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View Full Version : Squat - O'lifting vs P'lifing and Hip Flexors


Brian Lawyer
12-09-2008, 01:22 PM
For the past couple months I have been training on a hybrid O'Lifting and SS program. I use High bar position for Back squats. I have done a high bar O'Lifting squat my whole life. It wasn't until I read SS that I realized there was another low bar position used for Power lifting. But I still prefer High bar.

Lately my hip flexors have been really sore. I thought this was a result of the volume of squat workouts I have been doing. If I'm not doing back squat or OH squats, then I'm doing snatches (another OH squat) and C&J's (another Front Squat). It has been suggested to me to do a SS style low bar squat which may help my hip flexors. What do you all think?

Side notes - I work out with an O'lifting coach at a crossfit affiliate. No one has ever complained about my squat form. As far as I know, I have the basics down, knees wide, good depth, no buttwink, knees not traveling out past my toes, etc., etc. The only thing a coach ever pointed out to me is I could stand to bounce more out of the bottom. I got a pair of Do-win shoes which solved that problem real quick.

Kevin Perry
12-09-2008, 01:26 PM
Is there any pain? I doubt it would simply be because of the high bar vs. low bar position but rather due to flexibility that cold be solved through some simple stretches and foam rolling.

Steven Low
12-09-2008, 01:31 PM
Sore hip flexors mean they're being worked. That's because the hip flexors counteract the hamstrings which would cause posterior pelvic tilt during the lift. Posterior pelvic tilt at the bottom portion of a squat/OHS will cause rounding of the lumbar spine. So yes, you want your hip flexors to be working -- they help maintain the lordic curvature of the lumbar spine and keep the pelvis anteriorly rotated). That's probably a lot of volume if they're constantly sore though might wanna take a few days off.

If you're concerned about them getting too tight then you need to stretch them.

Yuen Sohn
12-09-2008, 01:32 PM
Lately my hip flexors have been really sore. I thought this was a result of the volume of squat workouts I have been doing. If I'm not doing back squat or OH squats, then I'm doing snatches (another OH squat) and C&J's (another Front Squat).

Brian,
I get distractingly sore hip flexors every once in a while. It's usually a sign I need to back off from training a bit or recover better between sessions.

Lifts-wise, what does your volume look like now (sets/reps/days)?
How's your recovery (sleep, stretching, foam rolling, etc.)?

Edit: Agree with Steven and Kevin

Daniel Labuz
12-09-2008, 01:36 PM
My hip flexors always seem sore, maybe I do need to take some days off (took 2 easy days last week). Or maybe less rowing and squats, a lot of rowing seems to do a number on my hip flexors

Brian Lawyer
12-09-2008, 02:19 PM
Could be just because my hip flexors are doing what they are supposed to do. I just started in the last two months really working my squats again. The 6 months prior, I was on another workout program which revolved around various lunges. I would think after two months my Hip Flexors would be used to it though. But from the above posts, it sounds like hip flexors being sore is common.


Is there any pain? I doubt it would simply be because of the high bar vs. low bar position but rather due to flexibility that cold be solved through some simple stretches and foam rolling.

No pain. I could be in denial, but I think I have pretty good flexibility.

Brian,
Lifts-wise, what does your volume look like now (sets/reps/days)?
How's your recovery (sleep, stretching, foam rolling, etc.)?



3 to 4 days a week. usually Two O'Lifting and one SS day. O'Lifting workouts are all over the place. sometimes I do 10 singles of Snatch and CJ. I did a couple work outs of Shrug unders 3 x 5, OH Squat (six second pause at bottom) 3 x 5, Snatch pulls 3 x 5

Recovery: Sleep is what it is. roughly 7 hours
I am a big fan of cold plunges. I'll empty my whole ice box in the bath tub. If I am incredibly sore from a workout I'll just do DROM, stretch and foam roll on my recovery days.

Júlíus G. Magnússon
12-09-2008, 03:30 PM
...knees not traveling out past my toes...
Why not?

Brian Lawyer
12-09-2008, 04:21 PM
Why not?

Cause Rip's book, SS, said that is bad...then again he teaches a P'lifting squat.

