How to do the squat and hip hinge

Welcome to the first week of your program! I’m very excited to be a part of your journey. I built this program as a way to empower people who want to make positive changes in their life, but who need help to know where to start. A big problem I’ve seen in the fitness industry is the tendency for professionals to over complicate the information. Making things seem more complicated than they need to be ensures people will continue to seek the help of those professionals long term.

After all, there are hundreds of different diets and thousands upon thousands of different exercises, all with their own applications. How on earth are you supposed to know where to start if you’re a total beginner?

Thankfully, knowing just a few key principles can quickly and easily remove any confusion as to how an exercise should be performed, whether you’re physically ready to perform it, and if it is an exercise that fits your goals. The goal of this program is to remove any confusion people might have when they walk into a gym.

The way we do this is by breaking down the exercises into movement classifications. After all, the human body can only move so many ways. The list of movements are as follows

  • Hip Hinge
  • Hip Dominant
  • Knee Dominant
  • Vertical Push
  • Vertical Pull
  • Horizontal Push
  • Horizontal Pull
  • Rotational and Diagonal
  • Anti-Rotation
  • Anti-Flexion
  • Anti-Extension
  • Anti-Lateral Flexion
  • Elbow Extension
  • Elbow Flexion

I know what you’re thinking. I said this was going to be quick and easy, and then I dumped a list of movements on you that make no sense whatsoever. Well, don’t worry, as you don’t have to remember any of those. You can master the proper form for all those movements by focusing on getting good at only 6 body-weight exercises. Once you can perform the 6 exercises with proper attention to form, you will know the proper positioning for just about any other exercise you can imagine.

We are going go over all the movements this week, but today we’re only going to start with the first two. These two movements are the squat and the hip hinge.

Let’s start with the squat. I’m sure you know what a squat is, but we are going to learn some queues to help you perform the movement with perfect form.

  1. Start by standing with your feet just outside shoulder width and toes pointed slightly outward. There should already be a slight bend in your knees. Keep a tall spine, clasp your hands in front of you, and pull your shoulders back.
  2. Before we descend into the squat, imagine you are trying to spread the floor apart with your feet. As you do so, you should feel the muscles at the sides of your hip engage. Now, without moving them, imagine you are also screwing your feet into the floor. This should further engage the big muscles in your bum called glutes. Continue spreading the floor and screwing your feet into it for the duration of the squat.
  3. Let’s start squatting down by slightly breaking at the knee while simultaneously pushing your hips back. As you descend, the action of spreading the floor will help your knees track in line over your toes. Keeping your knees from caving inward ensures the heads of your femurs won’t bind up in the hip socket, causing you to lean forward excessively or get what’s called “Butt wink”.
  4. The eventual goal of the squat should be to have the tops of your thighs come to parallel with the floor when you reach the bottom position. However, there is a chance you won’t have the necessary flexibility to do so without rounding your lower back, something commonly known as “Butt wink”. Only go as deep as you can without your lower back rounding. You can work on improving flexibility to add range of motion as time goes on. Furthermore, if your calves are tight your heels may want to lift from the floor as you descend. Make sure your feet stay in contact with the ground and stop if you feel them begin to elevate.
  5. Push through your feet, doubling down on driving your knees outward as you come up. Keeping your knees wide will also serve to broaden your base of support. Finally, drive your hips through at the top by squeezing your glutes, rotating the pelvis back and down.

Once you master this movement with body weight you can begin loading it using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or making it more challenging by placing your hands behind your head.

The next movement we will cover today is the hip hinge. You can practice getting better at the hip hinge by using a piece of dowel placed against your back. The dowel will give you a reference for making sure you stay straight.

  1. Start by facing one foot away from a wall and standing with feet shoulder width apart, feet pointed directly forward. Hold a dowel in line with your spine so it touches the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and against the tailbone. Grasp the dowel with one hand in the space behind your neck and the other in the space behind the arch of your lower back.
  2. Keeping your legs straight with only a slight bend in your knees, slowly push your hips back and tip your torso forward until you bum touches the wall behind you. The object is to keep the dowel touching those three points of your spine. Move slowly and practice until you are easily able to touch the wall behind you without losing contact with the dowel at the three points.
  3. Progress the movement by moving further from the wall whenever you can easily touch it without losing the dowel.
  4. At the top of the hip hinge you will create the same hip drive you did in the squat by squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips through. While it is, admittedly, harder to achieve hip drive when only using the dowel, I would suggest trying your best to do so to get yourself familiar with the movement.

The goal of the hip hinge is to progress until you can bend your torso close to parallel with the floor while maintaining a neutral spine against the dowel. Once you have cultivated the mobility and motor control to hip hinge using a dowel, you can start loading the movement by incorporating barbell deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and glute bridges.

That’s it for today's lesson. Your goal this week is to practice the basic movement patterns a few times before next week’s lesson. Do your best to practice each movement for five minutes at least twice before next week. If you’re worried about looking goofy you’re in luck, because all these movements can be practiced in the comfort of your own home.

As always, thank you for joining in on today’s lesson. If you got something out of it or have any questions, please let me know in the comments. If you’re enjoying this fitness program and know of a friend or family member who could also benefit, please feel free to share the sign up link with them. And, as always, the secret to getting ahead is getting started. So go get started!