The 3 Most Basic Lower Body Movement Patterns: Box Squat, Hip Hinge (RDL), Glute Bridge

It is of utmost importance that beginners master proper form prior to adding extra load. In the video below, I showcase what I believe to be the 3 most basic lower body movement patterns – box squats, RDLs, and glute bridges. I have all my beginners practice these patterns at home as homework. The more time you spend practicing these drills, the quicker you’ll master the movements and the faster you’ll be able to add load and progress. But you must lay down a foundation of quality movement prior to building on that base. Here’s the video:

If you know a beginner who is considering embarking upon an exercise regimen, send them this link and tell them to watch the video. They need to start practicing these movements so they learn to sit back, use their hips, keep the spine stable, fire their glutes, etc. This is the starting point for beginners, and mastery of these drills is vital for future lifting success.

44 thoughts on “The 3 Most Basic Lower Body Movement Patterns: Box Squat, Hip Hinge (RDL), Glute Bridge

  1. maureen

    Thanks again for the videos…they are a big help…when i am doing the glute bridge it hurts in my knees…whats up with that… saw your name on the list for the 20 trainers you might not know about but should…you keep impressive company…yours is always the first email i read….I have been working out now for about 3yrs and have no where near the development that Ruth has for only one year…I might just have to go back to square one…I have hired a trainer in the past not the best use of my money..Looking forward to Strong Curves the book and my glutes..

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Maureen – try dorsiflexing the ankles (lifting your toes off the ground) and pushing through the heels, and try moving your feet out a little bit away from the buttocks. This should help.

      Reply
      1. maureen

        Bret, Moved my feet out a and it made all the difference. Thanks… will keep practicing… looking forward to adding weight. I remembered in one of your videos you mentioned a pad that worked well on the bar..Where do I get that one….

        Reply
  2. Michelle

    Bret, thank you so much for the video explaining the basic movements. I love it when you show a vid that anyone can understand, although I know your blog is geared toward professional trainers. I’ve learned so much from your blog and I thank you for that!

    Reply
  3. Joe

    Great video. I’d like to watch some more of your videos, do you have them indexed on the website or do you have a YouTube Channel?

    Reply
  4. Ted

    Bret, why did you choose three primarly hip dominant movements? The posterior chain is important for obvious reasons, but I am surprised you didn’t include the ATG front squat in the list.

    All the best,
    Ted

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Ted, most folks have strong quads from “life.” Getting up from a chair and walking up stairs highly activates the quadriceps. But nothing we do in everyday typical life sufficiently activates the glutes. This is why people become quad dominant, but it should really be called, hip weakness. So I teach folks to sit back and use their hips and then they have a head-start when learning movements like the ATG front squat since their hips are stronger in relation to their quads. Trust me, in time I strengthen the hell out of everything, but up front I focus on the hips because that’s the weak link. Great question! – BC

      Reply
      1. Ted

        Thank you for the quick reply, Bret. What you said makes a lot of sense.

        I do not recall you ever talking about snatch grip deadlifts from deficits, and I wonder why.

        Personally, I am a huge fan. I usually pull from a three inch deficit, which means – given my height – that I start in the full squat position.

        It is basically a squat with the bar in my hands, and the wide grip really conditions the rhomboids, different trap areas and rotators.
        Maybe I am over-rating it a bit, but I have the feeling the snatch deadlift from a deficit combines the best of the squat and the deadlift.

        What is your opinion? If you had the time to reply, I’d be very grateful. Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Bret Post author

          Ted, I like deficit dl’s as well as snatch grip dl’s, and snatch grip deficit dl’s are great too but many people don’t have the mobility to get that low. But the way I see it, if you can do it correctly, have at it! It’s an amazing lift.

          Reply
      2. nell

        Historically, which posterior chain movements do you think people might have used more regularly than post-industrial westerners do?

        Any thoughts on comparative hip weakness or strength in cultures in which squatting is/was a normal sitting stance (assuming weak-butt is chairs’ fault)?

