How Deep to Hip Flex?

In leg press we trust. But how deep should we flex our hips? I.e, how low down should we bring our thighs towards our chest? What is safe, sensible, and can we ever flex too low?

The fact is, we all have different natural ranges, specific to our own anatomy. People with excellent and naturally occurring hip flexion can get the hips to the torso pretty easily, without having to round the lumbar spine and / or jam up the cartilage in the hip joints.

However, not everyone has this natural bony anatomy. The hip joint is comprised of a ‘ball’ and ‘socket.’ At end range flexion (hip bend), the outer edge of the ball (head of femur) hits the outer edge of the socket (acetabulum) and thus a bony block is created.

People with more of a shallow socket and / or a very spherical (round) ball may naturally have a greater hip flexion range before the bones block one another. (Bony angles / torsion come into play as well, but this is a post for another day).

People with a very deep hip socket and / or a less spherical ball may find that they cannot flex the hip as deep as others, before they meet their bony limitation.

If you flex under heavy load, beyond your bony anatomy, you risk rounding your low back and causing a disc injury, or sustaining damage to the cartilage that surrounds the hip surfaces. These underlying changes may develop slowly and unnoticed for some time, or they may come on suddenly if the load is heavy enough and the technique for the individual’s anatomy is poor.

To find your natural hip flexion range, lie on your back on a firm surface such as the floor, and bring one hip as far as you can to your torso (keeping your low back flat). You will at some stage feel a ‘firm block’ at the hip. This is more than likely your bony end range. Then repeat for the other hip. This is how low you can leg press or squat to, providing good form otherwise.

We can increase our control and our technique, but we cannot currently change our bony anatomy (without surgery that is, which is currently rarely indicated).

Take care of your joints for long term lifting, and reduce the risks of disc and cartilage injury.

At Destiny Health, we offer sound technical coaching in all of our physical exercise programs.

(Medical Disclaimer: As always, this is not medical advice for any one individual. See your trusted physio if it has been a while since exercising or if you have any health concerns).

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