Why Does My Hip Pop During Mountain Climbers? (Revealed!)

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It’s annoying, sometimes painful, and it sounds utterly gross.

I am of course referring to the popping sound your hips make whenever you perform mountain climbers.

You know as well as me that this shouldn’t be happening.

But, is this something for you to worry about?

Have you perhaps caused an injury that you’re not yet aware of?

Or is this just part and parcel of performing mountain climbers?

The most common reason that your hip pops when performing mountain climbers is snapping hip syndrome. Some people will hear a loud click, snap or a pop, whereas others can actually see their hip muscles tremble when they make certain movements.

What is “Hip Popping” a Sign of?

So, it appears that the most common reason for “popping hips” is snapping hip syndrome.

In the simplest of terms, this is caused by a tendon or muscle sliding or moving over a bone.

This will create tension in either the tendon or muscle, and when this tension is released you’ll hear a popping noise.

I was extremely pleased to hear that in the vast majority of cases this causes no pain and is typically pretty harmless.


That being said, snapping hip syndrome can in some cases lead to joint pain or damage.

Not so good.

Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome is also called coxa saltans.

It is even sometimes referred to as “dancer’s hip”.

The nickname “dancer’s hip” gives a clue that this condition is extremely prevalent in dancers.

That being said, anyone who takes part in activities or specific sports that involve running or kicking may also experience snapping hip syndrome.

So, runners, sprinters, footballers, MMA and Muay Thai fighters, as well kickboxers may also encounter snapping hip syndrome.

There are 3 types of snapping hip syndrome:

3 Types of Snapping Hip Syndrome - Internal - This occurs when the tendons slide over the bone of the hip joint.

External - This is when the tendon or muscle slides over the thigh bone.

Intra-articular - This has nothing to do with muscles or tendons, but is due to an issue or injury to the hip joint. In many cases this is caused by loose cartilage or bone moving about inside the hip joint.

Hip Flexors

I’ve also discovered that the issue of “popping hips” could also be down to tight or weak hip flexors.

Now this makes a lot more sense for my scenario.

I’m someone who has suffered two herniated discs in my lower spine, and it turns out that my main problem (along with other things) was weak hip flexors.

Is it Just Mountain Climbers That Cause Hip Popping?

For me, the only time I have experienced that gross-out popping sound is when I perform mountain climbers.

However, my research has led me to discover that there is a vast array of exercises and movements that can cause this.

I’ve noticed it myself with all mountain climber variations, irrespective of the speed at which I perform them.

I’m talking fast-paced standard mountain climbers, and the slower-moving spiderman and cross-body variations.

It seems that others have noticed hip popping during burpees, jackknife crunches, bicycle crunches, leg raises, etc.

So, it appears that core-based exercises which involve moving the legs seems to be a recurring theme.

What Can You Do About Hip Popping?

It’s great to hear that in most cases this isn’t a particularly serious problem.

However, if you are experiencing pain when your hips pop during mountain climbers or any other exercise then STOP.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be one of those situations where you can work through the pain and it will eventually go away.

In most cases an ice pack and some over-the-counter pain relief, in addition to resting for a few days, should relieve the pain.

If the pain persists then my advice would be to visit your Doctor to ascertain whether this is a cartilage issue, as opposed to sliding muscles and tendons.

That being said, if you simply have a “popping” issue with no serious pain or discomfort, then you can work on certain hip-based movements, external rotations, and mobility exercises.

This will help to stretch and strengthen the hip flexors, hips, and the surrounding areas.

How Important Are Your Hip Flexors?

The hip flexors are far more important that most of us give them credit for.

They are literally the engine through which our entire body moves.

The hip flexors will control our ability to sit, stand, bend, twist, walk, run, and of course, perform mountain climbers.

It wasn’t until I suffered with my lower spine injury that I realised just how important the hip flexors are.

From a personal perspective, I obviously have my weak hip flexors to thank for a couple of herniated discs.

Well, in truth, I only have myself to blame for avoiding certain exercises for many years.

However, what I wasn’t aware of was how much of a knock-on effect tight or weak hip flexors could have on your everyday life.

Did you know that tight hip flexors could cause issues such as:

  • Weight Gain
  • Poor Sleep
  • Bad Posture
  • High Anxiety
  • Loss of Sexual Performance

And this is to name just a few.

