by: Yuri Elkaim

Tight Hips? 9 Powerful Glute Stretches That Will Help

Most of the time, tight glutes are something to be proud of. After all, that’s why we’ve been doing those heavy squats and burn-inducing lunges, right?

So it seems kind of counterintuitive to loosen the very muscles we’ve worked so hard to build.

But this kind of reasoning is one of the many reasons the glutes tend to be an afterthought when it comes to stretching. We work on flexibility for our hamstrings, quadriceps, and even hip flexors, but we tend to leave the glutes to their own devices.

In fact, we may not even realize our tight glutes may be limiting not only our range of motion, but also our performance.

In this post we’re going to look at several reasons you might want to give your glutes a little stretching TLC – and don’t worry, none of it will interfere with their firmness.

Why Your Glutes Are Tight

Just like any other muscle, the glute muscles can become shortened over time by too much sitting and also not using them through their full range of motion.

Sitting is especially detrimental to glute performance, whether that performance is picking up heavy pots in your garden or doing heavy squats in the gym.

This is because sitting weakens the glute muscles and shortens the hip flexors, which leads to the lower back taking over during activities that require bending.

It also limits your range of motion during exercises like the squat and bridge, which require flexibility in both the glutes and hip flexors.

In severe cases, lack of mobility in the glutes and hips can also result in piriformis syndrome, categorized by severe pain and tingling in the piriformis muscle of the buttocks, which helps the hips rotate.

Even in cases piriformis syndrome, one of the basic recommendations to treat glute pain and tightness is to stretch and massage the area (1).

Luckily, several stretches will relieve glute tightness and pain.

Powerful Glute Stretches for Tight Hips

You’ll notice many of these stretches also help lengthen the hip flexors, which is a critical part of the formula when it comes to increasing glute mobility.

Before we get started, though, it’s important to notice that you don’t want to go into any static stretching sequence with cold muscles. In the same way that we warm our cars up to dissolve frost and snow in the winter, we want to warm our body and get heat and blood circulating.

Dynamic stretches are the best way to do this, because they not only get our blood circulating, but also help increase range of motion.

Before your stretching routine, try and complete roughly 5 minutes of the following dynamic stretches, which will prep your muscles.

Dynamic Warm Up

1. Leg Swings

leg-swing-sequence

Leg swings are perfect for warming up your glutes and hips before a round of deep stretching.

Performing Leg swings

  1. Begin standing with one hand on a wall.
  2. Lift your opposite leg and swing it in front of you, then behind you, like a pendulum.
  3. Swing for 10 to 12 reps, then switch to the other side.

2. Front Lunge

front-lunge

Performing Front Lunges

  1. Begin standing tall with your feet together.
  2. Step one foot in front of you and lower into a lunge, begin sure to keep your knee behind you toes at all times.
  3. Push back through your heel and glutes to a standing position.
  4. Repeat, alternating legs, for 10 to 12 reps on each leg.

3. Bridge

glute-bridge-sequence

The bridge will get your glutes and hamstrings firing, while also engaging your core and warming up your lower back.

Performing the Bridge

  1. Begin lying face-up on the floor, knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Keeping your heels on the floor, raise your hips until they are in a straight line with your shoulders and knees.
  3. Hold hips parallel to the ground for a two-second count, then lower.
  4. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

How to Stretch the Glutes

Now that your muscles are warm, let’s get into those glute stretches.

1. Pigeon Pose

pigeon-pose-sequence

Pigeon pose (also a yoga pose) is a powerful stretch for releasing the glutes and the hip flexors.

  • Begin in a tabletop position.
  • Bring your right leg forward and sink down so the outer edge is resting on the floor.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your hips angling toward the floor.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then step your right foot back under you and repeat on the left leg.

