Monday 11 July 2016

How to Fix Hip Shift in the Squat

Great exercises like the squat offer fantastic benefits - if they are done right. If you want to take full advantage of all the squat has to offer, you need to get your form nailed down. While there are major problems such as the heel shooting off the ground or your tail tucking, there is a subtler problem you also need to watch for – lateral hip shift. Left undetected, this movement flaw can increase low back and knee stress, create muscular strength and mobility imbalances and ingrain faulty movement patterns. This technique flaw is a symptom of an underlying problem. If you can identify what this problem is and fix it you are on your way to safer, more effective squatting. And that is just what I’ll show you how to do.

The first thing you need to do is to find out if you even have a lateral hip shift in your squat. To do this, film yourself from behind a set of you doing squats. Note: this should be a hard and heavy work set. Weight amplifies issues and you may not catch a problem on warm-up set. If you don’t have an issue, just repeat this test every month as you are getting stronger to make sure you are still on track. If you find a problem, keep reading. 

Possible Causes of Lateral Hip Shift
There are 4 main possibilities that cause this lateral hip shift. They are: 

  1. Mobility asymmetries
  2. Strength asymmetries
  3. Power asymmetries 
  4. Motor control issues 

Now, let’s look at how to find and fix each of these…

1. Mobility Asymmetries
Imbalances in mobility can cause your body to have to shift as it looks for room to get to the bottom of a squat. Naturally, your body will move away from its tighter side and towards it more flexible side. In the bottom position of the squat, your hip rotators are likely the muscles that can cause problems. I first noticed my imbalance with this when playing on the floor with my kids. One side was very comfortable, the other - not so much. Recently as I worked through Mike Boyle's Functional Strength Coach 6, he addressed this sitting position. Now, I try to spend more time sitting on my bad side.

Try sitting both ways. Do you notice it easier to sit on one side versus the other? If not, great! If so, spend more time sitting on the floor to the side that is tight. 

While hamstring asymmetries are less likely to cause issues in the squat (this is because the knees are bent in the squat), you might as well rule this one out as well. The FMS active straight leg will allow you to check for hip mobility and core stability asymmetries. To do this, lie on your back. Push one leg into the ground and SLOWLY raise your other leg. Stop when you can’t go anymore or you start to move with the bottom leg.

If you notice any left-to-right differences you find you can’t get up very high with either one, try leg lowering and/or straight leg glute bridges with leg lifts.

Leg Lowering

Straight Leg Bridge

Another possible issue can be ankle mobility. If one ankle less mobile than the other, it will prevent your knee from coming forward as much as the other side. This can also lead to shifting of the hips. Check out this video for an ankle mobility drill. You can also use this drill as an assessment by comparing your range of motion on one side and then the other. If you find you are tighter on one side, spend more time working on that one until you are more symmetrical.

Strength Asymmetries
Another possible reason for this hip shift can be a left-to-right difference in lower body strength. If the body senses that one leg is stronger than the other, it naturally shifts more weight onto the strong side when things get hard. To assess this, see how many single-leg squats you can do with each leg. Here are 2 great exercises you can pick from. 

Single Leg Box Squat

Single Leg Squat from Bench

If you suspect you have a stronger leg, start with that one. Do as many reps as you can. Then, give yourself a generous rest period and see if you can match reps on the other side. If there is more than a rep or two difference between legs, give bilateral (double leg) squatting a break and work on single leg squatting with one of the above exercises. For correction purposes, do the weaker leg first and work it has hard as you can. Match reps and weight on the stronger leg – even if it feels easy. If there are big imbalances, you can also temporarily do a few more sets on the weaker leg. 

Power Asymmetries 
Like strength, a difference in lower body power can cause hip shift issues. To assess this, try a vertical jump against a wall with one leg at a time. Use some chalk on your fingertips so you can measure the differences after testing each leg.

If you notice a difference in single leg vertical jump height, spend some time after your warm-up each session doing some single leg jumping (with 2-foot landing to reduce impact stress). As with the strength asymmetries, you can do more jumps on the less powerful leg to help them catch up.

Motor Control Issues 
Now it is possible that you have gone through the above tests and found no major asymmetries and yet you still have a hip shift. If so, this is likely a motor control issue. This means it is more of a skill issue with your body not controlling the movement correctly. If this is the case, a great fix can RNT (reactive neuromuscular training). The idea with RNT is to use light band tension to pull your body into the dysfunction. This results in your body reflexively pulling out of the dysfunction and back to where you want it to go. 

In the case of the hip shift, you can attach a band around your hips and to the safety rod of the power rack. Make sure you don’t use too much tension here. The goal is not to create a strength training effect from the band, but to trigger a movement reflex. 

RNT can be done with your warm-up sets and even your work sets.

Another possible issue with hip shift is a motor control issue at the knee. In this case, one knee collapses in and this causes the hip shift. If you find this to be your issue (video from the front to know), you can use the RNT method with a band around your problem knee.

Finding problems with your technique is a frustrating part of the training journey. However, if you are willing to put the time in to find and fix these problems, your body will reward you with the ability to train harder and safer and move ever-closer to your goals. 

Related Posts on Squats: 

How about you? I invite you to leave your comments or questions below.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Outstanding as well as powerful tip by the writer of this blog are really handy to me. Fitness Equipment Melbourne

  4. Great post. A lot of great tips and ideas, very useful. Thanks


  5. This article provided me with a wealth of information. The article is both educational and helpful. Thank you for providing information about Squat Racks Perth. Keep up the good work.

  6. I always examine these sorts of consultatory blog posts, and also I found your videos breathing exercises for musicians. This is a terrific source to raise knowledge. Thanks for sharing an videos like this.