Exercises for Hip and Pelvic Stability

I have trouble at the bottom of deep squats with my knees buckling(weak pelvis) so I’ve been doing hip thrusts(barbell and resistance band) and wrapping resistance band around my knees and pushing outwards opening my knees to increase my pelvic stability under load. I’ve also been doing sets of power cleans from the thigh in the power position and then using hip thrust to get the bar up and under it.

Can anyone suggest other exercises to increase pelvic stability under load when deep squatting?

front squats
goblet squats

Practicing your squat, doing pause squats, and sumo SLDL’s on top of what you are doing is good, you don’t need a gigantic pool of exercises, especially at your level. Also, take out power cleans from the hang if getting a stronger squat is your goal from them, they have a good purpose, but building strength and muscle is not one of the uses of any olympic lift or variation of an olympic lift.

On another note, keep in mind that issues with your form are not always because of weaknesses although you more than likely have weak hips (it is weak hips or weak glutes and hip flexors not a weak pelvis, saying your pelvis is weak is as silly as saying your femur or tibia are weak) it may just be that you are doing the lift wrong or you haven’t had enough practice with perfect form under moderate and heavy loads to keep your form good.

Can you post what your training has been like, preferably the program and some entries from your training log? It would help a lot on trying to help you apply those things.

[quote]Destrength wrote:
Practicing your squat, doing pause squats, and sumo SLDL’s on top of what you are doing is good, you don’t need a gigantic pool of exercises, especially at your level.


I’ve had a lot of trouble with my squat and deadlift since I injured my back. I don’t back squat anymore only front squat at high rep range. I do goblets too. Initially I was worried about my lower back but I spent a long time mastering hyperextensions and strengthening my core. Now I’m back to squating and when I go heavy and deep I get pelvic instability and pain plus knees buckle in so I know we hips are now the weak link in the chain not my lower back.

My immediate goal is a strong enough posterior chain to actually squat in a rep range that is low enough to be useful. I do power cleans from the hang to strengthen my hips along with barbell hip thrusts, resistance band hip thrusts and wrap resistance bands around my knees and open them up keeping ankles together.

That’s all the exercises I have directly related - I also do pull throughs but I’m not sure what else I can do to strengthen my hips. I know I’ll be able to go heavier and deeper on the front squat(to build posterior chain and overall strength + legs hypertrophy) if I can fix the hips.

Yes, it is my hips. Although I’m a beginner I have been doing squats of one sort or another for some years and picked up on what I need to do to progress. First my core wasn’t strong enough and it took me a long time to master the hyperextension after back injuries. Now my hip strength is the weak link. I can tell from my form breakdown when I go too deep and heavy.


Can you post what your training has been like, preferably the program and some entries from your training log? It would help a lot on trying to help you apply those things.[/quote]

It’s been a bit disorganised and I’d have to explain a lot of things like why I’m using light weight mostly and why I’m doing certain exercises and not others. I’ll try to summarise:

I have lower back injuries and I’m a beginner so it’s difficult but I don’t do anything like a beginners program nor any progressive squat / deadlift program as I just can’t do it. So I just concentrate on posterior chain and core strength. Three or four leg days and just a little upper body in between.


Shoulders - Side raises, front raises, overhead presses. I pump the delts full of blood by replacing Dumbbells with resistance bands after sets.

Triceps - dips, close grip triceps push ups

Lats - pull ups and lying face down barbell rows

And push ups. That’s all the upper body I do in a week.

The rest it’s legs / core. Replaced squatting with weight for bodyweight split squats, leg press machine, leg extensions, dumbbell squat variations and lunge variations and Glute Ham Raise variations.

As I can’t go heavy I spend a lot of my energy on bodyweight split squats which have helped me get stronger. But I can’t go heavy enough on squat or deadlift without lower back and pelvic concern / pain. Even the 45 degree leg press is too much for my pelvis when I go heavy.

So, hips are a weak point then lower back and with legs I’m quad dominant so I spend a lot of time on hamstrings. Can’t go heavy on RDLs, straight legged deadlifts etc but have been doing them a little in high rep range.