        Reply
  5. Nick Lewis

    Hi Bret,
    I am doing my exercise physiology paper on your weighted hip thrust movement. I’m curious if you or anyone else reading this, knows of some comparative analysis of anteroposterior loaded exercises and their effect on sprint performance? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Billy Santana

      Nick, I would recommend you purchase Bret’s eBook (top-right of this page). In it, Bret quantifies specific Muscle-activation Based on Load Vector, including the gluteus maximus, adductor longus, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis (page 461).
      He also measured muscular activity of the four quadrants of the glutei maximi through vigorous workouts (page 463). That chapter also includes many other tables, facts, and figures.
      I know that college students are on a limited budget. But it is a worhty investment, and will educate you, help you with your research, and most likely change the way you train yourself and your clients.

      Reply
  6. Neal W.

    Bret,

    I’d love for you to write an article on back injury prevention for the grappler. For me, there is no getting around having my back contorted in every given direction, even under load. Everything that is popular today in theories about back health suggests that grappling should be the worst thing for a back. With MMA/BJJ being so popular today, it would be a worthwhile article to write, IMO!!

    Reply
  7. Sascha

    Hi Bret, nice video.
    Got a question only partially related to this video. I have a short torso and long legs, so for me in order to keep my shins vertical I have to use a big forward lean. As I am squatting high bar I can in no way keep my shins vertical. So, should I switch to a low bar postition and try to keep my tibia vertical or just keep squatting high bar and allow my knees to travel forward a bit? Thanks for any help.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Sascha, I’ve trained several people like you and I still kept their shins vertical and had them lean forward significantly (keeping the arch in the low back). You lean forward a ton in the deadlift and good morning, so why should people be so concerned if this occurs in a squat? Then you can do other types of squats (such as front squats) and allow your toes to travel forward a bunch so you get well-rounded development.

      Reply
  8. Domenic

    I’ve had alot of issues with glute raises myself for a few different reasons. But these are a vital exercise, that I would say supersede the other two in terms of importance because they get the glutes going.

    One thing that I’ve learned over time and Bret I’d be curious to see if you agree with me, that good performance in the glute raise should carry over into the RDL and Box Squat.

    Basically, if someone appears to have a great glute bridge done easily quickly and even if they say they feel it in their butt, if their rdl and box squat look awful, you can be almost positive the glute bridge is not being done correctly.

    Going very, very slow, limiting your ROM and making sure any movement during the glute bridge is directly accompanied by movement of the thigh AND torso.

    Bret makes the glute bridges look easy, but if you think you may have poor glute function, there is no way you should be able to get all the way off the ground as Bret does, or do it quickly. It should be very hard and very slow.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Domenic, I’ve gotten all sorts of feedback from all over the world on hip thrusts/bb glute bridges.

      First, I’ll discuss my experiences. I didn’t notice any transfer to my heavy box squat or heavy deadlift (1RM’s). However, I noticed huge increases when repping out. In fact, high rep sets of RDLs or box squats sort of feel like hip thrusting to me.

      Now let me discuss what others have relayed. I’d say that 50% of people saw no transfer to squats/deads. The other 50% saw great transfer, with most seeing huge gains during the first month or two of implementing the loaded bridging.

      So it depends on the lifter, but I’m sure it also depends on how well the individual’s glutes are activating in the first place. Less glute function means more room for improvement.

      Reply
      1. Domenic

        Bret,
        I was talking more about the initial use of glute bridges to get the glutes up to par and the carryover from I’m not sure what to call it but, unactivated glutes to activated glutes.

        In other words, if someone cant to a good squat or dead no matter the load, its usually a glute weakness issue and those exercises should immediately and acutely improve with proper glute activation via the unweighted bridge.

        Goes back to your points about progression, bodyweight, small rom, slow comes before heavy, large ROM, fast. Would you agree?

        Reply
  9. Nick the kiwi

    Hey Bret, I appreciate all the good advice!

