T Nation

Building Big Legs w/o Bilateral Squats


So the "why would I ask such a dumbass question" answer is that I have a pretty significant retroversion in both hips, and square-headed femurs, and FAI. All this contributes to the fact that if I do full squats or ANY movement requiring even minor internal rotation on a regular basis and/or full hip flexion with any load (that is basically every bilateral squat type motion: front squat, back squat, leg press, gets worse with significant hip internal rotation and flexion, i.e., power-lifting squats are absolutely awful), I will end up needing hip replacements.

I've already had both hips scoped and any time I do a workout including squats, I can feel it in my right hip for days afterwards: a painful achy feeling that I've been told is inflammation related to arthritis and that will get worse with more work. Even if I push through the pain, just getting parallel is really hard.

Lately I've been doing 5/3/1 Boring But Big but subbing DB walking lunges for squats. The heavy work feels lacking on sets of 3 or less but the sets of 10 are really brutal and give a crazy pump, and even after all that volume my hips are fine.

Things that don't hurt: deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts, GHR, exercise bike, non-sprinting sled work.
Things that do hurt: squats, front squats, leg press, sprinting, seated adductor.

So if you were in my shoes, what would you be doing for legs?


Besides the exercises that you listed that you can do, lots of reverse sled dragging for quads. Also did you mean hip external rotation instead of internal? You externally rotate when you squat, if you are internally rotating then your technique is wayyyy off. I would also recommend finding a very competent physical therapist preferably one that has a history of working with athletes and a soft tissue guy. These two people can go a long way in significantly helping with your condition.

I am no physical therapist but deadlifting stresses the hips a lot (it's also a ton of hip flexion that you said injures you) for the long term I would say if you have hip issues that is not the best exercise.


Does unilateral leg pressing hurt?


This is a good one, and I do this when I do the sled (which for me is a heavy tire with a rope that I pull instead of push, but it feels about the same on the legs).

actually you need internal rotation to squat, especially deep. Search this article: ( http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/squat_like_you_mean_it_tips_for_a_deeper_squat )

They've basically said "don't squat with weights" and haven't been helpful in programming other than telling me what I can't do. I haven't tried many more or seen any trainers because, well, I'm poor and they charge too much. But reading on my condition (Hip internal rotation deficit (HIRD), Femoral-acetabular impingement (FAI)), there's basically nothing I can do to fix it. I just have to work around it. I have a normal range of motion but it's shifted towards the external rotation, meaning I have bonus external rotation but an internal rotation deficit.

I've wondered about this, but I'm hesitant to dump it until it starts hurting. It doesn't seem to put me in as much of a compromising situation. It's more hip flexion + internal rotation or extreme hip flexion, as in, all the way. If I keep my hips neutrally rotated, I can flex enough for a deadlift with no pain. Of course, no pain doesn't mean no damage, necessarily.


Not sure but that's a good one to try. I seems like single leg work requires or allows a bit of external rotation to do while keeping balance so I can do split squats and lunges.

I can flex my hip really deep if I allow it to externally rotate while I do it.


I'd be making the best of absolutely anything in the "don't hurt" category, while gradually figuring out new movements that could be added to the list. You have plenty of options right there.

Also, Steel Nation had a bunch of serious hip issues too. Check out his thread and maybe try to pick his brain about it.


Dude, you're 33 with serious hip issues, multiple surgeries and early onset of arthritis.

You should probably hook up with a good PT who specializes in sports medicine/athletes (if possible) and stay as far away from anything that bothers your hips. You don't want to be walking with a cane or limp by the time you're 40.

You don't need to lift heavy in the low rep ranges. If lifting weights is a hobby, which it is to 99.9% of the population, then you stay far away from anything that bothers your hips.

Sorry to hear about your injuries my man. Good luck.


So you can do trap bar deadlifts? What about low handle? Those really allow you to move heavy weight with some quad dominance. Although what about front squats, as you can keep your feet more forward


I edited my original post, but it didn't go through.

I was also going to ask if you could push the prowler. That always gives me a pretty big leg pump.


I have a poor-man prowler at home (truck tire w/ a rope on it) that I have used but haven't used lately. It doesn't hurt my hips at all, assuming I pull it with big walking strides instead of pounding my feet to drive it like you would a lineman. I should probably use it more. I haven't done much conditioning lately because I'm a lazy fatass but this week I made a commitment and have been getting up early to do cycle sprints every day. Gives quite the pump. I can do those pain free whereas I shouldn't do running sprints because of the impact. I can, but I feel it the next couple of days if I do.


Thanks all for the replies. I'm taking away: more prowler, high(er) reps mostly.

That fits in pretty well w/ the 5/3/1 variant that I'm already doing. I was mostly concerned with how hard it is to progress on the lunges, that I might not really be able to progress. But I guess all things considered, it'll be ok.


I'd love to try pushing a prowler but I can't seem to find a gym that has one. I know the pump is huge and seems like the perfect warm up for regular squats.


Apart from lifting, work on mobility!
However, you need to consult a specialist to make sure the exercises (you need only a handful) won't hurt your hip.


If I were you, I'd just ditch 5/3/1 and just do a regular body part split. The squat is an essential exercise in 5/3/1, and if you can't do it, I wouldn't do the program at all.

Just do a regular split, and for leg days just choose the exercises you can do and get stronger at those.


how's it going man, just stumbled across this as i am getting ready to consider surgery for what sounds like a very similar situation, mine is diagnosed per x ray