Anterior Femoral Glide

Do your hips hurt during squats?  How about when you run?  Or Walk?  If so, then you may be a victim of anterior femoral glide syndrome. 

Often mistaken for hip flexor pain or tightness, this little annoyance can cause big problems for your lifts. 

In this post, we are going to discuss what anterior femoral glide syndrome is and how to correct it. 

 

What is Anterior Femoral Glide Syndrome?

The hip joint is the shoulder of the lower body.  The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, just like the hip. 

The major difference, however, is that the hip is more secure than the shoulder.  This does not make it immune to injury, unfortunately. 

If we recall, a ball and socket joint is the most mobile type of joint in the body.  It can move in multiple planes of motion and even glide slightly forwards or backwards. 

The tradeoff for this type of mobility is a higher risk for injury.

Anterior femoral glide syndrome is a type of movement imbalance where the head of the femur (the ball) drifts too far forward in the socket. 

Under normal movement conditions, the femur is supposed to stay centered in the socket as much as possible.  It is also supposed to glide both forwards and backwards when necessary.

When this happens, individuals can experience pain, swelling and hear a clicking sound in their hip when they walk.  They will also have a hard time performing squats, running, jumping and even walking. 

If you have this condition, stop performing exercises that aggravate your hip.  You will only make it worse. 

Read on to figure out what to do. 

 

Fixing Anterior Femoral Glide Syndrome

Luckily, fixing this condition is actually pretty simple. 

However, you must understand what is happening in the hip first in order to fix it.  

Typically, anterior femoral glide syndrome is caused by either a muscle imbalance in the hip, poor mobility, poor flexibility or poor motor patterns.

 

Muscle Imbalances

This is typically the most common cause of anterior femoral glide syndrome.  Muscle imbalances occur all of the time when we are not aware of how our body works. 

In a mechanically sound body, the psoas muscle and the glutes should be about equal in strength.  In modern times, however, this is rarely the case.  Most individuals have excessively tight psoas muscles and weak undertrained glutes. 

This causes the pelvis to be anteriorly tilted.  When the pelvis is anteriorly tilted, the range of motion of hip flexion is hindered, this causes the femoral head to drift forward in order to compensate.

Anterior tilt also occurs when the muscles of the lower back are tight and the deep abdominal muscles are weak. 

The lower back muscles pull the pelvis up from behind and the abdominal muscles pull the pelvis muscles up from the front.  An imbalance between these two muscle groups also causes anterior femoral glide. 

So by strengthening our deep abdominal muscles and our glutes we can help to counteract the anterior pelvic tilt. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention lifestyle habits. 

Sitting down for long periods of time causes the femoral head to move up anteriorly in the socket.  It also causes anterior pelvic tilt. 

Since most people sit for a living, let me say this.  If you keep sitting all slouched over, don’t expect to eliminate anterior femoral glide anytime soon

You can strengthen the glutes and abs all you want and it will all be in vain. 

Your seated and postural habits are the trump card in deciding how fast you eliminate this condition.  Do yourself a favor and sit up straight.  Your lifts depend on it!

 

Poor Mobility

Another, but not so common, cause of anterior femoral glide is poor mobility in the posterior hip socket.  This is not a spontaneous condition. 

By spontaneous, I mean that it doesn’t just happen randomly. 

Having poor posterior capsule mobility is usually the result of having the femoral head drift too far forward in the first place. 

Sitting down too much, having muscle imbalances and poor flexibility all contribute to this.  So this is not a stand alone problem.  It has to be treated with the other issues in order to have effect. 

Some basic mobility work will do the trick. 

 

Poor Flexibility

This is where things start to get interesting.  Most individuals who perform hip dominant movements, such as the deadlift, view their hip extension as very strong.  Well, the are right, but they are also wrong. 

Their are two primary muscle groups that are responsible for hip extension, the glutes and the hamstrings. 

