I’m a Pro Stretcher, and This Is the Best Way to Decompress Always-Tight Hips

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When it comes to making sure your body is loose and limber, you can rely on all sorts of recovery methods to do the job, and one of the easiest, quite simply, involves hanging out. Because we sit all day, every day, our hips get overly tight, and continually need to be loosened up or "decompressed". An easy way to do this on the reg is called "leg dangling".

"People live active lifestyles that consist of prolonged sitting, standing, walking, and working out, all of which can increase pressure on your hip joints," says Jeremy Crow, PT, director of clinical services at Spear Physical Therapy. "If someone is experiencing any hip pain, you can find pain relief in decompressing, or 'tractioning' your hips." This helps to neutralize the joint pressure and decrease the muscle guarding to boost recovery and help with your mobility (AKA: your ability to move more easily in life).

So how do you dangle? Find a surface that's about hip height and sit one leg on it, letting the other drop into space beneath you. "It's important to relax and breathe through the exercise, allowing gravity to unload and decompress your hips," says Spear, who recommends starting out with 30-second holds in an upright posture. "Afterward, take a break by assuming a normal standing position for about one minute, then repeat leg dangling three to five more times." If you want to make the decompressing stretch more intense, he says you can add an ankle weight (just watch out and stop the exercise if you feel any odd sensations like tingling when you do so).

While it feels really good anytime, anywhere, Crow particularly recommends doing it before a lower body-focused workout. "You should perform leg dangling prior to any lower body exercises to optimize lumbo-pelvic alignment, but it's safe to perform on a daily basis," he says. "It provides pain relief by providing minimal traction on the hip joint, and gravity can be used to safely increase joint space in the bones of the hips while increasing hip mobility when done correctly." Just be advised that he suggests checking with a physical therapist before trying leg dangling to make sure you don't have any imbalances or medical red flags that would "contraindicate" the move. Otherwise, you should be all good to hang.

For more body-stretching tips, here's a ballerina's guide on how to stretch your feet. And this is how to combine stretching and foam rolling for liquid legs. 

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