If you want to be able to squat well — or really, move around and do any athletic activity well — just remember one simple adage: It's all in the hips.
That's not just a silly saying from a '90s comedy. Using the power from your hips is essential for everything from your power clean or deadlift to swinging a golf club. You're more than likely using your hips anytime you generate force, no matter the movement.
If your hips are stiff and you lack mobility, however, you might struggle to do things like squatting and swinging. Not only are you at risk for injuries if your hip flexors are in bad shape, but you're making exercises harder for yourself as well — when your body is tight and lacking mobility, it has to fight against these poorly moving tissues.
All in all, moves like the bodyweight squat should feel natural and pain free. Check out these 5 moves to improve your hips and mobility, so you can move even better.
1. Banded Wall Squat
Put your thumbs in a resistance band and bring it behind your back, creating loops on both ends. Then sit down on the floor next to a wall, and place your feet flat on the wall in your squat stance. Next, loop the band around your knees and lay down. From the side, this should look like a deep squat with your feet shoulder-width apart and touching the wall, your knees bent, and your spine flat on the floor. Hold this position for about two minutes, but stop if you feel any sharp pains, pinching, tingling, or numbness.
What you're doing is using the tension from the bands to pull the femur deep in the hip capsule. Feel free to move your hips and knees around to find where your tight spots are.
If you want to challenge yourself afterwards, keep your left foot on the wall and cross your right for over your knee to stretch your glutes. Hold this position for two minutes, then switch sides and hold for another two minutes. Feel free to back away from the wall you feel any discomfort.
2. Downward Dog Hip Flexor Stretch
Start on the ground in a pushup/plank position, then hinge at the hips, driving them up and back, and bring your feet closer to your hands. Pull your hips toward the ceiling and your heels to the ground. Keep your back flat and extended. This is the down dog position.
Brace your hands to the floor before picking up one leg and rotating your hip over, as if you were driving it toward your opposite elbow. Hold your leg in position, maintaining your posture and balance, before returning to the down dog position.
Make sure to move slowly, especially when you're first trying out the move for the first time. This should be smooth, not jerky, so you get the most out of the stretch.
3. Elevated Pigeon Stretch
For this move, you'll need an elevated platform or box. Raise one leg and place it on the platform, bending your knee at a 90-degree angle. Keep your opposite leg planted on the ground, squeezing your glutes.
Hinge at the hips and lean your torso over your legs as far as is comfortable, then move side to side, keeping your posture stable by bracing yourself with your hands. You can also place your arm on the inside of your raised leg and rotate your torso, opening your chest to stretch.
4. Shin Box Switches
Sit down on the ground, bringing your legs into a "90-90 position" — bend your front leg internally, and your back leg externally, so both are pointed in the same direction. This is the starting position.
Keeping your feet on the ground, switch your hip position so your front and back legs switch directions. Keep your torso as upright as possible throughout the movement.
Once you're used to the movement, add a hip raise at the top of each switch. Rise up on your knees and pause for a beat before returning back to the 90-90 position for the next rotation.
5. Couch Stretch
Find a wall and a pad to kneel on for this exercise. Take a knee close to the wall, resting your raised foot against the wall for support. Lean back so that your foot is between your butt and the wall.
Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to activate the stretch, keeping your knee close to the wall. To hold the stretch for longer periods of time, find a prop to support yourself on the side of your body you're kneeling on.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.