How to test your hip rotation for safer squatting

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Most of us complain about tight hips from time to time. But why could that be putting us at risk when we squat?

Hip Anatomy & ROM


The hip joint is a ball and socket joint which means it has a fairly large multidirectional range of motion in comparison to other joints in the body, such as the knee. For a hip to be healthy it should be able to flex, extend, internally & externally rotate, adduct, abduct and circumduct.....

I'm imagining a few blank expressions out there now! Ok, ok, fundamentally the hip needs an unrestricted multi-direction range of movement to be healthy. Now as most of us sit on our backsides all day (me included) we typically don't expose our hip to all these different positions. It gets pretty awesome at being able to sit but not much else.

Then we hit the gym, start warming up for squatting and wonder why things feel tight, why we can't lift much weight, or why things hurt so much.

Normal Range of Motion (ROM) for the hip

Normal Values (in degrees):

  • Hip flexion (bending) 0-125
  • Hip extension (straightening) 115-0
  • Hip abduction (move away from central axis of body) 0-45
  • Hip adduction (move towards central axis of body) 45-0
  • Hip lateral rotation (rotation away from center of body) 0-45
  • Hip medial rotation (rotation towards center of body) 0-45

Why does limited hip ROM affect my squats?

Squatting is a triple flexion exercise; to squat you have to bend at the ankle, knee and hip.

The back should stay supported and you move down into the bottom of the squat, flexing at the ankle, knee and hip, then stand back up, extending at those joints.

If one of the those joints have reduced ROM, typically the ankle or hip, then you have to find ROM somewhere else. Your body will look for the closest most mobile area to steal some of the range it needs. In this case the knees or the back.

How often when you haven't warmed up properly do the knees start to drift inwards as you move down through the squat, or the back starts to round? This is body asking for movement from these areas, because the ankles and hips can't provide it.

So tight hips means more (unneccessary) movement through your knees and back. Which increases your injury risk.

Why look at hip rotation?

Not because hip rotation is any more important that flexion, extension or the ankles for that matter. But mainly because most people don't consider it at all - which means you've never worked on it. Which also means that ANYTHING you do to try and improve it will help!

So run through these tests, work out what YOUR hip restrictions are, and get mobilising!!

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Sports Massage Therapist

Headstart Sports Injury and Performance Clinic is owned and run by experienced sports massage therapist Vicki Marsh. We are based in Cambridge, UK, and specialise in resolving complex injuries that are causing acute or chronic pain,affecting quality of life and sporting performance. Vicki has over 12 years experience delivering sports massage to rowers, runners, international athletes and Olympic medallists.

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