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Understanding the Squat vs a Hip Hinge

Squat vs Hinge


You're likely familiar with both Squat and Hip Hinge exercises. All leg exercises fall under the category of either hip-dominant (hinge) or knee-dominant (squat). But did you know that you can make any Squat exercise more hip-dominant and vice versa? Let's delve a little deeper into the difference between hip and knee-dominant exercises, and how many clients often confuse them by performing hip hinges while attempting to squat.


The Squat


Squat variations are knee-dominant leg exercises that tend to emphasize the quadriceps (thighs) and glutes (butt) as the primary movers. The knee joint in these exercises tends to undergo deeper flexion (bending) than hip hinge exercises. Any bilateral squat pattern, if done correctly, is a knee-dominant exercise.

The Hip Hinge


Deadlift variations (hinges), if done properly, are considered hip-dominant exercises. They tend to prioritize the hamstrings and glutes as primary movers. The hip joint undergoes deep flexion while the knees should stay relatively straight or soft. All bilateral deadlift variations are considered hip hinges.  

The Confusion


We often see clients attempting to squat for the first time actually performing what looks more like a hip hinge. It’s not an incorrect practice; there is still good quality work being done, but it’s important for us to educate ourselves on the lifts we are attempting to perform. A classic example is the Goblet Squat; it’s common for us to observe very little knee bend and an individual pushing the hips back similar to a deadlift. So, while attempting to squat, they are actually performing a hinge! To correct this, we like to cue a knee bend first, then move through the hips. Eventually, we aim for a nice blend of hip and knee movement during a squat.

Split-Squat and Lunges


This is another example of a knee-dominant exercise we see turned into a hinge. By dropping the torso to have the chest facing the floor, the exercise biases the hip joint more than the knee. A simple way to try to make these types of exercises more knee-dominant is to maintain an upright torso. Some examples of knee-dominant single-leg exercises are Split Squats, Forward/Reverse Lunges, and Step-ups.




There’s nothing inherently wrong with making a squat pattern more like a hip hinge. In fact, in many situations, we prefer it, especially when bending deep at the knee is uncomfortable for a client. This blog is simply to help educate that any Squat exercise can be made into a Hip Hinge and vice versa. Next time you’re in the gym, pay some attention to how you’re moving through your hip vs. your knee and adjust accordingly for what you are trying to achieve.

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