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Hip Impingement Relief: Strategies for Better Squatting

Do you have hip pain with squatting? It is one of the most common complaints for gym goers,  and we know how frustrating it can be. If you’ve experienced discomfort or pinching sensations in your hips while squatting, hip impingement may be the culprit.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • Causes of hip impingement
  • Symptoms of hip impingement
  • Strategies to manage and modify squats to alleviate discomfort

What is Hip Impingement?

Hip impingement, also known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), occurs when there is abnormal contact between the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) of the hip joint, leading to pinching of the muscles or soft tissues around the joint. This can occur due to an abnormal shape of the hip joint or abnormal hip mechanics during movement.

Causes of Hip Impingement:

Hip impingment during squats can be attributed to several factors, including:

1. Structural Abnormalities: Anatomical variations in the shape of the hip joint, such as excess bone growth on the upper hip bone (femur), overcoverage of the hip socket (acetabulum), or a combination of both, can increase the risk of pinching.

2. Hip Mechanics: Poor movement mechanics, such as excessive hip flexion or internal rotation during squatting, can exacerbate impingement symptoms by increasing contact in the hip joint.

3. Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or imbalance in the glutes, hip flexors, or core muscles, can contribute to altered hip mechanics and increased stress on the joint.

Symptoms of Hip Impingement:

Hip pain associated with hip impingement will typically present with the following symptoms:

  • Groin Pain: Pain or discomfort in the groin area, particularly during activities that involve hip flexion, such as squatting or sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Pinching Sensation: A sharp or catching sensation in the front of the hip or groin when squatting or performing deep hip flexion movements.
  • Tightness and Limited Range of Motion: Decreased hip range of motion, particularly with hip flexion and internal rotation, may be present, affecting squat depth and performance.
Hip flexion
  • Stiffness and Discomfort: Stiffness or achiness in the hip joint, especially after prolonged periods of rest or inactivity.

Solutions for Managing Hip Impingement:

  • Avoid Excessive Depth: There’s no need to drop down into the deepest position possible. Some people are hypermobile and need to focus on finding a comfortable stopping point that is still considered. Going further than you need to will just jam your hip joint together.
  • Don’t Overarch: Overarching your back (also known as a lumbar lordosis) will basically put you in a hip flexed position before you even start your squat. This means you will hit the end range of the hip joint sooner.
  • Strengthen Hip Muscles: One function of the glutes is to pull the hip bone toward the back of the socket, clearing up space in the front of the hip. Also focusing on the hip abductors will improve hip stability.
  • Improve Hip Mobility: The hip joint itself can get tight and limit range of motion. There is a capsule that covers the hip joint and can be mobilized with something like the posterior hip capsule stretch.
  • Squat Variations: To reduce aggravation of the hip, you can modify your workout to decrease your range of motion. One exercise to try is a box squat because it will give you a consistent stopping point.
  • Gradual Progression: As symptoms subside you can gradually increase squat depth and intensity over time. This will allow your body to adapt to the demands of the movement while minimizing stress on the hip joint.

FAQs About Shoulder Pain and Bench Press

How Do I Loosen My Hips Before Squats?

If you are struggling with hip impingement, it is going to be ideal to do some mobility exercises before squatting. Don’t be afraid to do some static stretches (I promise it won’t decrease your performance). Try the hip capsule stretch above! Also, work up to your working weight by doing a few sets with lighter weight to prime the movement.

Can You Reverse Hip Impingement?

While the changes to the bone structure can’t be reversed without surgery, physical therapy can help manage symptoms. With a good structured workout program and addressing specific impairments in strength, stability, and mobility, you can get back to squatting pain free!

In conclusion, hip impingement can significantly impact your ability to squat comfortably and perform lower body exercises effectively. By understanding the causes and symptoms of hip impingement and implementing strategies specific to you, you can alleviate discomfort, improve hip function, and continue progressing towards your fitness goals safely and effectively. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize proper form, and seek professional guidance as needed to optimize your squatting experience.


Dr. Brett Dick

PT, DPT, Owner of Limitless Performance Physical Therapy

We Help Active People ​Improve Pain And Performance ​In Their Favorite Sports And Activities.
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