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The hip is a powerful joint in your body and plays a pivotal role in many athletic movements. Dysfunctions of the hip musculature can steal your athletic performance and lead to a painful array of injuries. The squat is one of the most basic movement patterns of the hip and yet it is often something people struggle to perform with perfect technique.
Here we would look at the two most common dysfunctions at the hip, how they affect your squat, and how to fix them.
Of the various issues involved in poor squat technique, poor glute control is the largest factor. Movement dysfunction is a game of compensation. If movement don’t happen using the correct muscles, then it’s of no use.
The gluteus maximus is a primary mover of hip extension. Weak glutes mean weak extension. People speak a lot about core tightness and abdominal bracing as it relates to the forward lean and that’s absolutely valid but secondary.
The first step to maintain an upright torso is a proper glute control. If you don’t have the glute strength to maintain and drive hip extension, then your lower back will kick in to compensate and it’s not suited for the task.
Another issue is the compensations it causes in the anterior hip musculature. When you tip forward during a squat a couple of nasty things occur involving your hip flexors. First, they will start to fire in order to balance because your glutes aren’t doing the work. Second, they will also activate. In simple words, they’re trying to help you squat lower than your gluteal control must allow. This results in an over-activation of the anterior hip musculature.
A basic test for glute max and hip extensor strength:
Find a waist height table.
Stand with hips up against the table edge.
Lean forward as your entire torso is on the table.
Lift one leg straight back and keep your knee to an angle of ninety degrees.
Don’t let your knee drift out to the side; lift your foot towards the ceiling. You should feel tightness in your glutes.
Now ask a buddy try to push down on your thigh with light, but slowly increasing force. If you have weak glutes, he won’t need a huge amount of effort to break your hip position.
If your leg starts to turn or drift sideways or your lower back starts to move, they indicate that your hip extension needs a little tender, love and care.
Perform this test on both legs, at a time.
Generally, most hip flexor tightness isn’t the result of activity, but the unintended consequence of the passive positions we maintain throughout the day. While a squat is profoundly therapeutic exercise in terms of restoring proper gluteal activation and helping mobilize the front of the hips, if done incorrect it will do the exact opposite.
When your flexors are tight you will lean forward while squatting. A forward lean will shift your centre of gravity to the anterior and increase activation of your quadriceps while lowering activation of your glutes.
Another issue with tight hip flexors is that they are usually an indication of missing hip flexion or lacking hip movement.
The easiest test for hip flexor tightness is the Thomas test:
Lie on your back with your legs hanging off the edge of a table.
Pull your knees to your chest and hold them there with your arms.
Extend one of your legs while keeping the other held to your chest. Let the extended leg hang off the edge of the table.
Have a friend observe the location of your knee compared to the position of your hips. Your knee must hang lower than the table. If it is above the table or even in line with it, then this indicates tightness of hip flexor.
How To Fix The Problem
Irrespective of the rest, the most important thing is to identify the existence for the improper movement patterns and addressing them.
Hip Flexion and Hip Mobility Fixes
Quadruped Rocking With Active Shoulder Flexion:
Same thing as the Thomas test described above, but this time instead of simply observing the position of the thigh, ask your friend gently press your thigh downwards until you feel a stretch through your quad and the front of your hip. Hold this for thirty seconds to a minute, and do this two or three times.
The most profound stretch or mobilization for overall hip flexibility is the Paleolithic chair. Get down as low as you could while keeping your heels on the ground and hang out there. Try doing this for 3 to 5 minutes at a time initially. Ideally, you will build up to a total of about 10 minutes a day.
Posterior Strength and Gluteal Activation Drills
The best way to get your glutes firing during a squat is to do some basic warm-up drills that will help firing your glutes. One of the favourite progressions is as follows:
Glute Bridge: 10x (either legs)
Single Leg Glute Bridge: 10x each leg
Fire Hydrants: 10x each leg
Quadruped bent-knee hip extension:10x each leg
You can perform all of them as a 5 to 10 minute warm-up session before you squat, which should significantly improve your squat positioning.
We conclude now.
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