Some of the most basic stretches for the hip flexors and the surrounding areas, which should help to stop your hips from popping or snapping include:

Stretches For the Hip Flexors - Psoas Stretches, Clamshell Exercises, Bridge Exercises.

Hip, Hip Flexor, and Glute Stretches and Mobility

The hip flexors happen to be a group of five muscles that connect the thigh bone to the pelvis.

The primary hip flexor muscle is the psoas, and it also happens to be the weakest of all five flexors.

This is why you’ll typically see everyone from professional athletes to part-time gym goers performing psoas stretches.

Psoas Stretches

The most standard psoas stretch involves getting into a lunge position and then dropping your back knee to the floor.

However, there are various ways to perform psoas stretches.

Here’s coach Brian Klepacki to explain more about this amazing stretch, along with some variations.

Brian also happens to be part of the CriticalBench team who have produced a specific workout program to unlock your hip flexors.

Hip & Glute Stretching

It’s also important to stretch and strengthen the hips and glutes.

The stronger, more mobile and flexible these areas are, the better it is for your overall body.

Plus, one of the reasons for external snapping hip syndrome is that the gluteus maximus (the muscle located in the buttocks) may have moved over the thigh bone.

Sounds horrific I know, but I promise it’s not a major issue if you perform the right stretches and exercises to correct this.

Here’s coach Brian again to take you through a 10-minute stretching routine for the hips and glutes.

These are 5 exercises that you can perform at any time and anywhere.

IT Band

Finally, it’s also important to work on the IT band if you experience “hip popping”.

The IT band is a thick bunch of tissues and fibres that run down the outside the leg.

They start at the hip, run down the outside of the thigh and knee, all the way down to the shinbone.

Here’s Doctor K. (Dr. Kristie Ennis) to take you through a 5-minute routine for complete IT band relief.

Key Takeaway Points

  • The most cause of “hip popping” during mountain climbers is snapping hip syndrome.
  • This can be caused by tendons or muscles sliding over the hip joint or thigh bone.
  • It is also possible that hip popping could be down to loose cartilage or bone moving inside the hip joint.
  • Hip popping can occur with most core-based exercises, especially those that involve moving the hips and legs.
  • If this causes pain you can apply an ice pack and take over-the-counter pain medication.
  • If the pain persists you should visit your Doctor to determine whether this is potentially a cartilage issue.
  • You should perform stretches for the hips, hip flexors, and glutes in order to increase mobility.
  • Your hip flexors are extremely important and are the initial source of most bodily movements.

10 thoughts on “Why Does My Hip Pop During Mountain Climbers? (Revealed!)”

  1. Ai, Partha, that would scare me, if my hip would make noises. I’m probably not making enough effort so that it never happened. But if it did I would panick and stop the mountain climbers immediately.

    Why? Because I am anxious about anything concerning my hips. My mother broke both hips at some point. Not at the same time, but especially the first one was a disaster for het, as the operation went wrong. Leaving he with severe nerve pain for the rest of her life.

    And Tom has sciatica regularly, which can be very painful.

    On the other hand, I know that I shouldn’t be too careful at things, because if I am chances are exactly that happens what I am trying to avoid. So I am doing my best to find a balance. 🙂

    I’m sorry you had a hernia. That is painful too! But I hope that – since you are such an avid sporter nowadays – it doesn’t bother you anymore?

    • Hey Hannie,

      I actually remember you telling me about your mother, and I can understand your concerns about anything hip-related.

      In a way, it’s the same for me. There were things that I’d seen my late-parents go through, and these things still to this day prey on my mind.

      From your comments, I take it that you perform mountain climbers, but are yet to ever hear the dreaded pop.

      To be honest, I wouldn’t say it’s because you haven’t made enough effort at all.

      Our bodies are all very different from each other and they tend to react in different ways.

      I’m sure there are professional athletes, who have performed sprints, mountain climbers, hanging leg raises, and any other exercise that involves that hip and leg movement, a million times over, but they’ve never, ever experienced a hip pop before.

      Although, it’s not something for most people to overly worry about, I view it more as a weakness in the hip flexors rather than an overuse issue.

      So, perhaps you have stronger hip flexors than me Hannie.

      Now there’s something you can pick on me for, LOL.


  2. I used to experience popping sounds a lot in years gone by, but forgot all about it until yesterday when I was doing some scissor splits to help strengthen my core….. and there it was, the pop, pop, popping when raising my right leg.