And I have tried to add a lot of volume with legs to make up for the lower loads but I run into the same trouble with form breakdown and pain so I have to back off and go back to bodyweight split squats and lunges.

Sorry that’s a bit of a mess but that’s the only way I can explain it. I sometimes miss upper body training but I never miss legs or core training as that’s my focus. Legs / core / posterior chain / lower back / hips etc is all rehabilitation to get me into a position where I can squat and deadlift in useful rep ranges or if I can’t I’ll just keep getting stronger with hard bodyweight work and use machines to avoid the shear forces on pelvic hinge and lower back.

With lower back I’m convinced my weakness initially was not erector spinae but rather TVA, obliques etc. I still do a lot of stuff to keep my core strong but as I said my hip strength is now the weak link in the chain. I want to focus on hip strength and then I’ll be able to front squat heavier and deeper which will allow me to add mass to my legs(one of my goals).

Diet was keto but I couldn’t function on less than 50 grams of carbs a day so I’m eating a slight surplus in a sort of clean bulk in approx ratio 60% fats 35% protein 5% carbs. I don’t actually want to lose any more bodyfat as I’m starting to look a little too skinny in places. But my diet is solid and consistent although I need to add a little more carbs pre-workout and post to fuel my workout and replace depleted glycogen. I’ve noticed my energy is really low from trying to get to metabolic ketosis.

And just to summarise my actual goals:

  • Aesthetic full body symmetry - rather than full body beginners I do a split week but focus on legs / posterior strength. Recently been hitting hamstrings to bring them in balance with my quads. I also want leg hypertrophy as my upper body is bigger than my lower body.

  • Rehabilitation for injuries and posterior chain / core strength for injury prevention and to allow me to do the above.

  • Olympic lift technique - I want to learn technique as some of the variations can be useful for a few things. I practice form with an empty(36lbs) bar and do a limited number of sets with a light weight but I don’t ever go high volume on these.

I’ve heard about Tom Platz’s high volume leg workouts but of course he was strong enough and juiced up enough to take high volume. For me I can do it without injury by careful choice and order of exercises but it turns into HI cardio that just eats into muscle tissue scavenging for fuel when I’m on a low carb diet and not in metabolic ketosis. That’s why I’ve upped my carbs a little to restore glycogen and spike insulin post-workout and give me enough energy to get through intense leg days. So I’m trying to eat a slight surplus in calories and to eat enough carbs and at the right time.

Hope that gives you a better idea of where I’m at and what I’m trying to achieve. Lower body / legs / posterior chain / core come first and upper body is largely just shoulders and lats. I need delts hypertrophy for aesthetic symmetry and I suppose lats too. Pull ups are limited by shoulder joint pain so I move on to a barbell row that’s face down on the bench with the bar underneath - this variation allows me to go heavier on rows when my core is too fatigued to do standing or bent over rows.

I don’t bother with flys or curls for upper body.

I have done lying leg curls for hamstrings but I’ve found GHR variations more effective and I do a little light sets of RDLs and similar variations starting and finishing high to avoid posture / form breakdown and injury.

I NEVER allow my form / posture to breakdown on these lifts as I will injure myself. That’s why I can only go light. I need to fix each weak link in the chain as it appears to safely progress. And right now it’s HIP STRENGTH. Flexibility is fine. It’s just their strength isn’t up to par.

This is an example of a typical workout:

Split squat 3 x 4

Lunges 3 x 10

High step ups 3 x 10

Leg press and / or leg extension machine - I’ll go heavy for a few sets to start like 3 x 4 then drop the weight and do high volume like 4-6 x 15-20

That’s actually a very light leg day for me and in the same day I’d be doing difficult(for me) bodyweight stuff directly after the last set. One leg bridges with a Swiss ball or medicine ball after split squats and resistance band exercises and squeezing and contracting against tension. These exercises are for strength but also to bring blood flow to muscle groups and exhaust them after sets.

