The hip is one of the most important joints in your body and plays a massive role in a whole host of different exercises. However, any imbalances or weaknesses of the hip can reduce the benefits of performing certain exercises. This could all lead to a slippery slope to the potential risk of injury.
One of the most basic movement patterns, which the hip is involved in heavily, is the squat. For such a basic and fundamental movement however, a lot of people can really struggle with this exercise. In this article, I’m going to talk you through two common issues people can have when it comes to the squat, and how to fix them.
Weak Glutes (or Posterior Weakness)
When an issue arises in the squat, it’s usually because the movement demand you have placed on the muscles you want to work can’t meet that demand. This leads to a break down in technique. One of the biggest contributing factors to this I have found is a lack of glute control.
Your glutes play a big role in hip extension. If you have weak glutes, this can usually mean you’re going to have a weak hip extension. If this is the case, when it comes to the eccentric or lowering phase of the squat, you might find your chest falling forward. When this happens, your lower back will start to take over some of the workload which it isn’t designed to do. All you have to do is look at the size of your glutes and then at the muscles in your lower back to see why. This might surprise some of you reading as the most common factor usually associated with this is a lack of core tightness and bracing, which is true. However, that is often focused on too much as opposed to looking at the full picture of what else might be going, such as your glutes.
How to Fix This
One of the best ways to strengthen weak glutes is to activate them before you squat. Some exercises I would recommend would be the following;
Banded Glute Bridge
Single Leg Glute Bridge
Banded Hip Thrust
Side Lying Banded Clam
You can use all of these exercises as a mini circuit before you squat, or pick the exercises that you feel work your glutes the most. I would then recommend performing anywhere between 2-3 sets of 15+ reps.
Another point to consider as well, if you feel that your glutes aren’t working and your chest is starting to fall in the squat, listen to your body. It might then be a good idea to drop the weight slightly and work on correct form, making sure your glutes are working properly throughout the squat. You could then even look to add in some accessory exercises in your workout or programme to help improve this slight weakness. It’s not always a bad thing to take one step back to then take four steps forward.
Tight Hip Flexors (or Anterior Tightness)
The primary movers involved in hip flexion are your rectus femoris and Sartorius which are both muscles of your quad, as well as your iliopsoas which is a muscle in your hip. When these get tight, it is usually due to a lack of movement staying in one position. For example, sitting and working at a desk all day. So, when it comes to squatting, even though the squat is a great exercise for glute activation and mobilising the hips, when done incorrectly it can train bad movement patterns and increase the risk of injury. This is something nobody wants.
When your hip flexors are tight, this can lead to your chest falling in the squat which reduces the activation of your glutes and puts more workload onto your quads. Once this happens, when you’re in the bottom position of the squat, your body will want your quads to extend your knees. However, two of the three main hip flexors are attached to your quads, so when you stand up your hip flexors will stay shortened and cause an anterior pelvic tilt. This can then cause unwanted movement in your lower back which we don’t want to happen when squatting, all leading to increased risk of injury.
How to Fix This
As mentioned above, sometimes when you have tight hips and you start to squat, you can be training bad movement patterns. Therefore, it can be helpful to practise good movement patterns before you squat. This can let your body know what a good movement feels like, as well as knowing what squat pattern and depth is suitable for you. Here are two exercises I would recommend performing before you squat to help with this;
Quadruped Rocking with Active Shoulder Flexion
Band Assisted Squat with 3 Second Hold
You can use these exercises before you squat or in between sets. I would suggest using anywhere between 5-12 reps depending on how tight your hips are feeling. Again, as I’ve mentioned before, always listen to your body squatting as well and focus on good form and technique. You don’t want to be training bad movement patterns and end up injuring yourself later down the line.
Take Home Points
Hopefully after reading this article you’ve picked up that both of these common squat issues are connected and can influence one another. Therefore, with the exercises I have recommended to fix these issues, I would suggest using a mixture of both before you squat.
As I’ve said before, the squat is such a great, fundamental exercise with a massive amount of benefits. However, a lot of people can get it wrong. So, if either of these issues relate to you, try out the exercises I have recommended and make sure to focus on good form and technique for every rep.
Thanks for reading,