You only need three moves and six minutes to strengthen your legs and soothe stiff hips

Strengthen your hips, core and back with this short routine

Physiotherapist Helen O'Leary performing a wide leg side-to-side
(Image credit: Complete Pilates / Helen O'Leary)

Spending large chunks of your day sitting down can cause your hip flexor muscles to weaken and tighten. This can result in stiff hips, which can negatively impact your posture and affect the way move.

Many of us are guilty of not getting enough movement in our day, thanks to desk jobs and the lure of a comfy couch. Doing some mobility work to break up your sedentary routine can help you stay limber. 

This three-move sequence, from physiotherapist and Complete Pilates founder Helen O'Leary, will strengthen your legs, hips and core, as well as stretching your spine—ideal for anyone often found hunched over a laptop. 

1. Wide leg side-to-side

How to do it

Lie face-up on a yoga mat, then raise your knees and place your feet on either edge of the mat. Let both your knees fall to your left so your left thigh is nearly lying against the ground. Your right leg should fall over your left one so your right knee is roughly on top of your left foot. Exhale and bring your knees back to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. Hold for two minutes on each side.

"The side-to-side is a great exercise if you are feeling a bit stiff in your back or hips and just want a quick release, or if you just want some mindful relaxation at the end of a workout," says O'Leary.

"It gets you moving from your ankles to your head. You can also do it with your legs together but you won't get quite the same hip mobility."

2. Sumo squat

How to do it

Stand upright with your feet wider than hip-distance apart and your toes pointed slightly outwards. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your hips towards the floor. As you do this, pull your knees wide so you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Sink as low as your mobility allows. Press down into your feet to return to standing. Do this, slowly, for two minutes.

"The sumo squat is a strong exercise for your quadriceps, gluteals (backside muscles), hamstrings and calves—it's a great all-round lower body work out," O'Leary says.

"It will target the glutes and hamstrings more than a regular squat.  The wide position of the legs will also work on hip mobility and the deep hip external rotator muscles which have an important stabilizing role in the hip joint. 

"This exercise will  stretch out the inner thighs, or adductors, too."

3. Thigh stretch

How to do it

Start in a high kneeling position, with your knees on the ground directly beneath your hips. Your thighs and torso should form a straight line perpendicular with the floor. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. Keeping your thighs and torso in a straight line, slowly lean backwards until you feel a big pull in the front of your thighs. You should feel your abs start working too. Pause here for a second before returning to the starting position. Repeat for two minutes.

Sometimes called a "reverse Nordic curl", this move targets the quadriceps (leg muscles on the front of the thigh) and the hip flexor muscles.

Like the sumo squat, it strengthens your muscles as well as stretching them, which can help combat joint pain and tightness. 

How to use this routine

This is a flexible routine which can be used as a standalone mobility training routine, pre-workout warm up or, in the case of the sumo squats and reverse Nordic curls, even form part of a functional strength training session.

"You may find that these exercises are tough enough as they are when used as part of a strength training workout," O'Leary says. 

"Or you can add load to make them more challenging. You can add weights, such as a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells, to your sumo squat, and you can hold a medicine ball to make the reverse Nordic more challenging."

If you don't have any weights at home but want to give strength training a try, an adjustable dumbbell is a brilliantly versatile training tool to start out with.

Take a look at our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells to see if any of our favorite tried and tested products fit your training needs. 

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.