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You Don’t Know Squat without an “Active Hip” by Mark Rippetoe - CrossFit Journal

In ExPhysiology, Exercises, Powerlifting

November 26, 2008

PDF Article

Drawing on more than 30 years in the fitness industry, Mark Rippetoe writes that an “active hip” can help clean up problems associated with the squat. Dr. Stef Bradford and Dr. Lon Kilgore, Rippetoe’s long-time collaborators, also contributed to this article.

When we squat, the standard range of motion criterion for the exercise is “below parallel.” This is defined as the hip joint identified at the apex of the hip angle (the “corner” in your shorts over the hip) as it drops below the knee (the top of the patella).

Most people who have trouble with the squat are having trouble getting good depth while keeping their low back from rounding. Pretty much anybody can get deep if they allow the lumbar spine to relax into flexion, a phenomenon known in some circles as the “butt wink.” Shoving the knees out of the way on descent and keeping them there so that the adductors can do their job is accomplished by an external rotation of the hip.

The concept of the active hip is best understood as the use of an actively locked lumbar extension and actively shoved-out knees, which results in a below-parallel squat that incorporates a stretch reflex using all the muscles of the posterior chain in the most optimal way possible. The active hip gets the thighs out of the way of the pelvis so that good depth can be more easily obtained. At the same time, it makes the squat stronger and more powerful because of the more effective use of more muscles over a wider range of motion.

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11 Comments on “You Don’t Know Squat without an “Active Hip””


wrote …

Great article!
I think this will help a lot of people to fix their effectiveness and safety, performing excercises that involves loaded extension of the hips. And I hope it will help trainers adress this easy-to-fix-problem.

It amazes me to see how hard it is for most trainees to controll their hips and legs. Especially keeping the knees out. Maybe I'm not yelling loud enough?



wrote …

i love this article, along with my favorite - "a rather long analysis of the deadlift."


wrote …

I was at my 24 hour Globo after listening to Rip briefly discuss 'Active Hip' on CF Radio, but prior to this article being posted on the Journal.

The trainer there was working with a trainee rehabbing an nondescript injury.

The trainer said, "Nice form," as he had this poor guy loaded up with 225 lbs, wearing a belt, feet considerably wider than shoulder width, toes straight forward and doing 3 sets of 3 not even close to parallel with his back rounding on each rep.

I tried to mimic the stance and movement unloaded, and almost fell over as my knees bowed inward and my back started to round over.

It's frightening how much confidence people place in alleged 'trainers.' I have to catch this poor trainee before or after a session and just point him to the main site, for his own sake.


Aaron Shaffer wrote …

Coach Rip, this article was helpful (particularly the images). I am finally confident in my understanding of the squat.


wrote …

Coach Rip, thanks and thanks again for making this accessible to even a garage gym guy. I keep marveling at how complexity there can be in learning this movement, and at how much utility there is in knowing how to think about it. I've gained many levels of knowledge as I've worked with this for the last two years or so, and I'm enjoying passing what I know to others. They eat it up. Thanks, Paul


Darren Coughlan wrote …

Great article,
Any plans to cover the 'active shoulder'?


wrote …


Darren Coughlan wrote …

Cheers Tony!


wrote …

This should be compulsory reading for all trainers & fitness enthusiasts!


wrote …

Oh my GOD, this and the basic "why to squat" article were so eye-opening. I just started Crossfit a few weeks ago and am like a kid in a candy store with this journal--so much great science, presented in a way that pretty much everyone can understand. I've been trying to do the squat for literally years, basing my form on what I'd read in workout magazines and from spying on personal trainers in the gym (whose services I was too poor to afford). It never felt right and I could never get even to parallel. This article completely opened my eyes to the fact I've been doing it ALL WRONG, and once I tried it with feet turned out I could go past parallel, just as you said. Great, great stuff--Thanks so much to the authors and everybody in the community who adds their two cents--I'm learning so much!


replied to comment from Anna Engberg

I agree with you completely, Anna! Men jag kan prata svenska med dig va? Nå jag kan skriva på engelska bara för hövligheten mot andra här :) I too was new to crossfit a while back and have learned many new things! I work as s physiotherapist and personal trainer, so crossfit has been very beneficial for me in many ways. I´m learning something new every week - exciting!
Talk to you later :)

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