Why Do My Hips Hurt When I Squat? Femoral Acetabular Impingement: Part 3

By djpope

March 10, 2013

FAI, femoral acetabular impingement, hip, pain, squat

source: www.kellernational.com
source: www.kellernational.com

One topic that seems to have gotten a resurgence of popularity lately is something termed “joint centration” by Dr. Evan Oscar.   Joint centration is simply the act of keeping the joint aligned in the correct position throughout a joint’s range of motion.   This will help keep the joint healthy and in the case of the hip, may help to prevent impingement.  You can read more about this in Dr. Evan Oscar’s book, “Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction.”

As previously stated, the hip is a ball and socket joint.  The ball portion is known as the femoral head and the socket is known as the acetabulum.  In the bottom position of the squat the femoral head is normally supposed to glide posteriorly into the back of the acetabulum.  The femoral head does the opposite as we come to the top position of a squat.  A balance between muscles helps us to achieve this.

If we have a muscular imbalance or a tightness in the posterior aspect of the hip the femoral head won’t be able to glide posteriorly the way it’s supposed to when we get to the bottom of the squat.  If the femoral head doesn’t glide posteriorly adequately or it glides anteriorly as we hit the bottom of the squat then we’re bringing the femoral head closer to the front of the acetabulum.  If these two structures collide, we’ve got impingement.  Down the line we might have a labral tear.

Source: Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes
Source: Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes

Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, a world reknowned physical therapist, has identified a condition she calls Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome (FAGS).   In this syndrome, the ball portion of the joint ends up gliding anteriorly and internally rotating both as you flex and extend your hip.

As discussed previously, if our femoral head doesn’t glide properly during squatting we’re going to cause femoral acetabular impingement.  These patients also present with groin pain, which is a classic sign of hip pathology!

Sahrmann states that the main culprits for this are:

  1. Laxity of the anterior capsule of the hip.
  2. Tightness of the posterior element of the capsule
  3. A short and overactive Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)
  4. Weak Glute Max
  5. Overactive Hamstrings

A solution to this problem is going to consist of stretching the posterior capsule and tissues that cross the back of the hip as well as picking exercises to preferentially target the glute max without activating the TFL.

Source: jospt.org
Source: jospt.org

Fortunately for us. The Journal of Sports and Orthpaedic Physical Therapy (JOSPT) recently released an article that did an EMG analysis to find the best exercises to target the glutes and minimize the TFL.  Check the photo to the left for the top 5 exercises.

An interesting side note: Lunges and step-ups caused quite a bit of TFL activation.  Squats were a better exercise but not as good as these 5

The next step is to go ahead and stretch the hip posterior capsule and any tight muscles and tissues that cross over the back of the hip.  Here are a few of my favorite stretches:

For the stretch below you can rest your bottom foot against a wall for a better stretch.

source: yoganesh.net
source: yoganesh.net

There you have it guys.  That’s all I have for you today.  Next time we’ll wrap it up and figure out our final game plan for dealing with these pinchy hips.

My hips feel much better,

Dan Pope

P.S. If you enjoyed this article then sign up for the newsletter to receive the FREE guide – 10 Idiot Proof Principles to Crossfit Performance and Injury Prevention as well as to keep up to date with new information as it comes out via weekly emails.


Sahrmann, S. (2002). Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes. (pp. 144-146). St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby, Inc.

Selkowitz, D., Beneck, G., & Powers, C. (2013). Which exercises target the gluteal muscles while minimizing activation of the tensor fascia lata? electromyographic assessment using fine-wire electrodes. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy43(2), 54-65.

Gulick, D. (2009). Ortho notes. (2nd ed., p. 189). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.