Test Your Hip Flexibility

Article by Lucas Rockwood

I f you are working to improve your hip flexibility and are unsure how to track your progress, this guide is for you. Using simple mobility tests, you can monitor your progress over the span of weeks and months to ensure you’re working to restore basic range of motion (bROM).

What is basic range of motion? Imagine a healthy 12-year-old playing in the park with friends. They can get up and down from the floor with ease, perform a full squat, and sit comfortably cross-legged. These simple, natural movement patterns are often lost as we age and as we fall into the trap of a sedentary lifestyle.

Consistency in stretching is the key to increasing your hip mobility over time. Unlike strength training, where rest days are crucial, your body adapts best to stretching when done consistently—ideally daily—and frequent, short stretching sessions will always outperform irregular monster sessions.

Test #1: Hip Flexion

When you squat deeply, butt to heels, your hip joint moves in flexion toward its maximum range. Deep flexion is necessary for sitting comfortably on the floor, getting up and down from the ground, lifting, lunging, and running too. Your glutes and hamstrings are the main muscles that limit and enable this movement, but your quads and adductors also have a role to play.

  • Lie on your back on the floor
  • Pull your knee into your chest
  • Using your fists, measure the distance between your knee and your chest
  • Your goal in this test is to have no gap between the two

Test #2: Hip Extension

In a deep lunge with your back knee off the ground, your back leg is in full hip extension. Hip extension is important for running and walking posture, especially when you’re fatigued. The key muscles engaged in this movement are your rectus femoris, iliacus, and psoas. Tight core muscles can also limit range of motion here. Your goal in this test is to get the arch of your foot above your knee, so start with the option that enables you to do this best.

  • Lie on your belly on the floor
  • Extend one leg into the air
  • Option one: flex the knee of your opposite leg and place your foot on top of your other foot, creating an angle with your extended back leg
  • Option two: place your foot on your shin and keep that top leg straight
  • Option three: position the arch of your foot so it cups your knee
  • Option four: place your foot above your knee, top leg straight (with no pain in your lower back)

Test #3: Lateral Rotation

When you see someone sitting in the elusive lotus pose, and wonder: “How do they do that?” you are seeing hips that are very open in the lateral rotation range of motion. The ability to open your hips to the side is what allows for comfort in most seated positions and it’s also crucial for getting up and down from the ground. Your adductors are the area of focus, but your hamstrings play a role as well. In some people, tight ankles or quads can make this range of motion challenging.

  • Sit in a butterfly position on the floor
  • Place your thumbs inside your feet as if you were opening a book
  • Gently pull your feet in close towards your pelvis
  • Gently press your knees down
  • Measure how many fists distance your knees are off the floor

Test #4: Medial Rotation

Imagine a slalom skier racing down the mountain. One hip rotates out, laterally, the other hip rotates inwards, medially. Now imagine a football player running, stopping, and then pivoting quickly. Again, you’ll see that pivoting hip medially rotate. This hip movement is often ignored but it’s crucial when you least expect it, such as turning quickly, slipping off a stair, or quickly turning while in motion. Your glutes and deep six lateral rotators are the area of focus here, though tight ankles can confuse things too.

  • Sit on the floor, legs extended in front of you, hip-width apart
  • Bend one leg and slide your foot out to the side in line with your opposite knee
  • Keep your foot and both knees in one line and medially rotate your knee towards the ground – try to keep it as flat as possible with no pain
  • Your hip will roll up, but your shoulder stays over your hips
  • If you feel any pain in your back or knee, back off to where you feel no pain
  • Measure how many fists distance you are from the floor

Tips for Success

Write down your score for each test and re-test every couple of weeks initially, then every month or so thereafter. Keep in mind that these tests are a reference point only. We all have unique bodies and unique ways of moving, these are just a way to help track your progress.

Download PDF pose chart

Safety Disclaimer

This guide is for educational purposes only. If you have a major hip or pelvic problem, please err on the side of caution and speak to a medical professional before attempting any self-care routine.

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