Like most clients we see, I just want to get stronger.
A couple years ago, I tried to get stronger via a high volume squat program. Well…my hip was not about that. I began to have pinching and pain in the front of my hip at the bottom of a squat. I eventually stopped the program early, but by that point, I was having pain during any squatting and hinging movements. The nerve in the front of my hip was aggravated and I had tingling along my thigh. My hip flexor felt REALLY tight.
I’m telling you this because I initially did not treat my “injury” correctly. My hip felt tight, so naturally, I thought I needed to stretch it. So I don’t blame any of you for thinking you need to stretch what feels like a tight muscle!
I stretched and modified workouts. I squatted to boxes instead of full depth and stopped movements that seemed to flare up the tingling. In the midst of this hip discomfort, I moved to become a physical therapist at MOTION RX. It was here, surrounded by athletes and performance physical therapists, that I realized I needed to shift my approach.
I completely stopped stretching while my hip was still aggravated. I started strengthening my hip flexors and adductors and began squatting to depth again. I also started elevating my heels for heavier barbell squats to change the mechanics of my squat. Fast forward a few weeks and boom, I am pain free!
Every person is unique, so an individualized physical therapy evaluation and regimen is necessary. However, there are a few general guidelines when it comes to anterior hip pain with squatting:
Hold off on stretching a suddenly “tight” muscle (aka a muscle that only began feeling tight since the onset of new symptoms).
If a movement is causing pain greater than a 3/10, it needs to be modified. In some cases, this means temporarily stopping a squat below parallel. In some cases, some are able to continue squatting below parallel. Full depth squats are a great way to pump blood flow to the muscle and tendon!
Consider elevating your heels for barbell squats. For this, you NEED a physical therapist to assess your movement pattern. For some, elevating the heels allows the torso to stay more upright, decreasing compression at the hips, and thus decreasing or eliminating symptoms.
- Strengthen your hip flexors! The exercises we use for this vary based on how a client presents, but a supine isometric hip flexor march is a great place to start. Check it out here
- Strengthen your inner thighs (aka adductors)! We love to use Copenhagen planks for this. Here’s a great variation to start with.
- Lastly, for many, we also want to strengthen the lateral hip to help balance out the entire hip complex. A lot of clients are surprised by the difficulty of this exercise. Give it a shot!
If you’ve been dealing with hip pain while squatting and have not found relief from stretching, I hope this blog gives you some other ideas! We would love the opportunity to take a look at your hip and create an individualized plan for you.