The glutes are high up on the hip and cover the back of the pelvis and the hamstrings run along the back of the legs and attach to the bottom of the pelvis. 

Differing positions are not their only difference, however.  The glutes act directly with the femoral head, keeping it securely in the socket.  The hamstrings interact with the pelvis itself and not with the femur directly. 

If the glutes become too weak or the hamstrings become too tight, then the femur can drift forward at will.  Thus causing posterior capsule stiffness and anterior femoral glide.

All athletes should include some form of flexibility training in their regular training regimen, regardless of injury.  With anterior femoral glide, however, extra time should be spent on stretching the hamstrings. 

 

Poor Motor Patterns

Let’s face it, some of us just move terribly.  Poor mechanics are probably what set anterior femoral glide in motion for most people.  So what do I mean by mechanics?  Well, simply put, the way we walk.

Remember how the glutes stabilize the femoral head?  Well if you are not walking the right way, then the glutes become inactive. 

Ok, so how are we supposed to walk? 

Heel to toe. 

It’s as simple as that.  When we land with our heel on the ground, we are supposed to roll our feet from our heel over to our big toe.  This sets in motion the neurological response to fire the glutes. 

Lots of people are not heel strikers, however.  There are plenty of people who strike the ground in the middle of the foot, or by the balls of the feet.  For more information about this, check out the Morton’s Toe article.  

In certain situations this may be necessary and overall it is not going to kill you.  Habits form very quickly for some people and if they make a habit out of poor walking mechanics, then everything else will follow. 

The way you squat, jump and run are all connected to your everyday walking stance. 

Little things like this add up over time and wreak havoc on the body. 

If we knew better we would do better.  Now that you know what to do, there is no excuse.  Fix yourself up and train on!            


Tony G
Tony G

Anthony is a fan of all things gym related. Growing up very overweight and out of shape, Anthony whipped himself into shape and stunned his entire community becoming a "fitness guru". Tony then set his sights on strength sports (Weightlifting/Powerlifting/Strongman) and learned all about body mechanics, mobility work and injury prevention. Tony found his true love in the strength sports, particularly Olympic Weightlifting. He earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Fitchburg State University in Exercise and Sports Science. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA.

    4 replies to "Hip Pain During Squats: Anterior Femoral Glide"

    • ig

      Thanks , I have just been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve
      came upon till now. However, what about the conclusion? Are you positive in regards to the source?

      • Tony G

        Thanks,
        I’m glad you found the article helpful. The bottom line of anterior hip pain is from weak glutes. Most of the research in the rehabilitation field shows that people have overly tight hip flexors and weak glutes. Most lifters are unaware of this problem until they perform single leg exercises. The decreased balance and stability will draw out any imbalances and/or weaknesses present in the hip. The key is to know how to properly identify the problem. In most cases people will try to strengthen the glutes with isolation exercise but that never works. Strength is both neurological and muscular. So unless the nervous system knows how to properly perform the movement the movement will most likely continue to cause pain.

        Hope this helps,

        -Tony

    • Buddy Cutrone

      Loved your story Tony. Any advice on how to sit in an office chair? I have struggled with AF glide syndrome and can’t find a sitting position that doesn’t hurt or promotes healing. All I’ve found on the internet and books is to “sit less”, “sit up straight”, or “it depends”. Angles and position of the feet, knees, hips, back, and shoulders?

      • Tony G

        Hi Buddy,

        Yeah most advice is to sit less because the human body wasn’t designed to sit for long periods. If on the other hand you do have to sit for a long time, make sure you keep your hips and shoulders square to each other the whole time. If you need to, stand up and walk around every 30 minutes. This will make a huge improvement to your sitting position. For a good long term strategy, I suggest getting a standing desk for work. Ask your HR if they will allow it. If not try to tell them how much more productive you will be, or you can even try a doctor’s note. Ultimately, movement is medicine and it is the best way to correct AF glide.

        Hope this helps,

        -Anthony

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