    With the glute bridges, should the hamstrings have any tension at all at the top? Also, should the spine have any posterior tilt? I’m guessing you’d recommend total neutrality, but which would you prefer to see – a little bit of posterior tilt or anterior tilt?

    Finally, what standards do you set for what “mastery” of these bodyweight movements is? I have had most of my clients dive into dumbbells because following a quick tutorial and correction, they are performing them appropriately. I’d like to set a more concrete “graduation system” and wondered what performance checkpoints you use.

    Hope your PhD is going well and the weather in my hometown isn’t too distracting!

    Thanks as always.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Nick, the hamstrings will have tension but ideally you want tons of glute tension with only moderate hammy and erector tension. You’ll find that many folks exhibit poor glute tension and insane hammy and erector tension, which is evidence of dysfunction.

      With all heavy lifts the safest spinal posture is neutral. However, I like very slight APT at the bottom of a deadlift and very slight PPT at the top of a hip thrust.

      I don’t have a set graduation system, but many of my clients move directly into dumbbell work too. No sense keeping them at bodyweight if they’re ready for extra loading!

      Cheers!

      Reply
  10. Pingback: Top Good Reads of the Week: Edition 2 | LaVack Fitness

  11. Pingback: Mo.links – The Must Read Health & Fitness Resources This Week - Movemo Fitness : Movemo Fitness

  12. Pingback: Inspired Fit Strong – Favorite Reads of the Week: 06/23/12

  13. Pingback: Inspired Fit Strong – Най-интересните статии, които прочетох тази седмица: 06/23/12

  14. Melly Testa

    This video is awesome. I have been practicing and want to get my form first, load second. It seems like you can get just as good a workout, as a beginner, by doing each exercise using body weight and good form. Learning to be aware of form is important, thanks for helping with that.

    Reply
  15. eugene s.

    Re: Box Squats, What are the relative benefits in the box squat. Should you not lose the load by actually sitting on the box, or just bump the box then rise, or stall on the box keeping your glutes etc. loaded the whole time. To stop or not to stop, that is the question?

    Reply
  16. Pingback: What Donny Shankle Calls ‘Subordinate Exercises’ « athleticevolution

  17. Pingback: WOD 7/5 | CrossFit Austin | Group Fitness Classes, Personal Training, Olympic Lifting, BootCamp

  18. Pingback: Stuff You Should Check Out: July 6th, 2012 | DeanSomerset.com

  19. Zachary Columber

    Bret,
    I have been lifting for a few years but have been forced to admit recently that I do not know jack shit about good form. So, I have started working on my motor control and movement fundamentals. It is hard teaching this to yourself, but I have been making do with mirrors. My question is this: whenever I contract my glutes forcefully I can feel my right glute activating. However, my left glute does not activate as much, and instead, I feel my upper hamstring contracting and getting very tight. I have been trying to fix this but it has been difficult. Any advice?

    Reply
  20. Pingback: Glute bridges | Passion for fitness

  21. stefan

    Only very skilled persons know how to explain things in ways so that everybody understands right away. I am embaressed to say that I have been doing squats and deads wrong during three years in my home gym. I have read the top 5-10 workout/strength training books but I didn´t get it. Then I watch this video and immediately gets it :-) Thanks Bret!

    Reply
  22. Sandi Terri

    I’ve noticed some people can do activities like gardening in a hip-hinged position where their torso is folded all the way over to almost meet the top of the legs (and still have neutral spine). I can’t even go as far as you (during the hip-hinge you maxed out where your torso was almost parallel to the floor). Is it possible to develop a range of motion in hip-hinging that would allow for functional tasks like gardening to be performed comfortably?

    Reply
  23. Pingback: The Glute Guy’s Secrets: The Art of Glute Building Part II – Programming | Bret Contreras

  24. Joe

    I just watched this again after many many months. Such a good video. Direct, clear, good break down of all the components of the movements. This is so helpful.
    Thanks again!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>