Things Your Hip Should Be Able To Do Before You Squat Heavy

By Andrew Serrano


“They’re bad for your knees; they’re bad for your back, they make you need hip replacements, squats are the devil.”  I can’t count the number of times someone’s come up to me while squatting and said one of these phrases to me.  Ok, maybe not the devil one.  Squats are largely misunderstood.  How could a movement that we all do several times a day suddenly turn harmful when we add some weight to it?  It doesn’t make sense.

So why do so many people get hurt squatting?  Well, the answer may surprise you – they don’t know how to squat.  Squats, and heavy squats, in particular, are more technical than people understand.  Outside of technique, people often lack the requisite mobility of the joints involved to squat well.  If you can’t get into a particular position easily on your own, the last thing you should do is load it and force yourself into positions you otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve.

The injuries we typically hear about with squats involve the knees or the low back.  Both of these structures should be very stable during a squat, meaning they don’t move around a whole lot during the movement. The low back should stay stiff and straight (locked in) and the knees bend and straighten, they’re not supposed to move side to side.  Most of the movement occurs at the hip.  On the descent, the hips flex and rotate outward, and on the ascent, they extend and come back in a bit.  If the hips can’t move freely, the movement will be forced into the surrounding structures, and since they’re not designed for that, they will wear and tear and eventually get injured.

The following hip movements are my checklist before heavy squats for anyone that I train:

Single Leg Stability

  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Hip Airplane

Internal & External Rotation

  • 90/90 Active and Passive

Active Flexion

  • Wall March
  • Hurdle Step

Abduct/Adduct (Out to the side/Back to center)

  • Kneeling Adductor Stretch
  • Side Lunge

These are by no means the only drills that are useful for improving range of motion in the hips, but I’ve personally used them with success on both myself and my clients. Feel free to use this as a starting point regarding addressing all the motions of the hip while you find specific drills that work best for yourself.  If you have a deficit in any of these movements, by adding in the corresponding drill I can guarantee your squats will feel better and your low back and knees will thank you.

To read more from Andrew and to follow his training click HERE.  To learn more about ways to move better and feel better, grab yourself a copy of Gift Of Injury by Brian Carroll and Dr. Stuart McGill.

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Andrew Serrano

Andrew Serrano is a full time trainer, holds a B.S. in exercise science and has worked in almost every facet of the training industry. He is currently competing as a 198lb raw lifter, his meet PRs are 589/391/601. His training is guided by the 10/20/Life philosophy with a focus on sustainable injury free progression.

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