Coaching the Hinge vs. the Squat

the hinge vs. the squat

Personal trainers are generally adept at recognizing the value of different movements on the body, especially the hinge vs. the squat. Understanding that lower body exercises break down into two basic categories–hinging and squatting–will help fit pros better program a variety of valuable exercises for their clients. The differences between the squat vs. the hinge may not seem significant at first glance but there are several that will have an impact on mechanics and outcomes.

Once you understand the differences between the two and you should also be able to teach your clients to perform each movement optimally in order to get better results and most importantly keep them injury free. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two movements.

The Hinge vs. the Squat

The squat is generally quad dominant while generally hinge is hip dominant. Having a decent grasp on moment arms and how levers impact loading will help illustrate such dominance. For instance, a front squat will place more demand on the quads than the hips versus a back squat. But the back squat doesn’t place quite as much demand on the hips as the deadlift does.

Executing these movements properly also dictates how much emphasis can be placed on the desired muscle groups. Demonstrating what you want the client to do and what the client actually does, are usually two completely different things. Having a clear and concise approach will help clear up the confusion for your clients and get them to perform the exercise correctly.

Let’s break down, how to troubleshoot both the hinge and the squat and how to properly cue each movement.

3 Most Common Squat Mistakes

3 Most Common Hinge Mistakes

  • Knees moving forward rather than staying above ankles (Indicates quad dominance)
  • Hips going down as in squatting
  • Shoulders going below hips

How to Coach Clients Through These Common Squat Mistakes

How to Teach Clients to HINGE Correctly

Putting it all together

Understanding the differences between the hinge vs. the squat should clear up what each movement should ideally look like. When you think of pulling something off the floor such as with deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and barbell cleans; think hinge.

When you think of movements that require your knees to move slightly forward, think squat. Practice these fixes on your clients, coach them right, and get your clients to their goals while also keeping them from getting hurt.

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Ian Nimblett, CFSC, CSCS, NFPT-CPT and is a functional strength & conditioning coach, personal trainer, and author. He is the founder and owner of Premier Fitness Group LLC in South Salem, NY, a world-class functional training facility that provides private, semi-private, and group training.