I know it’s controversial but I always spend a lot of time stretching before my workout. Especially hamstrings if I’m doing GHRs as if I didn’t stretch I’d get a pulled hamstring for sure. I’ve always stretched before workouts and it works for me.

So stretch first > lift with load or difficult bodyweight > easier resistance band volume afterwards to bring blood to muscle group and to exhaust it completely.

Shoulder pain is not from lack of mobility but rather degenerative like all my joint pain. increase in volume is nearly as detrimental as going heavier on load for me so I only do a lot of stuff like front squat occasionally, low load and volume. I’ve had to back off on the leg press volume too.

Just to get back to topic, it’s difficult for me to know exactly what exercises to do for hip strength besides, hip thrusts, knee openers but I would imagine along with hip flexor weakness I probably have psoas weaknesses. That’s a tricky set to target and isolate I believe. But the real question is how I can bring my hip strength up so I have greater pelvic stability under load in deep squat? And I’m not sure how heavy I should go with barbell hip thrusts. They feel uncomfortable and I don’t like doing them. I have to really force myself.

Split squats have been the main tool I’ve used to gain strength over the year or so as I recovered and built my strength back up. I do splits first, slow and deep and then do lunges. I used to use a hand to steady myself with lunges after splits but now I do prisoner lunges in a doorframe so my elbows lock my posture upright and I can’t cheat on posture in the lunge as I get tired. I need to use my elbows for balance towards the end of the second set and by the end up the last set I’m sliding up and down the doorframe with my elbows holding my posture and keeping balance.

I’ve read how great step ups are and seen the results of tests showing intense muscle activation but they’re too easy to cheat on as you get tired. You start to bounce up into them and lean body weight forward and put more weight on the front of your foot and even use the other foot to push up. I do all of this stuff and I don’t regard step ups as a serious exercise - only a finisher. What would help would be a box that I can progressively lower as I get tired to I can finish sets without form breakdown and cheating. But yes, I don’t value step ups highly for that reason.

Another reason I’ve been concentrating on hamstrings is this:

When you squat deep and heavy and deadlift with good form you use hamstrings intensely but I can’t squat or deadlift effectively for the most part due to injury and weakness and I’m already quad dominant and doing a lot of leg press and extension volume. I have to work my hamstrings hard to undo an already present imbalance that would be made worse by my leg workouts if they didn’t include sufficient attention to hamstrings. And also, my training philosophy of targeting weakest points hardest and first. I’ve also heard it said that the hamstrings are like quad potentiators - in a similar way to the triceps relates to arm size the hamstrings determine leg size.

Since my recovery training around split squats I’ve had significant vastus medialis hypertrophy and the quads look a bit more defined but I haven’t had leg size increases. Part of the reason is the exercises I do were so hard and still are for me that I’ve been in a 1-5 rep range with split squats. I’m hoping to get better at them as fast as possible and when I can do sets of 10 I can start adding Dumbbells and stay in that range and see some size and mass gains.

Another problem is a mixture of genetics and the sort of sports I played as a kid. I’ve got mostly slow twitch muscle in my legs so I’m interested in strategies to target both fast and slow twitch muscle for maximum size and mass gains.

And as I mentioned to Chris in another thread my mainstay of split squats is going to have diminishing returns now I’ve
mastered it. I’m looking for ways to make lunges and split squats more difficult besides adding volume and load - ie, more difficult variations. I find the sissy squat pretty easy except for balance when I go deep. I think the sissy squat is good next step for me as the balance is really just target muscle and stabiliser weakness. I need harder exercises and methods to progress to them. But I’m probably not at that stage yet. Still always good to have more exercises to choose from and to add new challenges as you master the old. It took me nearly a year of consistent effort to go from a few bad form, wobbly split squats to sets of 5-6 with good form. I think I can get to 3 x 10 in maybe three or four months if I add a lot of complimentary leg work alongside it and keep pumping up hamstrings and quads(in that order whilst imbalance exists).

joint pain degenerative?
how old are you?

