HINGE VS SQUAT
Arguably the two most essential movements a human being can do, the hinge and the squat often get misunderstood. It is not uncommon to see people squatting when they should hinge and vice versa. In CrossFit, many exercises are built upon these two movement patterns. Even though they are simple movements, many people have trouble figuring out how and when to do which. So it is very important that we understand the difference between the two, both for your safety and for your efficiency.
Two things are necessary for correct implementation of these movement patterns: body awareness and mobility. You might have the knowledge of what is a hinge and how to do it but if you don’t know where your body is in space or have the mobility to go through the range of motion, it will be hard for you to perform the movement. If you are having trouble with squats, for example, awareness and mobility might be the issue, but it might also be that you are hinging instead.
These two movement patterns can be easily distinguishable by this one rule of thumb: if the joint going through the biggest range of motion is the knee, you are squatting. If the joint going through the biggest range of motion is the hip, you are hinging.
Going a little further into it, hinging recruits primarily your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and lower back) while squatting is mainly done with the quads. Or think about it this way, on a squat, you bring your hips toward the ground vertically, on a hinge you bring your shoulders toward the ground in a forward motion. You will still bend at your hips during a squat, and you will still bend your knees during a hinge, but that’s not the primary movement going on.
A squat, a dip, a hinge, bending of the knees and lowering of the hips are all different cues. So when I ask you to bring your hips down when you are about to deadlift I do NOT mean “squat a little”. Or when you dip, you are NOT just “bending the knees”.
The most basic movement we can relate to the hinge is the deadlift. Most of the times, when you are trying to move an object from the ground upward, you will be performing a hinge. Cleans, kettlebell swings, and high pulls are all hinging movements. Therefore, to maximize your efficiency on these movements, make sure that you are using your posterior chain when performing them.
The squat first has to be differentiated between the exercise and the movement pattern. The exercise “squat” is usually referred to a full, or partial, squat pattern done for reps or load. Front squats, air squats, overhead squats are all squatting exercises. “Squat” as a movement pattern refers to the act of bending at your knees while maintaining an upright chest. Wall balls and thrusters are movements that require a squatting pattern.
So why do athletes have a hard time separating these two movements?
Let’s first look at the hinge. Many people end up doing a more squat pattern movement when they should be hinging because of body awareness. It can be hard for some people to know if they have a straight back as they hinge, so to overcorrect that they may keep their chest upright and squat down. Another option could be that their core isn’t that strong yet. So when they perform a hinge their back round. Again, to overcorrect that, they might keep their chest more upright so it will round less.
Regarding the squat, there are more factors at play. Ankle, knee and hip mobility play a big role in squatting. So, as athletes want to get lower in their squat and a joint, or multiple joints, is at its current full range of motion, they tend to bring their chest down to create the illusion of being low (or maintain balance). Another reason could be that their posterior chain is much stronger than their quads, causing their hips to come up first during a squat and turning the movement into a hinge.
Finally, a big factor limiting your movement could be the strength imbalance. Like mentioned above, if you are way stronger on one type of movement, it might influence you when you are trying to perform another pattern. Especially if you have gone through an injury and have been avoiding a certain range of motion for a while.
So if you are stuck in one of these exercises, make sure that you are performing the correct movement patterns. Also, make sure that nothing is keeping you from doing the correct movement patterns. And as always, if you have any questions on the form or how to improve your hinge, or squat, ask your Sweat Factory CrossFit coaches!
Becoming healthy, getting into shape, and building strength are delicately woven together and serve as a journey. No amount of progress or change will be visible overnight; results take time and most importantly only come with dedication, determination, motivation, and knowledge.
It’s difficult to achieve the results you desire if you are not properly educated on what is needed to get there. All too often people will plateau their results or fall off completely simply because they are not aware of the bad habits that are preventing them from moving forward.
What habits will halt your progress and keep you from feeling and looking your best?
