After being told for years by fitness pros that doing a dynamic warmup before I start my workouts is absolutely essential, I’m now (finally) diligent about priming my body for boot camp, rather than going from zero to 100 the way I used to. Within that stretching sesh, I always have to spend extra time mobilizing my hips with hip flexor stretches, since desk-chair-sitting doesn’t exactly leave me prepped and ready for a run. And allow me to share with you my new favorite dynamic hip-opening stretch: the gate opener.
This move involves opening and closing the “gates” of your hips, which means pulling your knee up, rotating it out and down, then doing it all in reverse to close that gate. “The opening and closing the gates hip stretch is a time-proven staple because it gets to many muscles in one move,” says Andrea Marcellus, fitness expert and creator of the And/Life app, who says it’s great before any athletic activity because it stretches the psoas muscle—an all-important muscle group located through your pelvis, lower back, and femur. This makes the stretch a “huge component in stability and properly firing hip rotators to help keep your knees in alignment,” she says.
Austin Martinez, director of education at StretchLab, adds that the gate opener is a great go-to dynamic warmup because of how it “integrates the muscles around your hips.” Plus it preps your body for high impact or repeated use of certain muscles, like cycling, rowing, running, and HIIT. “For anyone that has a job that involves a lot of sitting, the gate opener stretch can be a good way to wake up your hips and help reduce lower back pain, too,” he says.
To do it properly, start with your feet hip-width apart, and transfer your weight to your right side. Lift your left knee up and across your body to hip height or higher, then abduct to the left, opening your hip as far as you can without over-stretching—this opens the gate. Then reverse the motion, adducting the leg in and back to starting position to close that gate. “Be sure to keep your hips forward throughout the move and don’t go too fast,” says Martinez. Happy hips, here you come.
Also good to do pre-workout are this upper body stretch before arm exercises, and these core stretches before you get that ab work in.