Restore: the hips program

assessing and training hip joint mobility


Running-Specific Passive Flexibility

In the previous section, we looked in detail at hip joint articulation with CARs.  That’s a very “micro-look” at the joint itself, to see how it is moving.

In this area, we’ll look more holistically – think of it as a global picture of hip oriented resting tissue (or muscle) length – which we’ll call, at least for our purposes right now, running-specific passive flexibility.

Now you might be asking, “why is this a run-specific assessment?” 

Here’s why: The amount or relative level of passive flexibility that each person has is unique to them. Some of us are quite flexible in our legs and hips – others are much less so.

As an activity, distance running can have the longterm effect of leaving a distance runner on the “short end of the stick” so to speak – when it comes to muscle lengths. I’m speaking specifically of the legs (hamstrings and calves) and especially, the hips!

This can be especially true for aging runners as connective (soft) tissue like muscle and fascia become less elastic and more fibrotic.

This gradual “shortening” (sometimes thought of or interpreted as “tightness”) can often turn into a negative result – especially for a runner – if it ends up reducing or compromising hip or ankle range of motion and reducing stride length, putting even more stress on the soft tissues and joints.

Now, at this point, you might be thinking to yourself – “what’s passive flexibility? What’s the difference between it and mobility?”

If that’s the case, keep reading – we’ll address that question right now before moving any further ahead.

Passive Flexibility – Mobility – Active Flexibility?

What are the differences? Does it matter? (You bet it does!)


One of the important elements that you will be reading and hearing MORE about as you move through this program is…

…the difference between passive flexibility and mobility…and how that impacts how we will train.

  • We are assessing our passive flexibility and working on it to improve it, IF there’s an opportunity to do so…
  • And we are then training control of that flexibility and in effect, training mobility

If you’d like to do a “deeper dive” into this topic (and I hope you do because it’s important to your success), watch this video – it’s about 4 1/2 minutes long.

In it, I discuss the differences between passive flexibility and mobility…

…using the big-toe as an example of the kind of training we’ll do for our hips.

Don’t miss it!  (Be willing to come back and listen to this repeatedly to be sure it sticks. There’s a lot here).

To DOWNLOAD and PRINT a PDF of all of the written information on this page, CLICK HERE!

Now that we’ve brought some additional insight to the difference between passive flexibility and mobility, what’s next?

We need to remember that when it comes to tissue length and flexibility, N=1!  In other words, we’re all unique.

The “sample” flexibility levels I’m sharing with you in the upcoming videos are those I am demonstrating – and I’m 60 years old as I type this, with more than 40 years of competitive running in my background! 🙂 Let’s just agree I’m not the most flexible person you’ll find (times a hundred actually!)

What is the take-home point?

  • You may have TONS more passive flexibility than I do, especially if you are NOT A runner. That’s great! It means you can put all of your focus into improving stability and strength at end range with PAILs / RAILs, without needing to focus on improving passive tissue length. 
  • Conversely, you may have much less passive flexibility than I do, especially if you’ve ignored any kind of stretching or mobility work, OR have been injured in the past.
  • It’s quite likely you have some differences from one side to the other. This is true whether you’re a runner or not.  Your goal is to work toward reducing the asymmetry – while also understanding that we are, by nature, asymmetrical. We can’t, nor should we try, to create perfect symmetry.

Our goal with this flexibility assessment is simple:

We’re seeking relative tissue balance around the hips – front and back – inside and out. Nothing more, nothing less.

We want to find where the greatest AREA OF OPPORTUNITY is for us as individuals, so we can work on it.

That area is likely a weak link in our “chain.” Improve it, and everything gets better!

One last thing before I leave you to get started on your assessments: 

This is only a starting point. 

Once you get into the actual training, looking at passive stretching in these positions and doing some Progressive and Regressive Angular Isometric Loading (PAILs / RAILs), you’ll very likely learn much more about yourself and find some “new” end ranges. That’s OK!  We’re starting and moving in the right direction, that’s what matters. 

Take a look at your worksheet for these assessments. To PRINT a PDF of this worksheet, CLICK HERE!

We’ll begin with 90 / 90 for rotional hip mobility in a sitting position.

If you find that you are challenged in these positions on either or both sides, then obviously you will train using this same position ONCE you begin to train.

Take the time to identify, if you can, whether or not it is external or internal rotation that is the greatest area of opportunity.

If you’re unable to definitively identify which it is, don’t stress. Simply BEGIN with external rotation (where your knee is pointed away from the midline of the body.

You will learn more once you begin to train – AND benefit from training both directions (internal and external). Very often it is difficult to ascertain accurately.

“Shin-Box” for the Piriformis and Deep Hip Rotators, also in a sitting position.

NOTE: The assessment is in the first 4 1/2 minutes. What comes after is some SMR (self-myofascial release) and one additional movement also contained in this program – Bretzel 2.0!

Groin (also known as Short Adductor) Passive Flexibility

This is typically the position that is least likely to be THE greatest area of opportunity, but it is an important area to train. 

Remember, I’m a 60-year-old runner with a lot of miles on the chassis, so keep that in mind. In other words, you should have at LEAST AS MUCH as I do, if not more. 🙂

Hip Flexor (Anterior Hip Region) Passive Flexibility

Remember to always begin by first working to improve passive flexibility, IF that is lacking. And it typically is with this position. 

To get more, use the same protocol – make sure to begin with at least 2 minutes of stretching where you gradually get toward whatever your “end range” is. 

Keep at it! 🙂

Once you have gone through this flexibility assessment, you can next go to the last of our assessments for today, which is axial rotation.

To get there, CLICK HERE!