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Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes – Part 1

How To Fix A Pain In The Butt…Before It Hurts

As you may know, Jess and I have been training for the NYC Marathon over the past few months. (Stay tuned for our race review!)

During the last couple training runs, Jess had developed a weird upper leg / hip pain. Needless to say, it freaked us both out because we had come way to far in our training and planning for this race (you should see the prices of NYC hotels these days!).

Important side note: Another key factor to consider here is the fact that a hip problems can quickly and easy transfer into a knee, foot, lower back, or whatever else kind of pain. It’s crazy to think, but it does make sense when analyzing the entire kinetic chain. Just like that song “The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bones’ connected to the…” Same idea goes for muscles and joints.

And that’s exactly why I decided to waste no time in creating a rehab strategy, which is really more of a prevention plan to avoid any possible injury…at all cost!

But here’s the deal with aches and pains: it can be really difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the problem!

So our plan of attack was to be well-rounded and relentless. When it comes to a pain in the butt, we’re not leaving any crack or crevasse un-searched. That pun was totally intended!

I journeyed out to dig up some of the most effective stretches that I know of the are a critical key in staying healthy throughout the hips.

Next, I figured out some crucial hip and glute exercises that are proven to help with common weak link muscles that could be part of the culprit here.

So my bottom line philosophy is this: by stretching tight muscles to regain flexibility, and by strengthening weak muscles to build endurance capability, we’ll restore muscle balance to alleviate any pain and eliminate the risk of injury.

Jess incorporated these stretches into her last few weeks of training and she made it to the NYC marathon starting line pain free and injury free!

Here’ s what the Healthy Hips program looks like:

4 Best Hip Stretches For Triathletes

Pigeon Pose Stretch

This relaxing stretch is one of my favorites and I know that you’ll love it too. When I do it, I feel all the tension in my hips and lower back fade away.

All you do is for this stretch is bend your leg in front of yourself, rest your weight on it, and stick your other leg back. Hang on, I’m going to take a break and do this stretch right now…

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Pigeon Pose |

You’ll notice the stretch in different areas of your hips and glutes if you try changing the angle of your bent leg.  You can also lean forward and put your arms on the floor for a deeper stretch.

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Pigeon Pose |

Pretzel Bun Stretch

Ok, so I will admit I love a burger with a pretzel bun, but that’s not why I named this stretch. Nope, more obviously, it’s because your leg will look like a pretzel and it’s a stretch for your buns…duh!

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Pretzel Bun Stretch |

Lie on your back, and then cross one leg over the other like how your dad reads the newspaper. Rock your knees up toward your chest and reach through to grab 1) the back your thigh if you are less flexible, or 2) your shin if you can handle that.

It’s a wonderful glute stretch, and as you get more flexible, you’ll get more leverage and range of motion in your hips.


Piriformis / Torso Twist

While you’re still on your back, bring one knee to your chest. Then let it flop over to the side as you twist your torso in the opposite direction. It will give you a better stretch if you continue to keep your knee higher. Breath deeply and you’ll feel it nicely throughout your upper body as well.

Your piriformis is a small muscle deep in your glute and it keeps your legs straight when you run. When the piriformis is tight, it can irritate your sciatic nerve and you don’t want that to happen because it HURTS.

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Piriformis / Torso Twist |


Hip / Quad Combo

Go down into what a lot of people call the runner’s lunge stretch, but this time let your back knee rest on the ground. Now for the really challenging part: press your hips forward, and lean back with your upper body.

You should feel this stretch in the hip flexor of your front leg and your glute and hamstring of your bent leg. Your hip flexors are in the front of your leg and you use them for swimming, biking and running so they are very often tight. When they get tight, they cause poor posture and lower back pain.

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Hip/Quad Combo |


 Hip Huggers

Take a seat on the floor and cross you right leg over your left leg. You can keep your left leg straight or bend it like Jess is doing. Then, hug your knee, pulling it as close to your body as you can. You should feel this stretch in your IT band which runs on the outer part of your leg from your hip to your knee.

It’s important to keep your IT band loose because it can translate directly into knee and hip pain. But if it gets too tight, it can also negatively alter your running form which is a road to disaster.

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - Hip Huggers |

The Yogi Stretch

This is a perfect stretch to do right after the hip hugger stretch because it stretches your hip rotator muscles at a different angle. Simply transition to this stretch by dropping your leg and sitting indian style. Gently press your knees down for a deeper hip stretch.

Hip Strengthening Stretches and Exercises for Triathletes - The Yogi Stretch |


Hold all of these triathlon hip stretches for at least 30 seconds.

What are some of your favorite hip stretches?

Posted by Trainer +Davey Anderson 

About Author

Trainer DaveyTrainer Davey is an Orange County personal trainer at heart, but has since moved to Nashville and taken on the new challenge of triathlon training. Of course, he misses his home of Surf City...but Music City ain't so bad either!View all posts by Trainer Davey →

  1. dave

    Hi, Great post!
    may I ask, are these stretches good for a tight ITB?
    I’ve had issues ever since a marathon in 2012.


    • Jess Anderson
      Jess Anderson11-16-2013

      Thanks for the comment David! And you’re in luck! I have tight ITB’s too, so I’ll have Davey put together some stretches and we’ll do a post about it soon!

      • dave

        Great stuff!
        Both me and my pesky ITB’s look forward to it.

        Mega thanks!