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Many times when teaching patients hip hinging, we often see some form of a squat gone wrong. That shouldn’t be the case.

Understanding this one simple cue can help you groove this very important movement pattern, in terms of function, injury prevention and performance.

Side note: check out our upcoming Hip Hinge 101 Workshop: Assessment, Screening & Training Applications on May 8th at Boston Underground Strength Training.

Trying to teach people how to move at their hips correctly can sometimes be a difficult process. Factors such as age, experience, and anatomy (just to name a few) can all have implications on the relative ease or difficulty of trying to get someone to understand the pattern.

However, there is one particular cue that has helped me master the hip hinge. While this is nothing new, revisiting this (or for first timers, understanding this) can help you master this hinge pattern, too.

First, let’s discuss a big reason why folks have a hard time moving at their hips (or, ‘dem hips!).


I learned this analogy from a great professor in DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) school, who was lecturing on pain science, but I really like how it can be applied to movement patterns as well. Basically, this professor likened chronic pain pathways to trails blazed through a forest. This image was immediately engrained into my brain.

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If you were the brain, wouldn’t you take the trail pictured above?

While this analogy holds true for chronic pain, its principles can be carried over to chronic movement pattern “dysfunction.”

So, what’s our takeaway from this?

Simply put: forming new pathways can be a difficult task to accomplish when learning a new skill, such as hip hinging. It becomes even more difficult when asking people if they have ever heard of this and, you know, you get those blank stares with the “WTF is a hip hinge?” face.


Now, let’s apply this analogy to movement patterns.

A lot of times, the population I have the hardest time teaching the hip hinging pattern to is the middle-aged population. A big reason is because their movement patterns have already been “blazed,” so to speak. Trying to teach these particular individuals a new movement pattern means forming new pathways, and this can be a very difficult task to overcome.

However, here’s where understanding the horizontal cueing of the hip hinge comes into play. Explaining the difference between moving at your hips (picture below) and moving at your knees can help the brain to forge new pathways through the nervous system highway.


One of the best light bulb moments for my patients/athletes regarding understanding a true hip hinge is the horizontal component (aka the hips riding along that horizontal axis from front to back). If the hips dip below the horizontal axis, the knees are getting involved; therefore, it’s no longer a true hip hinge, and now enters squat territory.

While squatting is certainly not our enemy (we love squats), I happen to think that hip hinging is a far more superior movement to master before learning how to squat, and unfortunately, hip hinging is behind the scenes, not really getting a lot of credit to the general population (hell, even in the rehab setting).

Here’s a video demonstration of initiating movement at your hips during the hip hinge pattern:

Stay tuned for my next article, which helps explain why hip hinging is truly the king of all movement patterns.


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Dr. Zachary Gabor, PT, DPT, CSCS, USAW, is a 2015 graduate from Ithaca College where he earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Prior to that, he earned his Bachelor of Clinical Health Science degree from Ithaca College in 2013. Zak is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), and a Sports Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting (USAW).

Throughout his doctorate program, Zak served as a Teaching Assistant for several physical therapy courses including gross anatomy and musculoskeletal examination and evaluation. He also spent over three years providing personal strength training to clients and athletes.

Zak is passionate about teaching and educating, both of which are very important cornerstones to any patient’s plan of care. In addition, Zak’s clinical experience is rooted in sports-based orthopedic rehabilitation and physical therapy, with an emphasis on strength training and sports performance.

A firm believer in continuing education to better serve the patients, clients and athletes he works with, Zak is dedicated to constantly learning. His future post-gradation coursework will include: manual therapy courses, dry needling certifications, and sports certification specialist designation.

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Instagram — @zak.gabor2

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