As we age, our bodies lose flexibility, which leads to a loss of joint range of motion. Diminished range of motion in weight-bearing joints, such as the hip, results in loss of agility, strength, power, and balance. This is particularly concerning for the aging male, who loses flexibility twice as fast as his female counterpart.
While it has been proven that flexibility can be reclaimed, stretching is the most poorly performed component of an exercise program. However, developing an effective active stretching program that will lead to greater exercise success is easily accomplished with continuously-looped resistance bands.
- Understand the key principles of a successful stretching program.
- Explore how stretching with resistance bands works to improve hip mobility.
- Learn 4 effective hip stretches utilizing resistance bands.
Keep these 3 key principles in mind for a successful stretching program:
- Always apply a gradual force that safely takes muscles beyond structural tightness but not anatomical tightness; a muscle that is not brought into the restricted region will not gain flexibility, and a muscle that is taken too far will get injured.
- Contracting an opposing muscle while you stretch relaxes and lengthens the stretched muscle more than it would without the co-contraction.
- Dynamic, short-duration stretching is more effective than static, long-duration stretching.
Why Resistance Bands Improve Hip Flexibility
Unlike many other stretching modalities, continuously-looped resistance bands allow you to achieve all three stretching principles with ease. First, they provide a controlled and gradual force that takes the muscle farther into the restricted range of motion on each subsequent stretching repetition. Next, they create a counterforce for your muscles to push against during an active stretching session, bringing about extra relaxation and lengthening that co-contraction brings. Finally, they give you much greater control over the duration of your stretches than do bodyweight stretches.
As a result, incorporating resistance bands into your stretching routine can bring about far more significant and quicker gains in flexibility than can traditional bodyweight stretches. The following 4 hip stretches can be done after your workouts to help recover the flexibility—and thus power, strength, and athleticism—you may have lost over the years.
4 Post-Exercise Band Hip Stretches
Band Hip Rotation Stretch
Hip rotation is often the most restricted motion of the hip. Throughout this stretch, make sure the foot of your non-stretching leg remains firmly in contact with a stable structure to prevent compensation.
- Lying on your back, place your right foot firmly against the wall with your right knee straight.
- With the band looped around your left foot and your left hip flexed at 90 degrees, grasp the band 2 inches off the left foot.
- Pull the band and foot towards the right shoulder while allowing the left knee to bend.
- You should feel an aggressive stretch in the left glute; hold this for 2-3 seconds before releasing the tension.
- Repeat multiple times for 1 minute, bringing the left foot closer to the right shoulder with each repetition without allowing the right knee to bend.
Band Hamstring Stretch
To effectively stretch your hamstring, make sure the non-stretched knee is kept straight throughout the movement.
- Place the band over the arch of your left foot, wrapping it around to firmly secure it.
- Grasp the band approximately 6 to 8 inches off your foot while placing your right foot firmly against the wall with the right knee fully straightened.
- With your elbows on the floor at shoulder height, press your left heel towards the ceiling, straightening your left knee as much as possible.
- Perform rhythmical repetitions, straightening your left knee and flexing your left hip farther on each repetition while preventing the right knee from flexing.
- Between repetitions, bend the left knee just enough so that stretch tension is taken off the left hamstring.
Band Anterior Hip & Thigh Stretch
To optimally stretch the right anterior hip and thigh, it will be important to actively engage the left hamstring to avoid compensation by the left hip. Also, actively engaging your core to avoid arching in the low back will be important. Fortunately, band stretching automatically activates both of these areas when performed as follows.
- Wrap the band around your left foot and lie onto your right side.
- Bring your right leg in front, flexing your right knee and hip to 90 degrees while firmly placing the foot into the floor.
- Your left leg will be positioned behind you with the hands firmly grasping the band behind your head.
- Fully extend your elbows, which will increase band tension and stretch the left thigh. By actively moving the elbows through a full range of motion, it will provide an optimal stretch to the anterior hip and thigh.
- Throughout the stretch, keep your left thigh behind your body, not out in front. This will ensure both your hip and thigh are being stretched simultaneously.
- Key to the groin stretch is to make sure the non-stretch leg is flat and the foot is firmly pressed against a stable structure.
- With band attached on foot, hold left elbow relatively close to the floor at shoulder height.
- Rhythmically press the heel laterally and upward trying to straightening the knee fully on each repetition.
- Make sure you maximize full range of motion on each rep while keeping right leg flat and foot firmly pressed against a stable structure.
- Keep amplitude of knee movement short. Only release back until tension is off muscle than repeat.
The following video will take you through a flow stretching series using these 4 exercises:
Flow Stretching Video
Performing these 4 band hip stretches allows individuals to not only decrease the effect that aging has on hip mobility, but also eliminates secondary issue of low back, knee and hip pain that often occur as a result decreased hip flexibility.