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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Back to Exercise Basics: The Split Squat

As we continue down the road of improving our basic movement patterns (which is always under construction, by the way), we take a look at the squat pattern and its variations a bit further. Many fitness pros, including myself, argue that we spend more time on one leg than we do on two. Think about it: walking, running, traveling up stairs—for varying amounts of time, you can find yourself on one leg a lot.

What Makes a Split Squat a Split Squat?

So if you are on one leg a bunch, it only makes sense that you build that position to be strong and stable, and in many different planes of motion. Let’s take a look at what makes a split squat a split squat, which is very different from the lunge but often is called by the same name (kind of a pet peeve of mine).

Tony_split-squat

  1. Base of support—Forward Foot – Weight on heel
  2. Base of support—Rear Foot – Weight on toes, heel up
  3. Base of support—Split distance is 3-4’ 
  4. Shin angle—moving forward
  5. Front Knee – Tracking over but not beyond toes
  6. Trail knee – path towards ground, suspended
  7. Glute “stacked” above knee
  8. Neutral Spine
  9. Shoulders back and down
  10. Eyes up

Many of the aspects of the regular squat are found in the split. You are simply in a single-leg-supported position.

Options to Get More Out of the Split Squat

Now that you have the foundation, here are a few options you can use to get more out of this movement pattern.

  1. TRX Split Squat
  2. 2KB Split Squat—Farmer position
  3. 1KB RFEE Split Squat—Down position
  4. 2KB Split Squat-Racked position

 

Exercise Variations in the Frontal and Transverse Planes

Human beings need to travel in 3D. It’s important to all of us, from the athlete to the accountant. Often we train in one plane of motion, typically the sagittal plane (in the regular squat, for example, or the overhead press). But in the real world we move in more ways than straight ahead. Here are some variations that will get you in the frontal (side-to-side) and the transverse (rotational) planes.

  1. 3D Body Weight
  2. Offset KB Spit Squat
  3. SaB Lateral Split Squat
  4. SaB + KB Rot. Split Squat

 

The split squat is a super-important movement pattern that I feel we need to train more. As single-leg beings, mastering this pattern in multiple planes will transfer big time to the real world and allow us to move better, more often, with fewer injuries.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise basics injury prevention leg day squat fitness center movement stability functional movement

Back to Exercise Basics: The Hip Hinge

In my previous “Back to Exercise Basics” posts, I broke down the push-up and then the squat, focusing on the individual aspects that form a properly performed fundamental movement. Now it’s time to take a look at the movement pattern that is considered by many to be the granddaddy of all movement patterns: the hip hinge.

Most movement in athletics (and in life) stems from a hip hinge. It is a base position that is the ultimate power generator. The hinge can be found in most movements and is a super important position and pattern no matter who you are and what your athletic event is, sports or life. Quite often, many individuals confuse the hinge with the squat; and although they are both lower-body movements, they couldn’t be more different. This confusion between the two generally leads to “squat-heavy” kettle swings, poor positioning for a deadlift, and lackluster power expression.

How the Hip Hinge and Squat Differ

So if you can live with my stick-figure drawings, take a look at how these movements are different:

Cara_hinge

HIP HINGE

  • Max hip flexion with minimum knee flexion
  • Hip dominant
  • Hips go back and forward
  • Vertical shin

Cara_squat_kb

SQUAT

  • Max knee flexion with minimum hip flexion
  • Quad dominant
  • Hips go up and down
  • Shin moves forward

The differences between the two should be pretty clear when looking at them side by side, even with these crude drawings.

Videos: How to Master the Pattern

But the hip hinge can be one of the toughest things for a coach to teach, and a tough pattern for a new mover to perfect. Of course, using an FMS to evaluate your ability to perform a hinge pattern is a key first step. But after that, how can you master this pattern? Here are a few drills that can set you up for success, as well as some variations of a hip hinge that you can add into your current program.

VIDEO #1: Set It Up

  • Karate-chop hips—Rock and lock—Charlie
  • Short-stop hand slide
  • Broad jump freeze

 

 

VIDEO #2: Grease the Pattern

  • Wall butt touch
  • Band distracted hinge
  • KB front-loaded hinge
  • Foam roller single-leg hinge

 

VIDEO #3: Variations

  • KB deadlift
  • Hip thruster
  • SaB deadlift
  • Landmine single-leg/straight leg/Deadlift

 

Just as with the push-up and the squat, we are merely scratching the surface here of both the position and the breakdown of the hinge pattern and the many ways to use and improve this ever-important fundamental pattern. But I feel good that the information covered here can at minimum get you underway toward being a hero for the hip hinge.

Get More Help from NIFS

Want more tips and information? Schedule a personal workout plan appointment with a NIFS instructor and cover cutting-edge drills and techniques to make you the best mover you can be.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional movement functional movement screen exercise basics fitness center NIFS hips