I’ve had a few clients recently come in with pain in the front of their hip from squatting. They have told me a story that goes along the lines of “I have pain at the front of my hip when I squat repetitively, despite me working very hard on my form lately.” Putting in the extra effort to make sure your back is not rounding forward might lead to bending too far in the opposite direction.
In my experience watching athletes squat in the gym, I definitely see some people who let their low backs flex forward at the bottom of a squat. This is not detrimental, but certainly not ideal. I also see others who are working so hard to make sure their back is not rounding that it actually arches too far the other way. This is often accompanied by the head looking up, and some people might even develop neck pain in this position. I know what you’re thinking… “Yes, so that is happening at my low back, but what does that have to with this hip pain I’m having?” I’m glad you asked.
Our hip joints allow us to bring our knees to our chest, similar to what happens in a squat. If you lie on your back right now, you might be able to do this with relative ease while letting your low back flex forward. If you try to do this same thing but you keep your low back from making contact with the floor (arching your back), you might find it difficult, and it might even bring on your hip pain. So what happened there? Take a look at the three pictures below:
When the low back is flexed forward (picture on the left), the hip doesn’t need to bend as much because the low back is also moving in that same direction. When the back stays in a neutral position (middle picture), the hips bend a significant amount to get into a squat, and this is usually comfortable for most people to do repetitively.
If we look at the picture on the far right where the low back is over-extended, the hip joints are being taken into more range of motion than necessary at the same depth of the squat.
When I see people arching their back, looking up, and sticking out their chests too much,they are likely already taking up some of the slack in their hips before they’ve even started to lower down. When they lower down into the squat, they still want to get to parallel, but their hips are being taken to their limit and beyond because of the position of their spine, causing their hip pain.
Next time you’re able to squat in front of a mirror, check to see if your back is arching excessively, and if so, try to bring your back into more of a “neutral position” - not bent forward too far, and not arching too much, right in the middle.
Our clinic has physiotherapists that can help with detailed movement analysis of the squat, regardless of your level of training, even if you are just beginning with this movement. We have worked with CrossFit athletes in the clinic as well doing seminars on this very topic. If you are having difficulty with your squat, please click to book an appointment with us today!