My knees travel out about an inch or so in front of toes. I've checked before by placing a block of wood in front of my toes and squatting so my knees touch the board but don't knock it over. This is also a good way to check to make sure all your forward knee travel takes place in the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the squat and the last half of the the squat consists of your hips sitting down. But that is from Rip's book to.

So who knows?

Daniel Labuz
12-09-2008, 04:44 PM
I always thought if you're doing high bar or Olympic squats you pretty much have to have knees over toes. You can't have the weight over no base such as your feet because of the bar position and the straightened upper body. at least that's what I've come to realize

Brian DeGennaro
12-09-2008, 04:45 PM
In order to achieve the appropriate position in a high-bar squat your knees are going to be well ahead of the toes, as far as ankle flexibility permits. You need that very upright, low hip posture to get the most bang-for-your-buck when squatting for weightlifting. The hamstrings aren't creating major hip extension as they are in the low-bar squat, but they are still stretching and contracting while high-bar squatting. The emphasis is just placed much more on the quads and glutes.

Also note that on really heavy back (or front sometimes) squats, you can see weightlifters shoot their hips back for a very slight portion of the movment, but then they shove their hips back under their heels. That's really the only time the hamstrings have a major contribution to the movement.

Júlíus G. Magnússon
12-09-2008, 05:42 PM
Cause Rip's book, SS, said that is bad...then again he teaches a P'lifting squat.
Exactly. The high-bar squat is a lot different from the low-bar squat Rip teaches.

Donald Lee
12-09-2008, 10:12 PM
I know you've had problems with your squatting from your post a few weeks ago on the CrossFit forum. Your knees not coming forward is probably where most of your problems lie. I used to squat like you did until I injured my back and learned otherwise (i.e., high bar squat with hips back).

Since you're into OL, you should be doing full squats (calves touching ankles). The knees coming forward is a non-issue with the full squat. Let them go forward as much as they want to and more if you have ankle flexibility issues.

Darryl Shaw
12-10-2008, 05:39 AM
I can't say that I've ever had any problems with my hip flexors while squatting but I've got osteoarthritis in both knees and I can do high bar squats without any problems, albeit with fairly light weights these days, whereas just thinking about low bar power-lifting squats is enough to have me reaching for the ice pack.

Brian Lawyer
12-10-2008, 10:53 AM
In order to achieve the appropriate position in a high-bar squat your knees are going to be well ahead of the toes, as far as ankle flexibility permits.

Brian, I've been doing my work sets of 5 reps with 335lbs. Trust me, with that much weight, I know whether or not the weight is over my balance point or not (i.e. directly above the balls of my feet). I think I am getting the proper amount of knees traveling forward.

I know you've had problems with your squatting from your post a few weeks ago on the CrossFit forum. Your knees not coming forward is probably where most of your problems lie. I used to squat like you did until I injured my back and learned otherwise (i.e., high bar squat with hips back).

Donald, I fixed that problem as soon as I realized I wasn't doing SS style squats. I was trying to do an SS style squat with the forward torso lean while using the high bar Olympic rack position. This was causing the weight to get too far forward of my balance point and resulting in me almost having to "good morning" the weight up. As soon as I realized this, I went back to the way I had formerly been doing squats with a more upright torso.

Maybe I am still in denial.

Robert Callahan
12-10-2008, 12:26 PM
I did a post about this on the CF forums but it kind of got overlooked I think... Either way I guess I will cross-post it here as I feel it is very relevant to the question at hand. Not sure if that is bad form or anything, I apologize if it is :)

You know Brian I was just thinking about the whole hip flexor soreness thing and may have a hypothesis.

Why is it that hip flexor tendinitis is so common when the knees are sliding forward at the bottom of the squat [Rip style]? Because the knees sliding forwards removes a large part of the hamstring contribution to the lift and the hip flexors end up doing the work that the much larger and stronger hamstrings should have done.

Now let us look at your high bar squat. In a high bar squat the back angle is much more vertical. This in effect shortens the proximal end hamstring removing in large part the stretch reflex that a low bar squat utilizes. SOOO the high bar squat has much less hamstring involvement, and thus the quads and hip flexors have to pick up more of the slack. This could lead to tendinitis and excess soreness even without the knees sliding forwards.....