[quote]cavemansam wrote:
joint pain degenerative?
how old are you?[/quote]

I have health problems that brought it on early and injuries. It’s not really relevant beyond how it limits my workout - joint pain - pelvis, shoulders and lower back injuries although my code is now strong enough to protect my lower back and keep form with high rep lifts of every variety. I just enjoy lifting for its own sake but it’s also for my health. Studies have shown how it increases bone density, vascular health etc.

If it’s done safely there’s not much better for the body than weightlifting and adding lean mass to your body. A lot of damage can’t be repaired though so I have to work around joint damage and pain along with weakness and muscular imbalances. All of that is why my workout routine looks nothing like a regular beginners workout. It’s a workout that’s developed to specifically address imbalances and weaknesses that already exist.

My knee problems have been pretty much healed by addressing weaknesses such as my (formerly) weak vastius medialis muscles and by working consistently on split squats and keeping my balance when I’m deep. I never let my knees go past my toes when I squat and now I’ve corrected the muscular weakness I don’t have any knee trouble at all anymore. I’m really hoping I can do something for my shoulder joint problems and my weak hips will stabilise my pelvis and stop it hurting under load in deep squats.

I haven’t attempted heavy bench press in years but I’m getting stronger on push ups, stronger triceps, lats etc. and I think for my bodyweight my bench press would now be not so bad for a beginner but my shoulders can’t handle it so now my strength is measured on power to weight ratio - bodyweight / strength.

That’s the best test for strength anyway which is why I mentioned the rings and muscle ups as one of my goals. I’ve come to really like working with bodyweight and surprised at how versatile some of the exercises can be. There’s a reason pull ups and dips and push ups are so effective.

if you are not careful with injuries especialy joint injuries
you get older you will always be in pain

Warm Up/Activation
-hip hikes
-flutter kicks
-seated psoas holds
-psoas raise standing on 1 leg
-Peterson Step Ups
-Lay on the floor, heels together with a band around your toes. Rotate your toes away from eachother, against the band.
-Pallof Presses in the half-kneeling position.
-Loop a band over your lifting belt, then put each foot through the ends of the band and walk around in all directions.

-Partial squats, above parallel
-Box squats or high box squats above parallel
-Sumo deadlift or partial sumo deadlift
-Reverse lunge in Smith machine
-Squats with “sumo stance” in Smith machine

Other Stuff
-Pass a kettlebell in figure 8’s around your legs, right below knee level
-farmers walk with dumbbell in 1 hand
-Romanian Deadlift with dumbbell in 1 hand
-half kneeling 1 arm row on a cable
-sled drag
-sideways sled drag
-banded thigh abduction, sitting on boxes or benches of different heights
-standing calf raises, with dumbbell in 1 hand

  • standing calf raises on 1 foot

You’re making this way too complicated. Reduce the weight you’re squatting and practice perfect technique.

Use heavy seated Good Mornings as your accessory exercise. It trains glute strength at the critical joint angle you’re failing at in the squat.

That should be all you really need.

This is a good list but most are not hip specific and I’m already doing them or don’t need to.

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
Warm Up/Activation


What I call “knee openers” are clam shells with resistance band around the knees. I put one around ankles too and that makes them very difficult.

I do “kick ups” or “kick backs” I think they’re called. Very similar. I get in yoga dog position and kick each leg directly up behind me while keeping posterior chain and core tight.

I do a lot of these to get my glutes firing and warmed up. I also use them to try to pre-exhaust my glutes before squatting sometimes. Other times I’ll just do them in bed before I go to sleep.

I mentioned these before. The best psoas hold I’ve found is to balance on a Swiss ball or medicine ball on your belly with tight abs and do a superman or superman with hands by sides to get lats tight. After a bit of practice I found I could feel my psoas muscles moving to balance my body.

Yea, I’ve done these before too but the belly balance works best for me.

