Why Low Bar Squats Hurt Your Hip Flexors & Cause Pain

Strength Training 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Do you feel that pinching feeling in the front of your hips at the bottom of your low bar squat?

Does it bother you even after you’ve racked the bar?

Are you tired of stretching your “tight hip flexors”?

Good, because I’m going to tell you how to stop blaming it on your “tight hip flexors” and stop feeling that pain.

If low bar squats hurt your hips it’s because the tissues in the hip joint where the femur meets the pelvis are being pinched, and it’s fixable.

I see this most often in people transitioning from high bar squats to low bar squats, and it is attributed to one of three causes.

Weak Glutes

The gluteus maximus is the largest single muscle in your body and its primary function is hip extension. What doesn’t get talked about as much are its other functions—external rotation of the femur and abduction of the femur.

Luckily it has some help in these departments from the gluteus minimus & medius.

Our bodies will always “take the path of least resistance”. If the muscles responsible for keeping your knees wide are weak (glutes), and the muscles responsible for pulling your knees in are strong (various adductors), viola, valgus knee movement. It’s this valgus knee movement (knees crashing in) that causes the femur to pinch tissues in your hip joint and cause pain.

The best move for strengthening your glutes is the hip thrust.

poor technique

When I coach people on low bar squats it is always through three main cues—hips back, knees out, and chest up. These three cues put the body into the correct position to maximize tension in the low bar squat and allow the lifter to hoist the most weight.

A good squat is not just up & down.

A good squat is a feeling, and that feeling is the creation of tension throughout the entire body, maximized in the hips.

Visit The Serious Guide to the Low Bar Squat page for help with technique.

you squat too deep for low bar

This cause is coupled with bad technique, but it’s possible to have a great low bar technique but a poor understanding of what a good low bar squat is. This would manifest in squatting too deep, and leads to hip pain.

The reason for this is simple: our body is a system of levers and pivot points. To have motion these levers (your bones) must move through space around the pivot points (your joints). When one lever maxes out its motion we must have motion in another lever to continue movement of the entire system.

I say this a lot, but I’ll say it again: low bar squats are not for ass-to-grass squatting. Low bar squats are for parallel at their deepest.

If you choose to squat deep in low bar your body will loosen tension in joints that it shouldn’t go deep.

This is bad.

This causes hip pain.

The fix

The fix is to educate yourself on the uses of the low bar squat, and to gain an understanding of what solid low bar squat technique is.

The first step is to visit our page on how to low bar squat.

Once your low bar squats are pain-free download our FREE beginner program to get you stronger.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.