Better Squats - The Key to Unlocking Hip/Knee Pain

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Hip IR - The Missing Link in Your Squat Mobility/Hip Pain???

So you’ve been going at it for a bit…you got your back squat up, PR'd your FRAN time, cleans are starting to finally “click”, etc….basically you are starting to get ahold of this CrossFit thing. If only you could get that Overhead Squat to happen effortlessly, get rid of that stupid nagging knee pain, or just have a day where it didn't take 45 minutes to warm up your hip to squat.

So let’s take a few steps back and see what we’ve done so far. You started foam rolling your quads (fist pound), you started watching some K-Star videos to help out with some of your mobility issues (high five), and you even got a standing desk at work cause you read on google it will help out your lower back pain (double high five). OHS still sucks? Knee pain? Getting to a full depth squat is still a chore?

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Now before I start I do not want this to turn into a “knees out” squat debate…there is enough of that on the internet already.

Let’s talk about something else called Internal Rotation of the Hip, why you need it, how to test to see if you are lacking it, and a way to try to increase that range safely.

First up, why do you need Internal Rotation of the Hip joint. Having the right amount of Hip IR is imperative to having a strong squat, especially holding a strong position in the bottom of a squat. There are a ton of factors when looking at achieving the correct bottom position, ankle dorsiflexion, thoracic mobility, external rotation of the hip, to name a few. We are just going to dive into the IR portion as it is often overlooked.

If you want information on Thoracic mobility, ankle dorsiflexion, external rotation, and a world of information on those topics and more, check out guys much smarter than myself like K-Star, Brent Brookbush and Darkside Strength that have addressed these topics in great detail. Found here:

Any squatting topic needs to start with the disclaimer of the “snowflake squat” as we like to call it at 12 Labours CrossFit.

You guys all have snowflake squats, meaning no two squats are going to look exactly the same…yes you are all special. If your coach is telling you that you have to squat exactly like someone else and isn’t addressing the fact that may be anatomically impossible, then find a new coach.

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I got the pics above from themovementfix.com, now if you are telling me that people with different femoral head shapes, angles and different depth of hip sockets are going to squat the same then you are truly lost. Stop telling people to just push their knees out thinking it will fix everything.

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People have different femoral head shapes, and hip sockets have different depths, along with a grocery list of types of deformities associated with both. That butt wink, or how some call it the Celtic Squat, just might be your anatomy, sorry. That we cannot fix, but what we can do is maximize the potential out of the frame you have. To start we need to see where your internal and external rotation are, and how those line up with the normal ranges.

The normal range of an adult is 45 degrees of external rotation and 40 degrees of internal rotation. A simple google search on how to test this will yield a bunch of results, here is my favorite.

This is just to get an idea of where you are at, mainly seeing if we are WAY out of balance, or missing range by a huge mark. If you have serious issues, or want to know exactly where you are at, GO SEE A PT!

Ok so now we have an assessment of where our internal and external rotation of the hip are at. Knowing that information, check out what your squat looks like. If you are missing internal rotation, you might notice that butt wink when trying to hit depth, or the foot on the side of limited range always twisting out when getting into a deep squat, or maybe low back pain on that side.

Internal rotation COULD be the issue here, but first lets check out what’s going on with your ankles. Are you getting a ton of pronation in the ankle as you squat, basically collapsing that entire side of your body, ankle, knee, hip pressure, etc.

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The first thing I look at when assessing squat position is ankle position, so let’s fix that first and see if that helps position. We will have part 2 of this discussion talking about ankle positioning and how that will help your squat. But in the meantime let’s just assume that you tested that and your ankles are not the issue.

Chest still collapsing at the bottom of the squat? Still rounding out at the spine when getting to full depth?

Let's take a look at this stretch and see if it can help get you into a better position in the bottom of a squat.

Try this out for a few weeks and see if it helps your squat position!

Getting the hips loosened up and rotating properly is going to make that squat feel like butter. ***grass-fed of course*** It may help in keeping that chest up as you get deeper into the squat, or get rid of that nasty hip impingement.

Like I said before if you have major issues, go see a Chiropractor or a PT, this is just an observation that has helped myself and a bunch of my clients.

Your hips might not be the problem, it may be Thoracic, ankles or really poor movement patterns. But if they are the problem or one of the many problems, try this out and hopefully it helps you as much as its helped me.

Part 2 is coming soon in regards to ankles, what is normal range, how you can test that, and a few ways to fix them. Happy squatting people!