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Hip Mobility Week 6 - Figure 4 Hip Stretch

By David Drinks

So far, we’ve gone over several excellent hip mobility drills that you can do to improve or sustain your hip mobility in what we call the sagittal plane. This is the plane of movement that is straight forward and backward, and we tested your mobility in that plane of motion by doing the straight leg raise test and the Thomas test.

Hopefully, you’ve mastered – or at least made progress – on your hip mobility in those tests already! However, as I said upfront when introducing this series, the hip is a joint that has great freedom of motion in all planes of movement, and therefore, we need to train it accordingly.

With that said, we can’t stop yet! We have to expand our hip mobility work outside of the sagittal plane. Today, we do just that with the Figure 4 Hip Stretch:

As you can see, the figure 4 hip stretch is a great way to work on your hip external rotation, a quality of hip mobility that is sub-par for many people.

The muscles on the lateral and posterior aspect of the hip that we’re stretching during this stretch, are often very tight in folks who have lost hip rotation mobility. You’ve probably heard of the glute muscles, and maybe even the piriformis, but in reality, there are about 9 small hip rotator muscles in total in this area on the back of the hip.

Adding to that, the sciatic nerve courses directly through this same area. As is often the case when you have a lot of muscles, nerves, and other structures coming together in a small area; problems can develop.

There are cases where the muscles even get so tight and overactive that they impinge on the sciatic nerve, causing pain, tingling, and numbness to course down the leg!

Now, I won’t be so short-sighted as to say that the figure 4 stretch will “fix your sciatica”, or “eliminate piriformis syndrome.” It may be a piece to the puzzle, but there’s also a lot more that goes into these complicated neurological syndromes.

However, our focus in doing the figure 4 hip stretch is improving your function. What I mean by that is, if you are lacking hip external rotation, you will struggle to even put on and tie your shoes. You’re also going to tend to place more stress on the low back and the knee joint to make up for the rotation that you can’t get at your hip.

For these reasons alone, the figure 4 hip stretch can be a great step on the road to improving your external hip range of motion, and thus helping you move better through your hips!

The other nice thing about the figure 4 stretch is that it’s very accessible. By accessible, I mean that just about everyone can do it in one form or another. So, no matter where you’re at right now, the figure 4 stretch is likely a good way to work on your hip rotation without causing any problems elsewhere. Plus, as I said in the video, you can adjust the stretch to be sure that you’re getting the right stretch for you.

How Much?

As far as how much to do, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. More is not always better, but if you have a serious limitation in hip external rotation, you may benefit from doing this as often as once or twice a day.

At the very least, if someone needs this stretch, I like to make it a part of the warm-up for every workout that they do. This way, they’ll be sure to do it at least two or three times/week.

For sets, reps, and time holding the stretch, I often like to do 2 or 3 sets of 15-30 sec holds on each side. If you have one hip that needs it more than the other, you can feel free to go a bit higher on that side.

The bottom line is, if you need more hip external rotation, start working today on your figure 4 hip stretch! Do it for a couple of weeks, and retest the original external hip rotation test that I gave you to see if you’re making progress.


Want to learn more about training your body to Move Better, Feel Better, and Live Better? Our exercise programs at the Med Gym are custom made to get you exactly what you need.

Whether you come into the gym or work with us via Med Gym Online, we can help you get on the right track with your movement and fitness.

Contact us here to talk about how we can help you develop an exercise routine that improves your hip mobility and so much more!

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