Inconsistent in the number of days you work out per week
While it’s important to take rest days so that our bodies can recover and refuel, taking too many can actually derail our progress. All too often, people take a day off from exercise whenever they feel sore, thinking that’s what their bodies need. However, it’s in those moments that what your body really needs is to keep moving! Aim to commit yourself to 3-5 consistent training days per week.
Never changing your routine
Routine is the enemy when it comes to seeing progress and results. When we continuously engage in the same exercises, the same number of sets, and the same number of reps, our bodies become used to the workouts and therefore begin to put in less effort. When our bodies put in less effort, our muscles don’t put in the work needed to progress and build strength.
This also applies to those who “pick” which workouts to show up to. Not only do you lose out on improving in other areas by doing this, but you are also putting your body at risk. How? Variance provides balance. If you always skip a squat day but never miss a deadlift or pulling day, your backside becomes dominant and you create a recipe for body imbalances.
Not eating enough
Healthy food is your friend! Eating less isn’t going to help you lose weight, it will cause you to lose muscle and might even cause you to gain or store weight you don’t want to. Our bodies need food to refuel, especially before and after working out. Without eating enough, our bodies begin to feed off our muscle tissue and lead to us feeling sluggish and fatigued. Eating more of the right foods will not lead to weight gain, but will lead to the body you want and better recovery from workouts.
Focusing solely on cardiovascular exercises
While cardiovascular exercises are very important and necessary, focusing the majority of your time on cardio isn’t going to get you the results or body you want. You will actually begin to lose muscle tissue becomes weaker. Strength training, however, is extremely effective when it comes to burning fat and building muscle mass.
Performing functional exercises and compound exercises like the squat, press and deadlift deliver the most profound results. Now combining your cardio and weightlifting? That’s the recipe for fitness and improving your capability to do more work in less time!
Working out to the point of exhaustion every time
Of course, it’s good to push ourselves to the extreme every once in a while, but doing so every single time you train is a recipe for failure. Your body will become too exhausted, drain your central nervous system, and won’t have the means to recuperate, leading to an increased risk of injury.
Mixing up your training stimulus is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. At Crossfit Daytona, we do this every day. Some days we go short and fast, some days we go long and sustained, some days we mix in intervals, some days we pace, and some days we go at max effort. Some days we will just lift, some days we will lift after a workout, and others we will lift within a workout.
It’s not random, it’s deliberate. Life is unpredictable and will demand different things of you (variance). To achieve the best results for body and performance think about it like this: 20% of time should be spent practicing, 70% of time should be spent “training,” and 10% should be what we call “compete” or go for it.
Practice: Very low heart rate and not on the clock. Loads are extremely light and there is a deliberate focus on improving, whether that be in positions or technique. No stress.
Training: Implementing the aspects of “practice” typically under a duress setting. (You’ve practiced your kettlebell swing a dozen times, now let’s incorporate them within a workout while still focusing on the quality of movement, but moving with a purpose as well).
3 rounds for time:
400m run (or row)
25 air squats
25 kettlebell swings
Spend most of your time here. Not only does training deliver the highest value for results, but combined with a healthy diet, it gets you the body that you want too!
Compete: Go as fast as you can and push up towards your highest output possible.
Those who don’t train CrossFit typically will hear the buzz words “high intensity” and immediately think we “compete” every day. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s debunk this myth here:
- No matter how in shape you are before CrossFit, it is more than likely that even a practice session will whoop your butt. Yeah, it’s that good.
- New athletes to the program will spend the first 90 days focusing on consistency (showing up 3-5x a week) and mechanics (learning the movements and moving well).
Simply put, new athletes are blending practice and training within their first 90 day period.
- High intensity is relative. Each athlete works at their own intensity. 68-year-old Fred’s intensity is different than 32-year-old Abby’s to 20-year-old Elena’s.
We respect all of that. Intensity isn’t a one size fits all for everyone and understanding intensity is a major key to success and moving the needle in the right direction.