Video: Hip Hinge vs. Squatting

Feb 3, 2014
by James Wilson  
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.

Views: 11,453    Faves: 62    Comments: 2


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.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com for more training and riding tips like this and to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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53 Comments

  • 29 0
 honestly, thank you so much for these tips James. It's hard to believe the lack of comments on these pages, but we all greatly appreciate your advice!
  • 36 14
 Is this 'Enduro' specific training?
  • 6 0
 what ever you do, don't go to planet fitness....
  • 2 1
 Centz This is def's #endruo. you need this to do enduro'ing better!
  • 2 1
 yup! try pyramid squat training. low weight, high reps at the beginning towards high weight low reps. then work your way back to low weight. Basically you get hypertrophy training, endurance, and raw strength all in one exercise. Limit rest times to increase the intensity. Basically how i train my legs for everything
  • 8 0
 These are just stellar. I love getting the input on physical stuff outside of mtb, but magically correlating.
  • 2 0
 so hip hing is just a romanian deadlift right? i had no idea what they were were until i saw a pretty big guy switching from deadlifts to squats, i asked him why he was mixing back exercises with legs and it turns out he was strength and conditioning coach for the Leeds rhinos, he said its the best exercise you can do for balance barr none. lunges are great aswell.
  • 1 0
 Thank god for that! It's exactly what I do. Supersets of DL and squats, nice and heavy.
  • 1 0
 Yes, hip hinge=Romanian dead lift; squat=squat.
  • 1 0
 So how does holding weight work with a hip hinge? With a squat the force is mostly off your back so its safer, how does it work when you're rotating you torso forwards? Surely that would put strain on your back with a decent weight?
  • 2 0
 It's all about form. With a properly arched lower back, you gain immense strength throughout your legs, abs, and back. Squats and dead lifts are the two most important lifting exercises there are.
  • 3 0
 The RDL (Romanian dead lift) is basically a hip hinge. As long as you keep the weight close to your legs, your back doesn't see as much bad strain. The key is keeping the weight low till you get proper form, which means use your upper hamstrings and glutes rather than all back. This is a perfect example. www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnBREGM7pE0
  • 2 0
 you'll know when you have good form because during the set you will feel your hamstrings stretching whilst going down. like the guy above said, start with low weight, you will still feel it because its a movement the hamstring isnt used to doing. once you get it you will realise that your back doesnt really come into the equation at all.
  • 1 2
 Lower back injury occurs in a situation when vertebrae start to rest on/ press against each other due to bad arching of the back. Most of what you need to know is in that vid, that James posted on his FB profile a long long time ago:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5WhWu1g080

Bret Contreras profile is full of excellent videos with explanations. It is hard to find something so comprehensive in the world filled with crap like body building or cross fit.
  • 2 0
 Start with an Olympic bar only to get the right form doing high reps to get your muscles used to the exercise. A lot of stabilizers are used in RDL's that do not get a lot of work during most "standard" gym exercises, so start light and work to feel that stretch in your hamstrings. I also work in high rep/low weight variants of Clean & Lift, Clean & Jerk or Power Cleans. Similar motions, but slightly different to keep your muscles from getting comfortable with an exercise. All great total body conditions exercises.
  • 1 0
 When doing the romanian dead lift keep your back and pelvis in the same position. Imagine them being immobile. To move the bar rotate the pelvis. Back injuries mainly come when the spine is being moved while under load not supporting a load with no spine movement.
  • 1 6
flag WAKIdesigns (Feb 4, 2014 at 8:10) (Below Threshold)
 I strongly advise to get some structured training program. then at least a 1 hour class with a qualified coach before attempting even body weight exercises. Go through your training program with him/her. If someone is just going blind into lifting weights then he should forget it. No internet article, video or vomment is going to teach anyone how to do stuff properly. And if one doesn't want do it properly why bother? It is about injury prevention but mainly about generetaing efficient patterns of movement.
  • 5 0
 Waki,
Your views on this are ridiculous.
I competed in Olympic style weightlifting a few years back and was my own coach. My form is pretty damn good and I taught myself. This is a perfectly safe way to enter the sport. Read the numerous books on it, frequent the quality lifting sites (pendelay forum for instance), watch videos of top athletes preforming textbook lifts, preform the motions in a mirror with body weight, then preform the exercise at a safe weight while filming yourself. Watch the film and adjust. All of the information is freely available.

Most trainers don't know half of what you can learn yourself by researching the sport of weightlifting. In fact, many are downright dangerous. I was told by a head trainer at a gym that erging is bad for your health! Most trainers and coaches also spew garbage about over training. This is fairly hard to do once you acclimate to the sport. More often than over training, the individual is undereating and undersleeping.
  • 2 0
 I agree with ya Clemson13. Waki did you call bodybuilding crap? Or was that a misunderstanding by me? If you did then that is humorous in a non laughing way.
  • 1 0
 yeah Waki, you obviously dont lift. bro. the internets is full of hench dudes, and if they say that crossfit and jack3d works for them then who needs so called "science" and an understanding of so called "physiology".
  • 2 0
 Bluumax, you don't need to have a PhD in keniesiology to figure out how to employ a healthy lifting routine with proper technique.

