Tight Glute Stretches for Stiff Hips & Squat Struggles

Tight Glute Stretches to Get Healthy, Mobile Hips

By Coach E

Improve your hip mobility for real-world movements with these three tight glute stretches. Boost tissue quality, and build a functional deep squat.

Hey, Coach E here, and welcome to another article where I’m going to help you move freely and without pain. Today we’re going to focus on the glutes, stretching tight glutes, and improving the range of motion in hip flexion – that’s when you bring your knee up to your chest.

Most glute stretches won’t improve your hip mobility for real-world movements, like squatting deep or lifting your knees up high to run fast. This article is based on our systematic approach that will give you lasting gains in your hip mobility.

If you want to follow along with the video, click over to How to Properly “Stretch” Your Glutes to Improve Hip Mobility & Squat Depth on our YouTube channel.

Flexibility vs. Mobility

Now, people often think, “Oh, the glutes are limiting hip flexion range because the glutes are lengthened when you get into this range of motion. So we should stretch the glutes.”

Well, this is something that I’m going to comment on really briefly. It’s around the topic of flexibility versus mobility. Flexibility is defined very simply as your ability to be bent. So something or somebody else is bending you, a partner, an opponent, or gravity.

Mobility, on the other hand, is your ability to bend. In other words, your ability to get into a range of motion, position, or posture. Those are two distinct concepts, and I think it’s very important to know the difference.

Now, where do these come from?

flexibility vs mobility

Well, the old model and the standard stretches that you’ll see for everything are based on a passive, isolated, and muscle-centric look at range of motion.

Whereas the approach that we take is based on an active, integrated, and neuromuscular perspective on range of motion.

The bottom line is if we’re moving around in the world and we’re playing sports, or playing with our kids, getting up and down from the ground, mobility is what we need, not flexibility.

So how do we get greater mobility?

There are many different ways to improve your mobility for real-world or athletic tasks. Our approach is based on creating a foundation for movement based on four pillars:

  1. Tissue quality
  2. Activation
  3. Alignment
  4. Active range of motion

Instead of talking about it more, I’m going to walk you through three exercises that will improve your hip flexion range of motion. It’s not necessarily just stretching your glutes, and that’s going to translate to the tasks that you want to do in your everyday life, the gym, and sport.

Tight Glute Stretches for Mobility

This little routine you can do 2 – 3 times a week, and you’ll definitely want to repeat this for at least four weeks because it’s not just doing one exercise one time and feeling some kind of temporary improvement. It’s teaching your body and training your body and forcing your tissues to adapt and your brain to lay down new movement patterns that will give you these results that persist.

Exercise 1: 4-Point Hip Capsule Mob

The first exercise I’m going to walk you through is the 4-Point Hip Capsule Mobilization. This addresses the tissue quality part of the formula.

For this technique, you can use a strength band, but if you don’t have one, you can just do the exercise without it.

You’re going to set up in a four-point position with the band wrapped around your thigh and pulling backward, maintaining anterior pelvis tilt and your natural lumbar curve.

You’re going to drive your hip back until you feel some tightness in the posterior hip. So it might be the glute, but it might be deeper than the glute, which is the hip joint capsule.

From here, once you’ve identified some tightness, you can do some circles slowly in one direction. Five circles in one direction and then five circles in the other direction. You are actively signaling the cells in the tight muscle, fascia or capsule to lengthen!

4-Point Hip Capsule Mob - tight glutes exercise

  1. Anchor a strength band to something sturdy and put in the crease of your hip in a 4-point position
  2. Drive your hips back until you feel tightness
  3. Do 5 circles with your hips in one direction
  4. Do 5 circles with your hips in the other direction
  5. Find another tight area, repeat

Find 2 – 3 tight areas and do 5 circles in each direction.

Make sure you’re breathing naturally through it. From there, you can explore and find different areas of the hip that might be tight and restricted by rotating your hips or moving your ankle.

4-Point Hip Capsule Mob - variations

In moving your ankle out, you can find different areas to mobilize. This will ensure that the posterior joint hip capsule, which often gets tight and restricted from all the sitting that we do, will get mobilized.

If the capsule is tight, it’s going to push that head of the femur (that’s the leg bone) forward anteriorly in the hip joint. The problem with this is when you go to squat and when you go to flex your hip, you can run into impingement issues in the hip.

Femoral acetabular impingement is the name given to that condition.

So it’s really important to ensure that the hip joint capsule is mobilized so we can do the movement that we want without pinching any of the structures in the hip.

Exercise 2: Hip Flexion ERE

The perfect follow-up exercise to mobilizing your posterior joint capsule is our Hip Flexion ERE, which stands for End-Range Expansion.

Now this exercise strengthens the muscles that get you into this hip-flexed range of motion, which are the hip flexors like the psoas. It also strengthens the muscles that get you out of this range of motion, which are the glutes.

For this technique, you’ll need a high box or a table – something sturdy that you can put your foot up onto. I use the ledge here at the studio.

Hip Flexion ERE - exercise for tight glutes

  1. Lift your foot up onto the box/ledge
  2. Lift the foot off the box, activating the hip flexors
  3. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  4. Place your foot back on the box
  5. Drive your foot into the box, using your glutes
  6. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  7. Lift the foot again using the hip flexors
  8. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  9. Slow lower your foot back to the floor, under control

That’s one cycle. Do 3 – 5 cycles per leg.

You want to maintain good posture and a strong, stable support leg. As you lift the foot off the ground, keep trying to activate those hip flexors.

