Why do your hips hurt when you squat?
Squats are some of the most vital foundational movements when it comes to exercise.
Think about it. Not only do you feel great when you hit a big squat PR at the gym, but they’re essential to living your life day to day.
Dropping it down low regularly helps you perform other similar squat-based moves in the gym like lunges, box jumps, or deadlifts.
The squat is also a functional move.
When we jump, bend down to pick things up, or run, our legs are constantly engaging in some type of squat.
Yet most of us are dealing with imbalances to some degree when it comes to our squats. And over time, these can compound to cause major pain in your hips.
Why do we experience hip pain when squatting?
In this article, we’ll look at some of the causes of hip pain during squats and where you’re messing up on form. Plus, know when the hip pain is the cause of a bigger problem.
Why do I Get Hip Pain When I Squat?
What causes squat-related hip pain? There are some obvious causes and a few that may be a little less common. Let’s start with the simple ones.
If your hips hurt when you squat, you may be experiencing:
When it comes to squats, there’s a good chance that you’re simply doing it wrong.
Too little depth in your squats can put a lot of pressure on the knees and hips. If you’re not driving up through the quads and glutes properly, you’re not getting an adequate push from the big muscles that are going to help you develop your strength.
At the bottom of the squat, typically, weightlifters also sometimes experience a “butt wink.”
What is a butt wink? Keep your mind out of the gutter, it’s not as suggestive as it sounds.
This posterior tilt of your pelvis means you’ve extended your pelvis a bit too far and it is tucking under.
The proper squat form calls for a neutral spine. If you’re noticing a “butt wink,” consider slowing down your squats to focus on the mind-muscle connection.
If it goes away, you may be pumping out too many reps too fast. If not, you may lack flexibility in the hips which causes this issue.
Hip flexor tightness is one of the main causes of squat-related pain.
What are the hip flexors? This muscle group is made up of your psoas, sartorius, iliacus, rectus femoris and pectineus muscles.
This sounds like a mouthful. But all you need to know is the combined efforts of these muscles help your hips flex so your knee can come closer to your torso. Every step you take is possible because of hip flexor muscles.
If you’re experiencing hip flexor pain when squatting, you may have overly tight hip flexors.
Focus on stretching these muscles as much as you can to improve your mobility and range of motion.
Poor Ankle Mobility
Hip issues in squatting can come from the ankle. When you drop into your squat, you are in ankle dorsiflexion. This means your ankle bends so your foot comes towards your shin.
But if you lack ankle mobility, your body will try to compensate. When you have weak ankles, you might tend to lean forward too much from the hips to maintain balance.
Do you skip abs every time you go to the gym?
If you’re guilty as charged, you could be harming your squat too.
Core stability issues cause a lot of people to have bad posture. Because the squat is a move that relies on proper alignment, a weak core could be causing your posture to be off, putting too much strain on the hips.
Core is not only a key way to improve your posture. Getting an ab workout can help you burn off dangerous abdominal fat. See Should I Work Out My Abs If I Have Belly Fat to learn more.
If you experience front hip pain when squatting, you may be dealing with femoroacetabular impingement (say that 5 times fast, or just call it FAI!).
This is a condition where the pelvis is differently shaped. FAI can be painful, however, many people with this condition do not experience pain in their squats if they optimize form to suit their specific bodies.
People with FAI may find it more comfortable to squat with a slightly turned-out stance, with the knees tracking over the toes.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, and some hips are built differently than others, so always optimize the best positions to suit your unique body.
How can you modify your squat to accommodate your hips if you deal with regular hip pain?
Try these techniques if you’re looking to adapt to take pressure out of your hips.
This may seem counterintuitive. A wider stance than you think you should take may seem more hip-involved.
But the reason you’re experiencing pain in the first place may be due to your narrow squat.
A wider stance helps you work through your full range of motion. At the bottom of your squat, you need your glutes and posterior chain to engage, and PUSH you up and out of the move.
When we squat narrow or not low enough, the big muscle groups that help with that upward push don’t engage properly.
This can be a major source of pain, so make sure your feet are wide enough apart.
If you squat with a barbell, you’re probably used to placing it on your upper back, performing what lifters call a back squat.
This is a great move if you have strong technique and don’t deal with back pain. But back squats can push your torso forward. And if you don’t have the core strength to support yourself in this move, you may be too hunched over for healthy squats.
Try a front squat instead: place your barbell across your chest and front shoulders rather than your back to perform this move.
You won’t notice as much activation in your glutes as with a back squat. But front squats are a great way to train core stability.
If you notice hip pinching during your squats, the goblet squat is for you.
This is one of the most upright squat variations, where you keep a vertical spine. Goblet squats are typically performed using one heavy dumbbell rather than an over-the-shoulders barbell.
If you have back injuries as well, goblet squats can be a great alternative to a traditional back squat for a gentler experience.
Hip Health Problems
Could your hip issues while squatting be a symptom?
Some hip issues that may give you trouble when you try to pop a squat include:
- Hip Dysplasia
Talk to your doctor or sports medicine practitioner if you notice changes to your squat form that hurt.
Although it’s normal to experience soreness, especially if you’re loading up a barbell with more weight as you progress, you shouldn’t be feeling acute pain.
Any shooting or piercing sensations of pain in the hips should be examined by a professional.
Stretches for Hip Pain
What can you do when stretching to alleviate pain in the hips?
Try these postures to help:
- Pigeon pose: On the ground, bend and rotate the working leg with your knee pointed outward. Extend the back leg long. You should feel this stretch deeply in your inner hip area.
- Knee lift: Lie on your back. Pull one knee into the chest and hold it there for a stretch.
- Knee circles: From the knee lift position, move your bent knee clockwise and then counterclockwise circles. This active stretch will introduce some more rotation into tight or stubborn hip joints.
Squats are some of the best moves you can do for long-term health.
Not only are they fantastic muscle builders for your hamstrings and quads, but they’re core functional movements too.
Why do your hips hurt when you squat?
Consider factors like poor hip mobility, bad posture, or other conditions like arthritis and hip dysplasia.
Think about how often you squat in everyday life. Keeping your hips healthy through squats will benefit your ability to maintain your joint and muscle health as you age.
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