Improve Hip External Rotation with these 3 Exercises

Develop full range of external rotation of your hips

By Coach E

exercises to improve hip external rotation

Whether you want to up your hip external rotation for martial arts, yoga, to feel more mobile and agile or to train your movement longevity, look no further than these 3 exercises.

Why Improve Hip External Rotation?

To externally rotate your hip, your femur (thigh bone) rotates laterally, or out to the side.

If you are standing with your leg fully extended and straight, this results in your toes also pointing out to the side, away from the midline of your body.

If you’re sitting with your hip and knee flexed at 90 degrees, external rotation of the femur lifts your foot off the ground and brings it in toward the midline.

Hip external rotation (ER) plays a big role in a lot of the activities we do, from high-demand sports to just comfortably putting on your shoes [1].

You need a lot of hip external rotation to get into pigeon pose, which you might be familiar with if you’re a yogi, or if you’ve ever Googled piriformis stretches.

piriformis stretches

If you do Brazilian Jujitsu, hip ER is crucial when you’re in guard, especially for those wild and wacky Eddie Bravo techniques.

Whatever you like to do, we can all benefit from improving our hip mobility and gaining a bit more hip external rotation. These 3 exercises will do the trick.

3 Exercises to Improve Hip External Rotation

Standing Hip Rotation Dissociation

The first exercise is a dissociation technique – meaning it helps break commonly associated movement patterns, giving you better neuromuscular control in the process.

Plus, this move is a great warm-up to activate both the internal and external rotator muscles of your hip.

Here we are trying to dissociate hip external rotation from a lateral opening of the pelvis. As you laterally rotate the hip, you’ll try to turn the pelvis inward, or in the opposite direction.

Doing so will create powerful muscular activation and open up new movement options as you break down the old patterns.

Make sure not to overuse your neck and shoulder muscles as you attempt to turn your torso.

Exercise #1 to Improve Hip External Rotation - Standing Hip Rotation Dissociation

  • Stand on your left leg, letting your right leg hover off the ground before externally rotating your right femur so your toes point to the right
  • Maintain the external rotation of the right leg as you begin to turn your head and torso toward the left, holding for one deep 360° breath
  • Take the right leg into internal rotation (so the toes point inward) before turning your torso to look toward the right, holding for a deep breath
  • Complete 3 reps then switch sides

Hip ER Level 1 ERE

Now that we’ve broken up the movement patterns, we can turn our focus to mobility. This is an End Range Expansion (ERE) technique that will help you actively increase your range of motion.

If you can sit up nice and tall while you do this – great, that’s your goal. If you don’t have the range yet, no worries, just lean back in the chair and cross your leg however you are able to.

Exercise #2 to Improve Hip External Rotation - Hip ER Level 1 ERE

  • Sit in a chair with your right ankle crossed over your left knee
  • Externally rotate your right femur (this should result in your ankle starting to lift up off the knee) and hold for a slow 360° breath
  • Relax back to the starting position, then fire up internal rotation of the femur (which should feel like you are pushing your ankle down into the knee) and hold for a deep breath
  • Repeat external rotation once more to complete the cycle, then complete a full cycle of ER-IR-ER on the other side

Practice gradually building up the activation, maintaining activation through the hold, then releasing with control. As you get better at this, you can start to add in reps and complete 3-4 cycles on each side.

Hip External Rotation Split Squat

This last exercise is a functional integration drill that helps cement improvements in hip ER.

This closed chain, compound movement transfers the mobility we’ve gained through open chain strategies to patterns you’re more likely to use in sport and everyday life.

It puts your hip in an externally rotated position, then allows you to explore deeper ER (and challenge your strength and control) as you add in a squat.

Exercise #3 to Improve Hip External Rotation - Hip External Rotation Split Squat

  • Stand with hips square. Keep your right toes pointed forward, then step your left foot out to the side, externally rotating your hip so your toes are pointed to the left
  • Start to bend into your left leg, coming into a split squat position, while keeping your pelvis squared straight ahead
  • Squat as deep as you can while maintaining a squared forward pelvis, then return back to standing with control by pushing through the left foot
  • Complete 3-6 reps on each side

With these 3 simple exercises you are able to dissociate the motion of hip external rotation, activate your muscles fully, then integrate ER gains in a functional pattern, all while working to increase the end range of motion. Note: if you’re looking to improve hip internal rotation (IR), check out these 3 must-do exercises to improve hip IR and decrease impingement.

I suggest you throw these 3 moves into your routine 2-3 times per week. If you stick with it for 4-6 weeks, you’ll see some major results in both your mobility and control.

If you really want to dive in to improving your hip function, check out my Hip Control Course. It’s a comprehensive, multi-phase, 12 week course that covers every motion at the hip so that you can push your range, control, and function to a whole new level.

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.

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