These are for VMO isolations - usually for people with patella instability or a muscular imbalance that can cause patella tracking problems like weak hamstrings and Glutes. My knees used to be bad but split squats in particular got my VMO muscles strong and I don’t need VMO training. But I still need to work on posterior chain strength.

This is what I do with knee openers pretty much.

Thanks, there’s some good stuff there. The reverse lunge in smith machine is a good one. I do partial RDLs and stiff leg variations for hamstrings. My hamstrings were so weak when I started that I had to stretch them with partial stiff leg deadlifts - just using the weight to stretch the muscles and not contracting. Once they’re warm and stretched with these partials I do GHRs which are real killers for me. They really shred fibres because with weak hamstrings like mine you need an explosive contraction to get up into the eccentric phase.

I had a similar strategy to get my lats firing properly because they were underused too and would cramp up when I contracted them under load. I had to really stretch the hell out of them and warm them up before I could fire them fully in pull ups and not get a really bad cramp. I can’t understand why so many lifters are against stretching before lifting. There’s no way I could do GHRs without injury if I tried to do them cold with no hamstring stretches.

What I really need is to hip belt squat with a proper belt. When you fit a belt over the top of your glutes and have the weight hanging directly in the middle under your spine, so long as your stance is even it will pull your pelvis into perfect alignment and keep it aligned throughout your sets. I’m going to make my own one from an abseiling harness to ensure perfect pelvic alignment and comfort with heavy weight.

The hip belt squat not only puts absolutely no load on your spine, it also pulls your spine into a therapeutic stretch that can help improve spinal curvature and allow discs more space to expand without impinging on nerves. So long as you have it set up right it’s the perfect solution for people like me who can’t squat heavy due to injury and weakness in hips and lower back. It’s also reportedly very difficult in comparison to a regular back squat.

The other exercise I do to compliment split squats and increase pelvic stability under load is suitcase Kettlebell deadlifts. These are really good for stabiliser strength. Asymmetric deadlifts like these target the weak links in the chain that make you go wobbly when deep and heavy in barbell squats. When I do suitcase kettlebell deadlifts I immediately feel them where I’m weakest - hips and to a lesser extent core which is over-fatigued from protecting my lower back all the time.

I’m going to build a really good hip belt for belt squatting and carefully pyramid the sets up to 20ish rep range. 20 rep sets can be effective for leg mass and I can probably get up to 10-12 rep range with hip belt squats pretty easily if I can get my hips strong enough to match my leg strength. And the reason hip strength is subpar is underuse. So waking them up, getting them firing, targeting and training them shouldn’t take more than a couple of months at the most.

So, maybe by the end of September I could get to a working rep range on belt squat, build it up and early next year transfer to barbell squats. But I’ve still got to work to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, core, stabilisers, hip flexors / psoas / obliques etc. I’ve got a lot of weak links in the chain that I have to train hard all the way through the process or I’ll never get to heavy squat. If that’s the case I’ll be able to accomplish a lot with hard consistent work and careful choice of exercise.

I would suggest vetting some of these ideas against reality, by practical experimentation (be as empirical or not as you want), rather than crediting/discrediting them based on abstract knowledge and/or appeals to authority.

I don’t think you’ve done the necessary work to know exactly how you, as in you, personally, respond to these various ideas. I think you’re using intellectual shortcuts (i.e., it’s not supposed to work, therefore it won’t) rather than subjecting yourself to hands-on experimentation.

In short, you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do. Mental masturbation is not going to fix your problems.

Do you know the nature of your weaknesses? Muscular imbalances (e.g., lower cross)? Neurological firing patterns? Connective tissues issues? Skeletal issues?

I think you’d be better off starting there. You’re not doing a great job framing the problems, so you’ve overcomplicated the solutions.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
You’re making this way too complicated. Reduce the weight you’re squatting and practice perfect technique.

Use heavy seated Good Mornings as your accessory exercise. It trains glute strength at the critical joint angle you’re failing at in the squat.

That should be all you really need.