You’re trying to get a strong contraction in the hip flexors, maintain good posture, and breathe naturally. As you slowly lower back to the table, maintain your posture.

Activate those glutes and try to ramp up that activation level. It should be as strong and intense as you can tolerate. To finish this off, you do another activation of the hip flexors by lifting the foot off the surface. You’re trying to get deeper into that range of motion.

The whole time, you’re breathing naturally.

Again, intensity is the key. So if you have any pain or anything, only go up to a level where you don’t feel pain. But if you’re pain-free, then work it! That’s how you’re going to build strength. That’s how you’re going to teach your brain that you control this range of motion — you can bring yourself in there, you can stabilize there. That’s how you get increases in hip mobility that lasts.

We like to do 3 – 5 cycles holding each activation for 10 – 15 seconds. But if you want, you can definitely do more.

Exercise 3: Reverse Lunge From A Step

The third and final exercise of the tight glute stretches I’m going to walk you through today to improve your hip flexion range of motion and give you improvement, at last, is the Reverse Lunge From A Step.

Personally, I love the lunge movement pattern and doing reverse lunges to build strength. It’s something that I do a lot more than back squats, front squats, or the squat movement pattern.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

Number one, it’s easy. You can load it up without putting your low back at risk, especially when you’ve got a heavy load on your back, doing a back squat, and you’re aiming for a deep range of motion.

If you don’t have that good range of motion and good stability and control there, you can go into a flexed lumbar spine and a little bit of posterior pelvis tilt, AKA the Butt Wink. That can put your low back at risk.

back squats poor mobility

As somebody who’s got a history of low back issues from the surgery I had when I was 14 and as somebody who’s getting a little bit older and just wants to stay healthy, strong, and athletic, reverse lunges are a great choice.

I think they’d be good for you too.

For the Reverse Lunge From Step, you just get up on something step-height. It could be stairs, or it could be a sturdy box or something. Then you’re just going to alternate legs, keeping good posture. The front foot stays flat. Stepping back, getting into an extended hip position at the bottom.

reverse lunge from step tight glutes exercise

  1. Stand on the step
  2. Step back with one foot
  3. Slowly lower your knee to the ground
  4. Raise up and put your foot back on the step

Alternate legs for 2 – 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps per leg.

Try and kiss your knee to the ground and come up under control using mostly your front foot. Maintain good posture. Keep your weight upfront, mostly on the front foot. That’s what’s bringing you up.

Now, when you’re doing this, you definitely want your front knee to go over your toe, as long as the foot stays flat.

This old concept of the knee can’t go in front of the toe. That’s a myth. Do not listen to that. You need to be able to do this in everyday life. Every time you go up and down stairs, your knee goes in front of your toes. So why not train it in the gym and build that strength and build that range of motion that we use all the time?

Another variation that you can try if you’re into strength challenges and you like to lift heavy weights or you like to really push yourself is the single leg squat with the knee back, trying to kiss the knee to the ground.

For the variation, you won’t need the step.

_reverse lunge from step variation

  1. Put all of your weight on one foot
  2. Extend the other behind you holding it in the air
  3. Lower the back knee to the ground, maintaining weight and balance on the front foot
  4. Rise back up slowly
  5. Switch legs

For this one, you’re just on the ground. Body weight only. Arms can go forward, counterbalance, go nice and slow. The foot stays flat. Kiss that knee to the ground. Then come up under control.

I warned you this is tough to be able to do it slowly and under control like that. So if you don’t have the strength yet, don’t worry about it. Just do the Reverse Lunge from a Step and build up your strength with that exercise.

You can use dumbbells or barbells for the step version. Load it up and get stronger to the point where you can pull off those single-leg versions.

This exercise will integrate the range of motion gains you made using the previous two exercises in this hip flexion range into a fundamental movement pattern, teaching your brain that this is a range that you control and that you’re strong in. And your brain will reward you by giving you this range of motion for good.

Next Steps

So do it 2 – 3 times a week for 4 weeks. That’s when you’re going to get the best results.

To quickly summarize the exercises, use the chart below for quick reference on sets and reps.

tight glute stretches routine summary

That’s all she wrote today.

If you like that, check out this article on strengthening your piriformis, an important muscle for good hip function.

And, if you’ve got any sort of hip pain, check out the Hip Pain Solution. If you’ve got pain in the hip, the front, the back, or the side, check that program out. We’ll walk you through our approach to get rid of that pain for good.

Thanks again for reading. We’ll see you next time. Peace.

“I used to have a very active lifestyle…kickboxing, hiking, rappelling, etc., but I had a serious MVA many years ago (multiple pelvic fractures, fractured sacrum, dislocated SI joint), and the professional consensus is that I never actually healed but have instead been compensating for a very long time.

The HPS program has helped a TON. I’m still working on many areas of dysfunction due to years of damaging compensatory patterns that have affected the entire left side of my body.

BTW, your shoulder program really helped the shoulder on that side!!!! Better than any PT I had gone to for shoulder rehab! I’m probably going to try your other programs, too, because I really hope to rappel the waterfalls again in CO in September!!!!!!

I wish I would have found the program sooner. It would have saved me a lot of time and money as I hit my insurance max on PT visits and had to pay almost $1,600 out of pocket for PT.”

– Dena

This article was reviewed and updated on June 28, 2023 by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Erin Boynton, MD, FRCS to include new research and information on latest surgical developments. Read more about Dr. B here.

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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