8 (For Hip Strength)- Glute Ham Developer 

Step 1: Have a partner put a foam roller underneath your ankles and your knees on a pad. Start with hips locked out and belly button pulled in:

hip strength drills

Step 2: Tilt forward slowly while controlling the descent with the hamstrings.

hip strength training

Step 3: Once you feel as if you can’t control the descent anymore, proceed to fall into the push up position.

hip mobility strength training

Step 4: To get back up use a push-up-like motion to help assist you in coming back up while also pulling back up with the hamstrings. Use as little or as much push-up as you need to get back up.

Step 5: Finish in the locked out position, like so:

hip mobility strength drills

When completing this exercise - be sure to only do it until sub failure. 

Your hamstrings will feel like they are ripping if your hamstrings are weak. Try to go light on them and not control as much of the ROM if you feel like this.

For this, 3 sets until sub failure reps. (Right before the failure position)

Why we like this hip strength exercise:

  • It strengthens the hamstrings and glutes at the same time, it will help protect your knees and hips when squatting and provide a better and strong reflex in the bottom of the squat.
  • All of these things will help increase your squat number.

Hip Exercise #9 (For Hip Strength) - Midline holds

This can be performed with Kettlebells, D-Balls, or Atas stones.

Step 1: Pick up and hold whichever apparatus you choose. 

  • While executing this exercise, be sure to keep your belly button pulled in and chest upright.
  • If you keep the weight in front of your body you should feel your erector spinae muscles in your back working to hold you upright.
  • For this you can hold till failure or take the weight for a walk till failure.
Hip Strength Exercise #3 - Midline holds
hip mobility

Why we like this hip strength exercise:

This exercise will strengthen your midline which will help take pressure and load off of your hips. Training this upright position will help you from folding in on a squat and collapsing your chest on the way up during heavy weight.

So There It Is, Your Hip Mobility Checklist:

  • Hip Flexibility
  • Hip Stability
  • Hip Strength

If you can execute these things and go ALL IN on making sure your hips are performing as they should be, you’ll be on your way to better fitness, better movement, and a better quality of life.

Looking for 1-on-1 coaching to help you reach your health and fitness goals? Get in touch with us today.

LIMITED TIME ONLY: Exclusive Free Hip Mobility MasterClass

Comment below with any questions or issues you might have... we're here to help!

  • So how often would you recommend doing the 3 drill groupings to better hip mobility? Sorry if I missed that somewhere…

    • Kathy, thanks for commenting! We recommend anywhere between 1-3x per week pending on your goals and or needs.

      If there is one area that you think you REALLY need to improve, you could try 2-3x per week.

      If you think you only need maintenance, 1x per week will be fine.

      Hope this helps!

  • Hi wodprep-team,
    Thank you for this article.
    One question:
    How do I know, if the major culprit of a weak squat are my hips and not for example my ankles?

    • It’s hard to determine from over the computer, however, we are going to cover that topic inside of the coaching video tomorrow night.

      So if you need more guidance be sure you don’t miss it. Hope to see you there! The sign up is here:

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Related Posts

    Test Your Absolute Strength & Fix Your Weaknesses
    How to Build Absolute Strength for CrossFit
    The Strength Pyramid: Building a Solid Foundation for CrossFit®
    CrossFit Age Group Semifinals 2024: Workouts, Standards & Strategy
    How WODprep Can Help You To Make Quarterfinals
    How To Develop Your Skills To Make Quarterfinals
    How To Develop Your Engine & Strength To Make Quarterfinals
    How To Become An Rx Athlete And Make Quarterfinals
    CrossFit® Quarterfinals Strategy Workout 1
    CrossFit® Quarterfinals Strategy Workout 2
    CrossFit® Quarterfinals Strategy Workout 3
    CrossFit® Quarterfinals Strategy Workout 4