2. Pretzel Stretch

pretzel-stretch

  • Begin lying flat on your back, both knees bent.
  • Cross one leg over the other so that your ankle is resting on the opposite knee.
  • Gently pull the uncrossed leg toward your chest until you feel a deep stretch in your glute.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

3. Twisting Glute Stretch

twisting-glute-stretch

  • Begin sitting on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Bend one knee, keeping the other extended.
  • Drape your opposite arm across your bent knee and twist toward it until you feel a stretch in your glute and outer hip.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

4. Seated Leg Cradle

seated-leg-cradle

  • Begin sitting cross-legged on the floor.
  • Lift your left leg, hooking your calf over your left arm. Cradle your foot in your handles.
  • Now slowly lift your leg until you feel a deep stretch in your glutes and hip.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

5. Deep Lunge

deep-lunge

  • Begin standing tall.
  • Extend your right leg behind you, lowering down into a deep lunge position. If you can, you can touch your right knee to the floor.
  • You will feel a deep stretch in the glute of your left leg, plus an opening of your hip flexor in your right leg.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

6. Stacked Knee (Cow Face) Glute Stretch

stacked-knee-cow-face

  • Begin sitting on the floor, legs bent in front of you.
  • Slide your left foot under your right leg until it’s next to your right hip.
  • Now, try to bring your right foot over to your left hip. You can let your right leg rest on top of your left as you do this.
  • You should feel a deep stretch in your right glute. You can lean forward over your legs to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs so that your left leg will be over your right.

7. Leg Crossover

leg-crossover

  • Begin lying flat on your back, legs extended.
  • Now, lift your right hip and leg, crossing it over your left, while keeping your back and shoulders flat on the ground. You will feel a stretch in your glute, as well as in your lower back and hips.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.

8. Happy Baby Pose

happy-baby-pose

  • Begin lying face-up on the floor.
  • Draw your feet up and grab them with your hands. Gently pull them toward your chest until you feel a glute stretch.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • This pose is also great for stretching the hips and low back region.

9. Couch Stretch

couch-stretch

  • Begin standing in front of your couch, facing away (you can also use a wall for this).
  • Rest your right knee up against the back of the couch. This will feel sort of like a lunge.
  • Bend your left leg, keeping your glutes engaged and your torso straight. Know that you may not be able to raise your torso completely at first.
  • Also be sure to keep your hips in line with your chest, avoiding letting your glutes creep up or your hips sag toward the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

How to Make Stretches Easier or More Challenging

Each of these stretches can be supplemented with different types of equipment to deepen your stretch, or further loosen tight glutes. I’ve outlined some of your options.

Straps

yoga-straps

Yoga straps can be used to either deepen a glute stretch or assist you in working up to a full stretch, depending on how you use them.

For example, to deepen the pretzel stretch, wrap your yoga strap around the thigh of the foot you have on the ground and pull it toward your chest. This will assist in lifting this leg close to your chest, which will then deepen the glute stretch felt in the opposite leg.

Check out this blog post for 6 more strap stretches to soothe your muscle tension.

Foam Roller

foam roller

Foam rolling is a way to basically give yourself a deep tissue massage at home. If you feel like stretching isn’t getting deep enough into your glute muscles to loosen a spot of tension, try adding a foam roller to your routine.

  • Begin sitting on your foam roller, knees bent with one leg crossed over the other (in a similar position as the pretzel stretch).
  • Shift  your weight onto the glute of your crossed leg and slowly roll back and forth, hovering over any tense areas.
  • Switch legs and roll your other glute.

Want more foam roller exercise ideas? Check out this blog post.

Lacrosse Ball

lacrosse-ball-massage

Lacrosse balls, or massage balls as they’re sometimes called, offer similar benefits to foam rollers, but their smaller size makes it a little easier to isolate tense areas.

Try this easy glute massage using a lacrosse ball:

  • Place a lacrosse ball against a wall. Place your glute on the other side and gently roll your glute in circles, pausing for 20 to 30 seconds on any tight areas.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Get more ideas here.

More Flexibility, Better Performance

These tools and stretches for glutes will ease any tension and tightness you may experience from lack of flexibility and excessive sitting.

You may also notice an increase in performance and better squat mobility once you start to open up your glutes and hips – a win-win alongside pain relief.

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Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.