    I remember getting my motorbike licence when I was 16. It involved me riding around the block and being followed by a policeman on his bike. His one comment to me before giving me my licence was…. “you sit funny. Your right leg is hanging out wide, while the left one is tucked in, in a normal position.

    So I guess there has always been a weakness in my right hip flexors. I guess this ‘weakness’ may not necessarily mean weak muscles but is more likely to mean un-balanced muscle groups? So the opposing muscles could have been developed proportionally more than the hip flexors?
    If this is the case, it’s just a matter of bringing all the complementary muscle groups into balance so they can work together as intended….. ahhhh, the body is so complicated!!!

    The videos are great. Thanks for giving me even more stuff that I know I need to work on. However, I could be like you and “only have myself to blame for avoiding certain exercises for many years.” Haha

    Cheers mate.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hey Andrew,

      Well funnily enough I experienced the “popping” again yesterday while attempting something that only MEN ever do – trying to carry 20 heavy bags of shopping from the car into the house in one trip, LOL.

      Based on what you’ve mentioned here about your motorbike test and the policeman’s comments, this may point to imbalances rather than an actual weaknesses.

      In fact, the vast majority of us have imbalances all over our body due to one reason or another.

      Now correct me if I’m wrong Andrew (and I could be completely way off the mark here), but am I right in thinking that you’ve done some form of martial arts training (if I’m wrong, I have no idea why I think that, LOL)?

      If so, even though this is some of the best hip and hip flexor training you are ever likely to get, this can also cause muscle imbalances.

      This is especially true if you typically prefer to kick with one leg over the other.

      Funnily enough, it would actually be the standing leg that has better hip and hip flexor development, as it’s supporting your entire body weight while you torque your body.

      So, if you have been involved in martial arts or some form of “kick” training and you always favoured one particular leg, this will definitely lead to a muscle imbalance over time.

      Yep, always love a good video Andrew.

      I was always stumped as what to do in my younger days when it came to hip training. I knew it was important, but tended to avoid it through a lack of knowledge more than anything else.

      However, I’m pleased say that with age I appear to be more “even” in my structure, LOL.

      Great to hear from you as always.


  3. My motorbike experience was when I was sixteen years old. It wasn’t until I went to university at eighteen years old that I took up Tae Kwon Do, and practiced it for the next ten years.

    Yeah, lots of kicking, for sure, but we always ensured both sides were worked evenly in the training classes at least. However, things always changed when in the ring 🙂

    I think more standing/balancing yoga postures will help with the overall body muscle balancing over time…. after all, life is a journey and it would be no fun if we didn’t have anything to work on 🙂

    Cheers mate.

    • Oh good, I did get it right, LOL.

      For one horrible moment I thought I’d imagined it and that you hadn’t been involved in martial arts.

      Okay, I get you about the motorbike experience and not starting Tae Kwon Do till a couple of years later.

      Who knows then?

      Saying that, I used to have a Great Uncle who I didn’t particularly like as a kid, because he always used to shout at me about not being able to walk straight.

      I was about 6 or 7 years old at the time.

      He even told my parents that he thought there was something wrong with legs at that age, LOL.

      Who knows, maybe I’ve had muscle imbalanaces since a young age too.

      I’m with you on the yoga, as I’ve mentioned to you before, I’ve been working a great deal on my mobility and flexibility over the last few years, and it’s definitely paying dividends.


  4. Hi Partha,

    Thank you for the informative article!

    I had no idea hip popping was such a common occurrence during mountain climbers—or any other form of core exercise.

    I get most of my exercise from walking, but I found your article very interesting! It’s great to know that it’s usually not a serious problem, and can be relieved with ice and over-the-counter pain medications.

    I’m going to look into some of the hip stretches you mentioned to see if I can loosen my own hip flexors! The videos you provided were very helpful too!



    • Hey Femi,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, I must admit I was a little worried that I may be the only one, and I automatically assumed that my “hip popping” was down to previous injuries.

      But, as it turns out, it’s a fairly common occurrence.

      By the way, even with all the exercise I do, I’m a huge fan of walking, and it’s something that I do every single day. So, great to hear that you love a good walk too.

      As for the hip flexor exercises, please do try them out.

      Another thing that typically surprises a lot of people is just how much of our everyday movements (and ailments) stem from the hip flexors.

      So, it pays to keep them strong and flexible.



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