What do you guys think?

Brian Lawyer
12-10-2008, 12:50 PM
I did a post about this on the CF forums but it kind of got overlooked I think... Either way I guess I will cross-post it here as I feel it is very relevant to the question at hand. Not sure if that is bad form or anything, I apologize if it is :)

What do you guys think?

Thanks Robert, That PM you sent me, which you quoted above, was what prompted me to start a post over here to get the O'Lifters perspective.

Donald Lee
12-10-2008, 01:11 PM
This is my take.

The full squat requires much more hamstring flexibility than the low bar squat because you're squatting so much lower.

Now what are the hip flexors responsible for in the squat? As Steven said, the hip flexors help to create an anterior pelvic tilt. If you don't engage your hip flexors, it's much easier for your lower back to round, which means the posterior pelvic tilt or butt wink.

Because with the full squat it is so much harder to not round your back, to counteract the pull of your glutes and hamstrings, your hip flexors and abs have to fire that much more.

Hamstrings + Glutes --> posterior tilt & butt wink

Hip Flexors + Abs --> anterior tilt

Brian Lawyer
12-10-2008, 02:03 PM
This is my take.

The full squat requires much more hamstring flexibility than the low bar squat because you're squatting so much lower...Now what are the hip flexors responsible for in the squat? As Steven said, the hip flexors help to create an anterior pelvic tilt...Hip Flexors + Abs --> anterior tilt

Donald, If I understand correctly, I think you are basically saying my hip flexors are doing what they are supposed to be doing and I can expect them to be sore. So maybe it's all a mute point and actually an indicator that I am using proper form...

Brian DeGennaro
12-10-2008, 02:04 PM
Yup, he's right on that one. The hip flexors do include the rectus femoris as well, so obviously that is going to be working to help extend the knee. You are loading your hip flexors eccentrically with a lot more weight through a lot more ROM than they are used to, obviously they're going to cry out for some mercy.

Robert Callahan
12-10-2008, 02:10 PM
The full squat requires much more hamstring flexibility than the low bar squat because you're squatting so much lower.

The reason people typically get lower (though not always) in a high bar back squat is not because they have more flexible hamstrings, but rather because as I said above the hamstring is shortened by the anatomy of the movement. By shortening the hamstring you remove some of the tension and make it easier to get low without losing your pelvic tilt. This shortening also means that the hamstrings can no longer contribute as strong of a contraction though. So in order to get enough force production to get out of the whole the quads and hip flexors must work much harder.

If anything low bar back squats take much more hamstring flexibility to preform because of the extra tension put on the hamstrings when at full depth.

Brian Lawyer
12-10-2008, 03:49 PM
I sent my O'Lift coach an email about my hip flexor soreness to see what he thought. Like I said he's never said anything to me about my squat form. On the other hand, my snatch form is a whole other story. Again, he's never said anything about my OH squat position when recieving the snatch.

He responded to my email with a one liner about making sure my knees track my toes but then went on with a whole paragraph on stretching my squat position on a daily basis. So I am going to assume from that respone that he thinks this is a flexibility issue with me.

Steven Low
12-10-2008, 05:59 PM
As I said... it's probably fine. If you don't want them sore back off some and let them recover. That should take care of it.

If they're getting tight, stretch/massage/ART them more.

Donald Lee
12-10-2008, 07:04 PM
The reason people typically get lower (though not always) in a high bar back squat is not because they have more flexible hamstrings, but rather because as I said above the hamstring is shortened by the anatomy of the movement. By shortening the hamstring you remove some of the tension and make it easier to get low without losing your pelvic tilt. This shortening also means that the hamstrings can no longer contribute as strong of a contraction though. So in order to get enough force production to get out of the whole the quads and hip flexors must work much harder.

If anything low bar back squats take much more hamstring flexibility to preform because of the extra tension put on the hamstrings when at full depth.

I'm not an expert on hamstring anatomy, but when you're at the bottom of the full squat, something's pulling on your lower back. It's either the glutes or the hamstrings, or both.

And you said:

"So in order to get enough force production to get out of the whole the quads and hip flexors must work much harder. "

I believe the glutes are what really help you out of the bottom of the squat because the hamstrings are shortened. I don't think anything you said contradicts what I said about the hip flexors though.