If your doing something wrong, the results won't come, and your joints WILL hurt. But if you lift with proper form, with a weight you can actually stabilize & handle, you will see the results and your joints will actually be stronger as a result.
  • 1 4
 Yes, off course you can do everything yourself! Coaches are as competent like cops and soldiers in hollywood movies, they die by thousands killed by a bike courier. who just got a gun for the first time in his life. No I don't lift bro, not yet, 2 more months of building core stability, which off course you don't need. Tell me, if you'd like a house would you hire an architect, or would you just give a hand or paintbrush sketch to a contractor? I am not angry, I do realize that crisis of authority is common all over the internet. And yes I have this involountary despise for half-done body building, it is as manly, as wearing make up, in fact it serves the same purpose - look good.
  • 1 0
 Uhh nice analogies WAKI. Haha. Usually you make good points but the average joe can safely manage to guide themselves in a weight lifting routine, I learned in high school from coaches but the knowledge is easily available, and if you aren't dumb about it you can get right into it, P90x is a good all around program to use that anyone could start doing. People tend to get trapped by gimmicks and trying to get fast results with minimal effort. And please stop calling it bodybuilding, that involves spray tans and speedos and has nothing to do with this.
  • 1 0
 good stuff, busting your a$$ in the gym pays off big time on the trail. thanks for sharing this, I will use this for sure. I'd love to see some bike-specific fast movement whole body workouts (burpees etc.) that you could recommend
  • 1 0
 clean and jerks, snatch cleans, prowler pushes, bodyweight squats, and skipping.
  • 10 0
 pretty sure every one of those could be used as a euphemism for masturbating
  • 1 1
 Snatch cleans *giggity*
  • 1 0
 This is cool but would be better with some illustrations of these postures at work on the bike. I'm thinking hinge should be more for steep descent and squat for cornering right? Also centre of gravity is very different in reality as when you hang off the back of a bike you are pulling on the bars. Whereas in both these gym exercises your centre of gravity is exactly over your feet (or you would fall over). So some explanation of how these translate into better riding on the trail (maybe even with trail footage?!) would be good!
  • 1 0
 The Elite FTS a href="http://train.elitefts.com/instructional/so-you-think-you-can-squat-parts-1-5/">So You Think You Can Squat (Parts 1-5)/a> videos are a fantastic way to get to grips with what you need to be doing when performing squats
  • 2 2
 I do very similar things in football. I think the squat dead lift works the best I better shape your body's in the better riding imo. More mussel more bike control! It's nice to see a gym dedicated to mountain biking! Awesome video
  • 2 0
 So, if I eat more mussels, I'll have better bike control?
  • 2 0
 Clam up dude...
  • 4 0
 Great stuff James is the man
  • 1 0
 If you are on the bike almost everyday do u really need to do squats? I tried doing a few sets in the summer when i was riding a lot but my knees were just not havin it, and i wasnt even using that much weight.
  • 4 2
 "If you are on the bike almost everyday do u really need to do squats?"

I think your next sentence answers your question.

"I tried doing a few sets in the summer when i was riding a lot but my knees were just not havin it, and i wasnt even using that much weight."

Because you're weak. If you were stronger this would not be a problem.
  • 2 3
 Go fuck yourself calling people you dont know weak. I said my knees were not havin it not my muscles. On the off season i squat over double my body weight, but when i bike everyday in the summer its hard for my knees to take a lot of weight. Get the hell outta here troll i could prolly snap ur little twiggy leg in half, fuckin punk ass. Your comment was pointless
  • 2 0
 Goddamn Ripper. That's some HEAT.
  • 1 1
 If you think you're in good shape/strong and you can't squat properly or without experiencing discomfort you have some thinking to do.
  • 2 0
 No, this is more common than you guys think. Squats are actually really dangerous to many really strong people. Eccentric loads like a squat, are very bad for the knees and will eventually lead to over use injuries EVEN WHEN DONE PROPERLY. Patellar tendonitis is very common, and can be very troublesome to an athlete. Treatment is basically walking a tight rope with making the injury worse, and getting stronger. If you have pain on the front part of your knee, on top of your knee cap, quit the squats immediately. One will constantly be fighting atrophy. Mdripper- cut the squats during riding season. The over use injury is not worth it. You can be super strong without them.
  • 1 0
 Nice article James. I dig your approach of structuring workouts to improve performance on the bike. In this case, would you recommend the lower back exercise good mornings to help strengthen the lower back and hips?
  • 1 0
 I do both I workout and do crossfit and It keeps me in shape plenty.some people have better cardio then others.I rode with a buddy of mine who smokes and he beat the whole group of guts go figure.
  • 4 0
 Nice one. More please.
  • 1 0
 Nice. Great exercises. RacerX training is another great site for tips that always has video. The moto exercises crosses over easily.
  • 1 1
 Bench press,pullups,squats,deadlifts are all good strength exercises.mix that up with crossfitt and u wilyl leave your freinds in the dust.
  • 1 0
 not so sure about bench press being useful on the bike but it's impressive when you can make your pecs bounce up and down.
  • 1 0
 Huge blanket statement. I ride with plenty of guys who do all of those exercises + crossfit and spend way more time in the gym than I can... they are still poor riders and have bad cardio.
  • 1 3
 I don't know man... These tips are ok, he's good on form..... but I see so many "exercises" on his channel, and i'm pretty sure a normal gym training would do better overall for your muscles and for your riding.

I honestly believe there's no such thing (I mean, there is, but it's minimal) as a SPECIFIC training for enduro or downhill or whatever.
You just focus on gym the muscles you feel fatigue first.
Usually shoulders and legs.
  • 2 0
 I love this kind of vids. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 Bench press is all upper body strength.if you can't lift your front wheel over that log or rock good luck
  • 2 1
 squat, squat, and squat some more to build some sidewalk crackn' legs.
  • 1 0
 Thats pretty cool info, and thank you.
  • 1 0
 Is there a video of how/when the two positions should be utilized?
  • 1 0
 psshhhh myths





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