You’re not familiar with my circumstances. I used to do good mornings(not enough) before my back injuries. Now I have to pick my exercises and order them carefully for a number of reasons. I do barbell hip thrusts that train the same hip hinge flexion and but I don’t just need a preventative accessory. I need to target my hip flexors and train them to bring them up to standard because the single accessory I used to do is not enough now.

I can’t go heavier on the squat to fix it. I have to work hard to fix it first before I can increase my squat which is ridiculously low right now precisely because of this weakness first and foremost. It’s the main thing in my immediate way so it’s my first priority.

most people in good health just really dont understand how much trouble it is to find workarounds for injuries
in the last 8 years i have had 3 surgeries I will have knee replacement in the next 10 years or so
chronic muscle pain, nerve damage,arthritis,birth defect in my legs,makes me walk funny people make fun of my walk alot
so just keep learning and keep training

[quote]LoRez wrote:
I would suggest vetting some of these ideas against reality, by practical experimentation (be as empirical or not as you want), rather than crediting/discrediting them based on abstract knowledge and/or appeals to authority.


I haven’t appealed to any authority. Not sure what you’re talking about. I don’t profess any knowledge beyond a basic understanding of some of my weaknesses, imbalances and injuries. All my workouts are from practical experience - having to give up squats and deadlifts and work around injuries forced me to experiment with other exercises and this is what I’ve come up with. I’m interested in constructive criticism but I’m not seeing where you’re coming from with all this.

I’ve stated clearly what I have tried and what I haven’t. I haven’t tried hip belt squats and would be interested in any feedback from someone who has.

I know I’m in chronic pain and have serious injuries and I know that I have a few common muscular imbalances. That’s what I know.

Yes, of course I know about the illnesses and injuries I have. And some of the muscular imbalances I’ve been dealing with for 20+ years. Some, such as posture and weak VMOs I have largely corrected through strength training. As I said, I do have a few years strength training behind me but it’s been interrupted. Point being, I’ve been adapting my training to my circumstances for several years now.


I think you’d be better off starting there. You’re not doing a great job framing the problems, so you’ve overcomplicated the solutions.[/quote]

Why don’t you make some specific suggestions about my trainibg then? You clearly know more about my circumstances than I do. Do you have any experience training with chronic pain, illness and injuries? I’m pretty confident I’ve had more experience than most with injuries and training as part of a longterm rehabilitation effort.

Can you post a couple videos of what your squats look like when they fall apart? Font, back, and side views would all provide different information. A photograph of resting posture from the side and back may also be useful.

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:
Can you post a couple videos of what your squats look like when they fall apart? Font, back, and side views would all provide different information. A photograph of resting posture from the side and back may also be useful. [/quote]

I don’t need a form check. I’ve been squatting bodyweight and with Dumbbells consistently for a long time. I use my glutes on the way up, inhale on the way down, neutral spine vertical, go below horizontal, I can pause and stay there in isometric hold with a low weight on the bar and keep my body upright and spine neutral and abs tight and when I exhale and push up with my quads I engage my glutes and even my hamstrings. Everything is tight and fine until I go down low with heavy barbell and the pelvic hinge angle is so small it starts to hurt the femur ball socket on the left side and my legs go wobbly. It’s my hip strength. It’s a group called the deep six that stabilise the pelvis and the extensors that open the hip at the hinge angle of the thighs as you push up into the eccentric phase and stand up.

I just wanted to know what exercises besides the ones listed can strengthen these muscles because the stronger they are the heavier and lower below parallel I can go. The acute angle of the hip hinge in sub-parallel squatting Puts huge shear forces on the pelvis. I need to squat deep in order to train my legs properly so I need to build up my hip strength to stabilise my pelvis when I squat deep.

The hip belt squat is a cheat though because it doesn’t require the core strength and hip strength to squat deep and heavy. There’s an old T-Nation article about them here -

I’m only going to use it to Deload and back off from real squats if I can do them heavy. Hip belt squats are not a substitute for the real thing but they appear to be a very useful tool in the arsenal. I’m glad I remembered them and was reminded. I don’t hear about them much.