8 hip stretches for runners that’ll transform your training

I’ve been working with Robert Connors of Signum Training and Nutrition for a few years now and the other day we were complaining about tight hips (typical fitness nut small talk) to one another.

Naturally, the conversation started to evolve into a “well I do this stretch, you should try it..” back and forth, and before we knew it – we both had 3-4 different stretches to go home and try.

Many of the stretches that Rob recommended came from a program he runs to help golfers improve their distance off the tee (and fitness in general). He even wrote a piece called hip stretches for golfers – a small piece of his overall program.

The thing is, these stretches aren’t only for golfers, they’re actually perfect for runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes and other endurance athletes alike.

I used a ton of these hip stretches during my Ironman training and also during my recent sub 3 hour marathon training.

So, all that hype – now what are the stretches? Well, without further ado, here are our top 8 hip stretches for runners and endurance athletes.

1) Lizard Pose

The lizard pose is one of my favorites which is why we are leading off with it. I perform this one almost every day. It is an active pose since you will be holding yourself up. The setup starts with a wide lunge. One foot is forward while the knee of your other leg is behind you on the floor. Place your palms on the floor inside your forward foot to hold yourself up. If you are like me and not quite as flexible as others you can rest your elbows on a couple of pillows or yoga blocks. Feel as if you are letting your hips sink to the floor.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 1-3 minutes per side

2) The Half Saddle

The half saddle not only works on flexibility in the hips but also the ankles. To set up, start by sitting on the floor.  One leg will be straight out in front and the other is bent and under your butt. If you lack the flexibility you can place it out to the side as pictured. You will then lie as far as back as you are comfortable. Most will feel the stretch in the hip and quad of the bent leg.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 2-3 minutes per side

3) The Knight Stretch

Similar to the lizard pose, the leg setup will be the same with one foot forward in a lunge position while the other leg will be on the floor behind you. Pad up the back knee with a towel or mat for comfort. From here simply let your hips sink to the floor. You should feel the stretch in your back leg and hip.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 2-4 minutes per side

4) The Knight Stretch on a Box

You don’t need a plyo box to perform this hip stretch. You can simply use a chair, set of steps, park bench, etc.  For our purposes we will explain using a box. To setup take a wide lunge with one foot onto a box. Don’t let the forward knee pass the toe of your forward foot. The opposite foot will be on the ground behind you. The torso will remain vertical and then simply move your pelvis towards the box and let the hips sink into the pose.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 1-3 minutes per side

5) Low Knight Stretch

OK we went high with the knight stretch on a box, now it’s time to go low. I love this one because it also works on your ankle flexibility. You will setup like a regular knight stretch except your hands will be on the floor on BOTH sides of the forward leg. Keep your forward heel down and let your chest and forward knee lean forward. You will feel this in the back leg and hip as well as the forward ankle.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 1-2 minutes per side

6) The Sumo Squat

This is a tough one. If you can hold the sumo squat for more than a minute straight, you are doing well. It works on your flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, groin, mid and low back as well. It is simple to explain; you just sit in the bottom of your squat. Keep the weight in your heels and chest up. Make sure you are driving those knees out and keeping them in line with the toes. I like to use my elbows to push the knees out slightly. The lower back can relax and even round a bit. Feel free to come out of the pose from time to time to rest.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 2-3 minutes

7) Hip Opener Stretch

The hip opener is like the lizard pose but we will be pushing the knee out slightly to feel a deeper stretch. Set up like a lizard pose with one foot forward in a lunge position and the other knee behind you. You will then use side of your forward hand to gently push the forward knee outward. I.e., if your right foot is forward, use your right hand to gently press the knee out. Rest the opposite hand on the floor. Similar to the lizard and knight stretch you should feel as if your hips are sinking to the floor.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 2-3 minutes per side

8) The Ballerina Stretch

And finally the ballerina stretch. This one not only works on hip flexibility but also your groin. Set up is similar to the knight stretch but then you will bend your rear leg to be perpendicular to the center-line of your body as pictured. The forward shin will remain at a 90 degree angle vs. the floor. Be careful getting in and out of this one.

Suggested Stretch: Hold for 2-3 minutes per side