Spending a lot of time during the day sitting can cause your hip flexors to become weak and tight. This can lead to stiff hips, negatively impacting your posture and affecting the way you move.
Many of us are guilty of not getting enough exercise during the day due to desk jobs and the lure of a comfortable couch. Doing some mobility exercises to break sedentary habits can help you stay limp.
This three-move sequence, from physical therapist and founder of Complete Pilates, Helen O’Leary, will strengthen your legs, hips, and core, as well as stretch your spine—ideally for those who often hunch over their laptops.
1. Legs wide to the side
How to do it
Lie on your back on the yoga mat, then lift your knees up and place your feet on either edge of the mat. Let both of your knees fall to the left so that your left thigh is almost flat on the ground. Your right leg should rest over your left leg so that your right knee is almost on top of your left foot. Exhale and return your knee to the starting position, then repeat with the other side. Hold for two minutes on each side.
“Side raises are a great exercise if you’re feeling a little stiff in your back or hips and just want a quick release, or if you just want a mental break at the end of your workout,” says O’Leary. .
“It helps you move from your ankles to your head. You can also do it with your feet together, but you won’t get the same mobility in your hips.”
2. Sumo squat
How to do it
Stand straight with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your hips toward the floor. As you do this, stretch your knees wide so you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Sink as low as your mobility will allow. Press down on your feet to return to a standing position. Do this, slowly, for two minutes.
“The sumo squat is a powerful exercise for your quads, glutes (glutes), hamstrings, and calves—it’s a great all-around lower-body workout,” says O’Leary.
“It will target the glutes and hamstrings more than a regular squat. The wide leg position will also impact hip mobility, and the deep hip external rotators have an important stabilizing role in the hip joint.
“This exercise will also lengthen the inner thigh or adductor muscles.”
3. Thigh tension
How to do it
Start in a high kneeling position, knees placed on the ground directly below hips. Your thighs and torso should form a straight line perpendicular to the floor. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. Keeping your thighs and torso in a straight line, slowly lean back until you feel a strong pull in the front of your thighs. You will feel your abdominal muscles starting to work as well. Pause here for a second before returning to the starting position. Repeat for two minutes.
Sometimes called the “reverse Nordic curl,” this move targets the quadriceps (leg muscles at the front of the thigh) and hip flexors.
Like the sumo squat, it strengthens your muscles as well as stretches them, which can help fight joint pain and strain.
How to use this routine
This is a versatile routine that can be used as an independent mobility routine, a pre-workout warm-up or, in the case of sumo squats and reverse Nordic curls, even Evening exercises are part of a functional strength training session.
“You can see that these exercises are difficult enough when they are used as part of a strength training workout,” says O’Leary.
“Or you can add loads to make them more challenging. You can add weights, such as barbells, kettlebells or dumbbells to your sumo squats, and you can hold a medicine ball to make the reverse Nordic movement more difficult.”
If you don’t have weights at home but want to try strength training, an adjustable dumbbell is an extremely versatile workout tool to start with.
Check out our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells to see if any of our tried-and-tested favorites suit your workout needs.
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