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An Introduction to 90/90 Hip Mobility Exercises
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Feb 25, 2017
90/90 hip mobility work is highly effective for improving functional range of motion of your hip joints.
Before beginning 90/90 work, I suggest warming up your spine, particularly your lower spine, as sitting in the 90/90 position can put some strain on your spine and surrounding soft tissues, and thoroughly warming up your back will decrease risk of straining muscles and ligaments in and around your spine.
For a solid warm-up for your back, I would suggest Cow-Cat, Spinal Skipping Rope, Modified Unilateral Bridge, and Cobra Pose, all shown in this video and also at our Spinal Mobility Progressions page, linked here.
To begin 90/90 work, sit on your buttocks, with your feet
on the ground in front of you, knees bent, and legs spread about two times the width of your shoulders. You can lean back a bit with your trunk and rest your hands on the ground behind you. From this position, let both of your legs fall to your left until your outer left thigh comes to a rest on the ground to your left, and your inner right knee comes to a rest on the ground as well - you can rotate your trunk to face your left.
In this position where your left hip is externally rotated and your right hip is internally rotated, we'll call your left hip your front leg. This is called the 90/90 position, with your front knee bent at 90 degrees and your back knee also bent at 90 degrees. It's normal to feel like your trunk has to lean slightly to the left of your front leg.
Keeping your spine as straight as possible by engaging your core muscles, lean forward and down toward your front leg until you feel a good stretch through the outer portion of your left hip. Maintain this stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, breathing steadily as you hold this stretch.
Then, use all the strength you can comfortably muster to push your left leg into the ground - you should feel a strong contraction along the outer portion of your left hip. Maintain this contraction for 10 to 20 seconds, then relax for a second before going back to leaning forward to stretch the same muscle group - hopefully, you will find that you can stretch a little further than your could initially. Repeat this pattern of contracting your left hip to push your left leg into the ground, then stretching further. Generally, I suggest doing three sets of this pattern of contracting and stretching.
Then, maintaining the stretch described above, lift your right foot and ankle off the ground to whatever extent you can and do a few repetitions, all while maintaining the 90/90 position. This will lead to significant gains in active internal rotation of your right hip joint, which is arguably the most important range for optimal hip mobility. Initially, you may feel a little cramping in your right hip flexor region as you do this; gradually, over days or weeks, your nervous system and muscles will come to learn that this is range of motion that you can control without your hip flexors cramping, so be conservative and work at this on a gradual basis, starting even with one repetition of a single inch of upward movement of your right foot and ankle. Even if you cannot raise your right ankle an inch off the ground, the attempt to do so will train your nervous system and muscles to eventually be able to do this, so be sure to make the effort each time.
You can then rotate your legs the other way so that your right hip goes into external rotation and your left hip goes into internal rotation, with your right leg now becoming your front leg. But as you transition, try to keep your left hip externally rotated for a few seconds as externally rotate your right hip - this will help you develop abduction and external rotation of both of your hips.
Repeat the same pattern of stretching, contracting, and stretching your outer right hip muscles. Then, while maintaining this stretch, aim to do a few repetitions of internal rotation of your left hip by raising your left foot and ankle off the ground.
You can finish with another few seconds of holding both of your hips in external rotation, and even swivel back and forth a few times to feel full range of internal and external rotation of both hips.
For an overview of exercise progressions that you can work at to improve your mobility and balance in a systematic way, please feel free to visit our Mobility Exercise Progressions page here:
For some suggestions on how to set up a simple workout area at home, please feel free to view:
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