Low back aches and pains with lifting can be fairly common, but it doesn’t have to be!

Do you have sore knees or low back issues with bending and lifting? One of the first things I assess with clients is their ability to perform a proper squat to help decrease pain and move better. With some quick and easy changes in form, we can greatly improve how well you move!

When bending and lifting, we tend to use one of two motions first: knees forward or hips backward.

A common error for a lot of people when starting a squat movement is to let the knees come forward and the heels to rise off of the ground.

This might feel correct because the back stays straight, however, it’s greatly limiting how muscles need to engage during a squat or lift.

When you start a squat with the knees forward, your body cannot properly engage the muscles on the back of the legs to stabilize your hips, low back, and knees.

This is often called a “quad dominant” squat, as the quad muscles, the large muscles on the front of your leg, are doing the bulk of the work.

A quad dominant squat often leads to an increase in knee pain with squatting and less than ideal lifting mechanics.

There’s an easier way!

Contrast the quad dominant squat with the proper “hip dominant” version. During the hip dominant squat, the big muscles in the back of your legs and your glutes engage to provide power and stabilization. Exercise and rehab professionals often refer to this pattern as hip hinging, since you are essentially “hinging” at your hip.

In the image below, compare the two versions by looking at the knee and hip position. With the image on the right, the hips are further back and the knees are not as far forward. This keeps the knees happy and the back stable which is our goal!

Which version do you perform? Here is a simple test you can do at home to feel the difference in muscle engagement.

Try this test

Standing tall, push your knees forward. You should look like the image on the left. Once you are in position, feel the back of your legs and your glutes and notice how they feel.

Mine feel soft and I can actually grab and wiggle the muscle which tells me that it is not engaged properly. This is NOT what we want.

Now stand up tall and push the hips back. Feel the back of your legs and glutes now, they should feel taught and engaged. This is proper engagement and exactly what we are looking for!

If you were to try and wiggle them, they can’t since they are busy working! Which position do you feel stronger in?

Video guide to proper hip hinging

Want to improve how you move? This video will take you through my standard hip hinge progression aimed at getting more of your hip and leg muscles engaged with squatting and lifting.

If you have any questions, you can message me or call for a free evaluation!


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