Do you have low back pain squatting? Or feel a pinch or tightness in the front of your hips when doing anything below parallel? Your hips are a focal point for generating power and explosiveness and, if they aren’t healthy, you’re leaving, yourself open to injury and limiting how strong your lifts can be.
In a world full of desk jobs, travel and long commutes, hips are a common problem for people and the latest subject of our Performance Care series. While tight/weak hips can cause a boatload of other issues if ignored —causing injuries to your knees or back— hip tightness is typically easily diagnosed and recognized by an athlete or coach.
If you’re not sure if your hips are the problem, the simple test below will do the trick.
If you failed the test, felt tightness/pinching or already know your hips are a problem- it’s time to get to work on fixing them. It’s not as daunting as it may seem. As little as 20 minutes before you train, three times a week can cause some lasting changes.
“The best way to increase range of motion is spending time in positions that are uncomfortable, but manageable until they are no longer uncomfortable,” said Dr. Sean Pastuch, the co-founder of Active Life Rx, which aims to improve strength imbalances and athletic performance.
“There’s a fine line with athletes with injuries who push things, it has a potential to make it worse. But if you’re already squatting [in your workouts] holding time in an empty squat shouldn’t be something you’re concerned about.”
If you’re squatting pain-free, set your watch and work slowly up to being able to last 12 minutes in an air squat. Don’t start with 12 minutes right away. Maybe go with six minutes, then eight. And so on. When that long air squat hold becomes easy, Pastuch and partner Dr. Jeremy Todd recommend switching to a front squat with an empty bar for two minutes.
Eventually work up to 33 percent of your one-rep max front squat for two minutes and then, when you become comfortable there, repeat that sequence with your back squat.
Welcome to a whole new world of improved hip function and range of motion.
In addition to squat holds, cossack squats (above), lateral box step-ups, side shuffles and light sumo stance good mornings or deadlifts are easy warm-up additions to help create healthy hips.
“The big thing is getting out of the sagittal plane. Moving sideways sounds silly, but it’s a big deal,” Pastuch said. “Moving on one leg sounds silly, but it’s a big deal. It forces the hips to be more diversely prepared which allows for better movement.”
Everything in this article sounds so simple to do. Twenty minutes a few times a week to get out of pain, get stronger and more comfortable in any and all squatting movements?
The work is easy. The commitment is what sets apart people who will just skim this article and try it once from those who will commit to make a real, lasting change.
If you want to reach your full potential you have to take care of the small stuff first.
“People need to be mindful it’s easy to say and harder to do. The biggest reason why our stuff will fail with an athlete is because an athlete is going through the motions of it because its not sexy,” Pastuch said.
“They see a friend is doing a one-rep max snatch and muscle ups and handstand pushups and [are thinking] ‘I’m over here stepping up laterally on a box. That’s not cool.’ They don’t think thats awesome. But, when you start doing these things and following them with intent, when the time comes and you do go grab a barbell you are going to beat your friend.”
Disclaimer: Athlete Daily is a Performance Care affiliate. We’ve done the tests, used Active Life Rx’s program and have seen the benefits firsthand. The above article contains affiliate links. And a pretty sweet discount code: use DAILY for 1/2 off your first month of Bulletproof programming.