For a long time, I’ve known I’ve had an issue with my hips. They have always felt tight and particularly uncomfortable however I could never quite put my finger on what the issue was. My hips were fine rotating outwards and this is the position where my hips spent most of their time.
However, since I’ve started to experiment with improving my posture, I decided to look a little closer at what the issue is, and it seems I was totally oblivious to the fact that you are supposed to also be able to internally rotate your hips!
This post covers a brief summary of my research on how to improve hip internal rotation.
What is Internal Hip Rotation?
The Video above shows the hip being internally rotated.
Internal hip rotation is the movement you make when you twist your femur inward and your foot away from midline when in a seated position. Do not get confused with hip external rotation. This is where the femur/thigh turns away from the midline of the body and the knee turns outward.
If you’re like me and have poor hip mobility, you may find that your hips feel particularly tight, and when you internally rotate your hips you may feel a pinching sensation.
Being able to internally rotate your hips is important for hip health and particularly if you are an athlete or someone who does a lot of squats and deadlifts. Someone lacking in the ability to internally rotate their hips may find their feet stuck in an externally rotated position with their feet sticking outwards in a similar fashion to duck feet. Without hip rotation both ways (internally and externally) you will lose range of motion and your hips will feel stiff.
How to Test Internal Hip Rotation
A lot of people have problems internally rotating their hips and they don’t even know it. If you are unsure whether you do have hip mobility issues you will want to try the following test.
You can conduct a simple test by adopting a similar position as the man in the video above. Lie down on your front, with your legs stretched out. Put your leg at 90 degrees and allow that leg to flop out to the side, making sure to keep the opposite hip firmly on the ground. From here you want to assess the angle that your leg can rest outward.
An angle of 30 degrees can be considered good and reflects a good range of motion for the average person. Athletes should be looking for around 45 degrees (similar to the image).
On the other hand, if your leg barely moves to create any angle then it’s likely that you are lacking in internal hip mobility. In my own test, my legs barely moved 5 degrees and it was somewhat of a humbling experience!
How to Fix Internal Rotation of the Hip
The good news is that you can train your hips to be able to get better at rotating internally. The first step is to address any tight muscles in the hip area, followed by creating the movement of internal rotation in the hips, and finally by activating the muscles used in your new learned motion.
Much of the following exercises and information was taken from the video above from GuerillaZen.com, and it’s recommended you give it a quick watch to better understand the following exercises.
1. Roll Out Tight Spots in The Hips
The first step is to loosen the tight areas of the hips with a massage ball. Lie on your front and place the ball around your hip area. Put pressure on the ball with your hip and roll it around. If you find a tight or tender spot, hold the ball on the area. Repeat this on both hips spending at least 1-2 minutes on each.
You can also try rolling the lateral hip rotators which are underneath your butt and toward the outside of your leg. To get them with a massage ball you will have to sit on the ball, rather than lie on your front.
2. Create Internal Rotation Movement in The Hip Joint
The next step is to mobilise the hip joint by moving your leg internally whilst in a seated position. To do this, sit down and pull your legs in like in the image below.
Place your hands on the ground behind you for stability and hold your toe upwards in a flexed position to stabilise and protect your knees as this move can put unnecessary stress on the knees. If you have knee issues then you may want to look at some alternative exercises.
Next, you want to internally rotate your knee inwards and towards the ground, then left your leg back up. During the first few reps, this may feel particularly tight but ought to loosen up as you continue. Repeat on both hips as needed doing at least 20-40 reps on each leg.
3. Teach The Muscles This New Movement
After mobilising your hips you now want to now activate the muscles involved in the internal rotation of your hips. There’s a good chance that over time these muscles have become dormant since this type of movement hasn’t been used much. You will need to teach your body that you want to make this kind of movement again in the future.
Lie on your side and place a foam roller (other objects may work too such as a large massage ball) between your knees. Next, you’ll want to lift your ankle upwards and into the air. You may find this extremely challenging and may experience some fatigue early on. Try to do at least 2 sets of 15 reps on each hip.
Internal Hip Rotation Stretches
In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the best internal rotation stretches.
You will want to proceed with caution especially when stretching out the hips by rotating them. If you are severely lacking mobility in the hips then you’ll need to be gentle. Apply light pressure in the beginning and as you develop flexibility you can ramp it up a notch.
Different people will find that different stretches work best for them. Find the one that works for you and continue to use that stretch to increase mobility.
I recommend watching the video above for instructions on how to stretch your hips, but I will also break down the stretches below.
– Hurdle Stretch
To do the hurdle stretch, sit down on the floor and put one leg out in front of you externally rotated at 90 degrees. Place one leg behind you at 90 degrees in an internally rotated stance. At this point, you may find your torso shifting away from the internally rotated back leg. To feel a stretch, pull your torso and pelvis back towards that leg and square your hips forward.
The more upright you are, and the more you lean toward the back leg, the more intense a stretch you’ll get. Move around and find the hip stretch that works best for you.
– Standing Hip Stretch
To do this stretch you will need a high surface that you can rest one leg on. Place your shins on the surface at a 90-degree angle making sure that your pelvis does not sink backwards. Engage the glutes and push your pelvis forward to feel a stretch in the hip area.
You can play around with the intensity of this stretch by how much you push your pelvis forward and sink downward.
– Lying Hip Internal Rotation Stretch
If the other stretches don’t appear to be working for you then this one may be worth a go. In this stretch, you’ll need a weight or heavy object to hold your leg in an internally rotated position whilst you move your hip to feel a stretch. The video above explains how to do this stretch.
– Banded Hip Stretch
This Stretch requires a band and a support to tie it to. To do this stretch, sit down on the floor and put your thigh through the band, which is connected to a support. You should be sitting at a distance that so that the band pulls at your knee. If you’ve found the correct seated distance, you should feel a stretch in the hip.
– Lying Banded Hip Stretch
This stretch requires a band or a belt. If you don’t have any of those a rolled up towel will also work. First, lie down on the floor and lift one knee up. Place the band around the arch of your foot and pull the foot in towards your chest. From there you rotate that leg from side to side.
Increasing Mobility Can Take Time
This is the three-step process I’ve been using to work on my own hip mobility and I am slowly starting to see the angle at which my hip internally rotates improve. You’ll want to bear in mind that it’s best to do the following exercise routine regularly and when your muscle tissues are warmed up such as after a workout or hot shower.
To have healthy and mobile hips you will not only want to be able to internally rotate your hips, but also have sufficient external rotation. If you feel you need to work on your external rotation also, see my guide on how to improve external hip rotation.
In addition, if you have tight hips and need further release, you may also want to check out my page on how to stretch and release the hip flexors.
Hopefully, over time you will see an improvement. Feel free to leave any suggestions for what you are currently trying or even better, what worked for you! Good luck!