Steven Low
12-11-2008, 12:07 AM
Okay, here's everything summed up into one picture.

http://img370.imageshack.us/img370/3595/lumbararchld7.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

So basically, hip flexor work = normal. If they're sore then they're getting a lot of work and might not be adjusted to the volume. Consider some more REST or stretching if they're tight.

Brian Lawyer
12-11-2008, 11:26 AM
Did we ever draw a conclusion on whether there is a difference with P'Lifting Squat vs. O'Lifting squat regarding how much our hip flexors have to work?

I'm wondering if it is beneficial, to give my hip flexors a break, to switch over to a P'lifting style squat on my workout days when I am just doing 3 x 5 of Back squat.

Kris Reeves
12-11-2008, 12:14 PM
Did we ever draw a conclusion on whether there is a difference with P'Lifting Squat vs. O'Lifting squat regarding how much our hip flexors have to work?

I'm wondering if it is beneficial, to give my hip flexors a break, to switch over to a P'lifting style squat on my workout days when I am just doing 3 x 5 of Back squat.


Or maybe it's time to just cycle the weight back some...not switch squat styles but knock 15% or so off your working weight??? I don't know for sure...I'm just throwin' that out there...

Brian Lau
12-11-2008, 01:21 PM
Did we ever draw a conclusion on whether there is a difference with P'Lifting Squat vs. O'Lifting squat regarding how much our hip flexors have to work?

I'm wondering if it is beneficial, to give my hip flexors a break, to switch over to a P'lifting style squat on my workout days when I am just doing 3 x 5 of Back squat.

I find that whenever my hip flexors get too sore from squatting, it's because I've increased the volume of low-bar squats. Switching to high-bar squats for awhile provides relief for me. This seems consistent with the observation that low-bar squats generate relatively more moment of force about the hip than the knee compared to high-bar squats (Wretenberg et al., 1996 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775157)). For people who low-bar squat more than they high-bar squat, this translates into greater hip torques, and I'm guessing that the hip flexors have to work that much harder to keep the pelvis positioned optimally (thanks for the drawing Steven!).

Robert Callahan
12-11-2008, 04:59 PM
Did we ever draw a conclusion on whether there is a difference with P'Lifting Squat vs. O'Lifting squat regarding how much our hip flexors have to work?

I'm wondering if it is beneficial, to give my hip flexors a break, to switch over to a P'lifting style squat on my workout days when I am just doing 3 x 5 of Back squat.


Yeah I don't know. I still think it makes sense that an Oly/high bar squat is going to have more stress on the hip flexors since the hamstrings are doing less of the work. Not that this is bad or anything, just the nature of the beast. If anyone has a good argument for why this may not be the case I would love to hear it :)

If it is the case maybe switching to a style of squat outlined in SS would be a nice lay off for your hip flexors? The only way to know really is to try it out though... :)

-Robert

Jamie Crichton
12-20-2008, 05:26 AM
The hip flexors and the hamstrings do not perform comparable actions. For our purposes you can think of them as antagonistic. The hamstrings EXTEND the hip, for example standing up straight, deadlifting etc. The hip flexors FLEX the hip, for example bring the knees to the chest, situps etc.

When you squat, the action of the hip flexors will be to counteract the increasing tension of the hamstrings and glutes, to maintain spinal extension. Remember they are not directly assisting you to stand up with the weight. Contraction of the hamstrings and glutes will extend the hip, which along with extension of the knee, will return you to an upright position. The only contribution of the hip flexors in this case is maintaining a straight back. Indeed, the extent of this contribution is debatable; the lumbar extensors are more likely to be doing the bulk of the work in maintaining spinal extension.

If this isn't clear please refer to a textbook of anatomy for the functions and positions of the various muscles. Also remember that soreness in the anterior hip could be caused by other structures besides the hip flexors.

Brian Lawyer
12-20-2008, 01:22 PM
You all have great textbook, kinesiological arguments above. I appreciate the feedback. Here's an update on experiences in the gym over the past couple weeks.

