Hip Hinge vs. Squatting – The most important lower body training video you’ll ever see.

In my videos and articles I talk a lot about the “hip hinge” and how important it is for us on the bike. Basically your ability to get your hips back and chest down without losing a strong core position, it is the essential movement skill behind both seated pedaling and your standing Attack Position.

When you have a good hip hinge you can produce more power with your legs and put less strain on your lower back, plus you can stand up in the Attack Position longer and be able to manual easier. If you struggle with your hip hinge then you are really making things hard on yourself when you ride.

However, while it is important to work on your hip hinge with exercises like the Deadlift, KB Swing and DB Cheat Curl it is also important to understand the other end of the lower body movement spectrum – squatting.

Squatting is essentially your ability to keep balanced on your feet while dropping your hips down and keeping your chest upright. Squatting is the essential movement skill for standing pedaling and weakness with it usually leads to power and endurance issues when you do need to stand up on the trail.

A good rider will have command of both Hinging and Squatting so they can get into the best position for everything the trail might throw at them. However, this is not the case with most riders and they are usually lacking one of these essential lower body movement skills.

In this new video I show you the differences between Hinging and Squatting and how it applies to your bike. I also explain how we tend to get really good at one type of lower body movement and then try to use it for everything, even when it isn’t optimal.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of these two movement skills and how they complement each other both on the trail and off the bike as well. Ignoring a glaring dysfunction with one or both of these lower body movements will not only rob you of performance but it can set you up for an over-use injury down the road.

If you struggle with one of both of these basic movements then the best thing you can do is focus on improving your mobility. Any time spent ignoring those movement issues and simply trying to train around them will make the problem harder to deal with when you are forced to by an injury or performance plateau.

My MTB Mobility Follow-Along Videos will give you 15 minute mobility drills designed to target your problem areas as well as give you warm ups routines to help you get even more out of your workouts. You’ll also get 3 follow-along yoga routines from mountain bike star and expert yoga instructor Ryan Leech.

If you suffer from nagging aches and pains from being immobile and stiff then click here to learn more about the MTB Mobility Follow-Along Videos and how they can help you feel, perform and ride better.

If you have any questions on how this concept would apply to your training or the bike please leave a comment below. And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word to fellow riders who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Mobility Follow-Along Routines

MTB Mobility Follow-Along RoutinesAttention: Riders suffering from nagging aches and pains brought on by poor mobility in the ankles, knees, hips, low back and/ or shoulders. Discover the simple 15 minute Follow-Along routines that will instantly improve your mobility, letting you perform at a higher level with less pain. Just click play on these follow-along videos as I show you how to go beyond stretching to unlock your stiff joints and find a new way to move on your bike.
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  1. janno says:

    Hi James,
    The deadlift that you are explaining here is the romanian deadlift, not some special variation from ordinary deadlift, right?

    Reply • January 18 at 8:38 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’m referring more to the basic ideas of hinging vs. squatting. A regular deadlift will have some knee bend and won’t be 100% hip hinge and yes, a RDL would be 100% hip hinge.

      Reply • January 19 at 9:07 am
  2. Eric says:

    Hi James,
    This is a little off topic, but it was suggested I post the question here.

    I have a question about tendinitis I seem to have developed from doing kettle bell shoulder presses. I have never had pain doing standing shoulder presses with dumbbells. It seems that I now have pain on the left inner elbow with the kettle bell as I raise it. Have you seen this problem before? Could it be that I’m gripping the Kettle bell incorrectly? I have three kettles bells now, and would hate to have to give them up.


    Reply • December 12 at 8:38 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The most common mistake that people make with KBs is letting their wrist bend back. Because the load isn’t directly over the wrist you have to really focus on keeping your knuckles pointed to the ceiling during your presses and other overhead lifts. Letting your wrist bend back too much places a lot of strain on the inner parts of the upper arm and can lead to that inner elbow pain. If that isn’t it then you should have a coach with KB experience check your form, there is something off that is causing the pain and once you find it you can fix it. Hope this helps.

      Reply • December 15 at 8:50 am
  3. Neil Barstow says:

    hi James,
    Thanks for the annual roundup. It’s a good new feature. I’m just revisiting this squat v hip hinge instructional and have a question please cos you’ve got me thinking.
    I get that the squat helps standing pedalling because, I think, it’s a quad dominant pedal stroke when pedalling hard. You mention that being able to do the hinge (deadlift etc) is good for seated pedalling (a pedal stroke which is glute dominant, ideally?).
    So – you’re getting the body straighter when standing to pedal, that happens naturally on standing climbs I feel. I guess this approach to position out on the trail means transitioning between the hips back attack position where you might even stay to put in just a few strokes and a less “bent” position when more pedalling (standing) is needed?
    Or are you staying in the attack position to pedal (using glutes) right up until the pedalling gets hard, at which point the hinged position is naturally reduced, i.e. the body straightens as effort increases and the quads take more of the load?
    Did I get that right?
    Seated is glute dominant, and standing transitions between bent and straighter: bent over (attack position pedalling) being glute dominant and straighter (harder) pedalling recruiting more quads?
    Must get out on the bike and see how that feels.

    It would be great to see you show these 2 positions and how you transition in trailriding on a bike.

    Thanks for the great blog posts have a great 2015.

    Reply • January 5 at 2:43 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      You know, I hesitate to use the terms “quad dominant” and “hip dominant” because it gives wrong impression of what is going on. The hips are always the strongest muscles in the movement and providing most of the force so it is more about the trunk and knee angles rather than which muscles are driving the movement. I know I’ve used those terms interchangeably in the past but it is something I’m trying to work on because of the confusion they cause.

      So, the squat pattern drives standing pedaling not because it is requires more quads, it is because you have to get your torso into a more upright position and you have more bend at the knee joint. Seated Pedaling is a driven by the hip hinge because you have more lean at the hips for a more bent over position and you have less bend at the knees.

      So, the real key is focusing on balance on the bike and using the position that best fits the trail conditions. When standing up I’ll get my hips as forward as I can given the trail conditions. On a steep, loose climb I have to sink my hips back and down into a more hip hinged position to keep traction when standing so you’ll really use both position when out of the seat, sitting down just locks your hips into the same position which is why it only requires the hip hinge pattern.

      Here is an old post I did on this subject, you can see me demoing the different position on the bike: http://www.bikejames.com/strength/standing-vs-seated-pedaling-posture/

      Hope this helps…

      Reply • January 5 at 3:57 pm
      • Paul B says:

        This post, and that comment, are brilliant! I’m a personal trainer, and have long disliked the “knee-dominant” and “hip-dominant” classifications – if you’re doing any lower body movement properly, it should ALWAYS be hip-dominant.

        With my clients, I also believed, for a while, that distinguishing between the squat and hinge was unnecessary, as they all work the same muscles more or less. But this video really illuminated the need to practice both movements – a squat is important, but will not always be the best movement pattern when needing power from your lower body.

        Thanks for this post – truly eye-opening.

        Reply • August 14 at 11:04 am
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          Thanks, glad you liked it and it helped.

          Reply • August 15 at 10:32 am
  4. Tim says:

    Thanks. You really nailed this. Part of the confusion comes about because both actions are hip hinges. In fact, upon measuring there is not a big difference between hip angles in the squat and ‘hip hinge’. BUT, there is a big difference between knee angles. Should be called ‘knee hinge”! From ‘ hinge’ to squat you bend your knees more and simply to stay in balance your torso angle (to the ground) changes and your buttocks go down instead of back.

    Reply • March 31 at 6:40 pm

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