Has anyone ever told you that you squat crooked? Have you ever taken a video of yourself squatting and noticed that you tend to shift to one side as you stand up? This is called a hip shift and can occur for several different reasons, such as mobility imbalances, strength deficiencies, and motor control issues. Fixing a hip shift takes time and repetition, but using the following drills to help retrain your brain and change your movement patterns can be the key to building a stronger squat.
One possible cause for a hip shift is that an athlete’s pelvis is rotated more forward on one side than the other, which can cause the athlete to naturally shift to one side more than the other. To help correct this, the athlete is going to have to rely on some of their smaller muscles, their adductors, to help stabilize and reposition their pelvis so that they are more centered when they squat. Using the smaller muscles that are close to the pelvis to help correct the hip shift issue then frees up the bigger muscles, such as the hamstrings and glutes, to create the power needed for a strong squat. In the following drill, the goal is to restore the pelvis’ ability to stabilize in the sagittal plane (movement front to back).
- Lie on your back with your feet up on a wall and your legs at ninety degrees. Place a foam roller between your knees.
- Start by taking a big breath in through your nose, and then slowly let it out through your mouth. As you exhale, feel your front ribs fold down towards your belly button, which pulls your pelvis back underneath you.
- From here, lift your tailbone off the ground slightly (just an inch or so), while maintaining a braced core. Lightly squeeze the foam roller with your knees (this will recruit the adductors on both sides).
- From here, shift one side down so that one knee is lower than the other. (If you start by shifting your left knee down, then the roller should spin counter-clockwise. You will then bring your left side back up, and shift the right side down. You can shift back and forth from side to side several times). This restores the body’s ability to shift forward/backward, one side at a time, as you are squatting.
- Finally, you can practice stabilizing your pelvis by pressing one side down (so one knee is lower than the other) and then taking the opposite foot off the wall. Hold this position for two breath cycles. Remember, your tailbone should still be lifted slightly off the ground. It is best to practice this on the side that you tend to shift to when you squat. (If you shift to the left, then practice keeping the left knee down, which teaches you to stabilize the left side of the pelvis, and teaches you to recruit the left hamstring.)
A second method that can aid in fixing a hip shift is called RNT, or Reactive Neuromuscular Training. This is the idea that you use resistance to actually increase the dysfunction that is occurring when you squat. For example: if you tend to shift to the left when you squat, then you are going to increase the resistance towards the left so that you have to over-exaggerate squatting to the right. In order to do this, tie a band around a post (or have someone hold it for you) and then step both feet into the band. You want the band to lay right around your right hip so that it is shifting you towards the left. You want just enough resistance so that you push reflexively towards the right, but not enough so that it pulls you off balance. You can practice doing air squats, goblet squats, even light barbell squats with this band around your waist to train your body to push away from the side that you normally shift to.