I have the book Starting Strength which I refer to quite a bit regarding squat technique. The problem is, I was using a lot of coach Rips cues such has "hips back" and "limiting forward knee travel"while still using a high bar position. As a result, and my coach observed this today, I have not been letting my knees travel far enough forward during OH squats and high bar back squats. This may or may not be why the increased hip flexor soreness.

Any how, I concluded when doing high bar back squats, OH squats, or Front Squats, I need to sit my butt straight down and let knees travel further forward.

On the other hand I have also played around with the low bar back squat position in recently. the lower bar position does significantly change the dynamic of the lift and Rip's coaching cue such as "hips back" and "limit forward knee travel", and "hip drive" do work well with the low bar position.

My conclusion is I can't mix up the coaching cues on the two lifts or I am going to stress my hip flexors.

Steven Low
12-20-2008, 06:56 PM
Well, you're gonna stress them regardless. But you will stress them more if you're not doing it right which is true.

Robert Callahan
12-31-2008, 11:21 PM
I see my mistake now. The hip flexors are only stressed in an isometric way when the knees travel forward at the bottom of the squat. Regardless of the kind of squat they are only engaged in a way that will cause soreness if the knees are sliding forward. So they are not actually picking up any of the slack like I said before, as was pointed out that is an anatomical understanding error on my part :) The rectus femoris is stressed more, but only in its distal function, which is knee extension, not its proximal which is hip flexion.

Bottom line sore hip flexors means something needs fixing in the form, regardless of the type of squat.

-Robert

Donald Lee
01-01-2009, 06:33 PM
http://weighttraining.about.com/b/2008/05/13/how-low-should-you-squat-full-or-parallel.htm

Beyond that, there is a common belief that ATG squats are superior to parallel or half squats because the full range of motion promotes balanced and superior muscle and strength development. The implication is that parallel squats don't involve the hamstrings and gluteus (butt) muscles like full squats and therefore you get a muscle strength imbalance between the quadricep muscles at the front of the thigh and the posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings and the glutes. This belief seems to be widespread because it's repeated regularly.

I could find no justification for this position. In studies of muscle activation comparisons between half and full squats, the main hamstring muscle, the biceps femoris, is involved almost equally in full or half squats. The main butt muscle, the gluteus maximus, is involved slightly more in the full squat but full squats are likely to utilize less heavy weights so that any general advantage in muscle or strength development may be minimal for full squats. And somewhat contrary to widespread opinion, the rectus femoris muscle of the front of the thigh -- in one study at least -- got hammered twice as hard in the ATG squat as the parallel squat. Muscle imbalance development with parallel squats is unlikely to be a problem. In this context one could almost argue that full squats are more likely to cause muscle imbalance by emphasizing the rectus femoris compared to the posterior chain.

Darryl Shaw
01-02-2009, 04:50 AM
http://strengthmill.net/forum/showthread.php?t=3606

Patrick Donnelly
01-02-2009, 12:45 PM
http://weighttraining.about.com/b/2008/05/13/how-low-should-you-squat-full-or-parallel.htm

This seems to ignore the existence of deadlifts.

Presses/Pull-ups
Bench Press/Pendlay Row
GHD Sit-up/Back Extension
Maltese/Victorian
Squat/Deadlift

Anyone noticing a pattern here?

Dave Van Skike
01-02-2009, 01:16 PM
This seems to ignore the existence of deadlifts.

Presses/Pull-ups
Bench Press/Pendlay Row
GHD Sit-up/Back Extension
Maltese/Victorian
Squat/Deadlift

Anyone noticing a pattern here?

the pattern is not as clear as you'd think. heavy bench and heavy rows are big time upper back and shoulders....squat and deads are big ole hip extender excercises, reagardless of style. pull ups and presses are huge back stbilization excercises. the push/pull, front/back thing is not particularly useful in true strenght training.

Rip is the last person to ignore the DL. He's making an argument in favor of the low bar back squat as a replacement for the high bar back squat...personally rip's advice works really well for me...but I'm not an oly lifter and those who are seem tro have good reaosns for the high bar back squat.

WRT DL, anyone who can deadlift with the frequency and high percentages that oly lifters squat with is A) a total rookie or B) not laoding the bar heavy enough. heavy deads are taxing in a way that squatting is not.