The hip hinge is one of the big, fundamental movements I like to teach all of my personal training clients. A proper hip hinge develops all of the muscles of the posterior chain, giving you a stronger deadlift, more muscle mass, a higher metabolism, and the ability to run faster. The hip hinge and the humble push-up are probably the most bang-for-your-buck exercises you can teach anyone because so many other movements will improve when these movements improve. So, with that said, here are three different methods you can use to learn the hinge.
Hinging at the hips means bending at waist and loading the hamstrings and glutes to bring the torso to a more horizontal position while maintaining a neutral spine. When someone says “lift with your legs, not with your back,” this is what they are talking about. You want to load the glutes and hamstrings and not lose the arch in your low back when lifting heavy things. By learning to hinge at the hips, you can use the powerful muscles in your posterior chain and avoid injuring your low back.
Start out with an unloaded version. Stand in front of a wall facing toward the room with your butt 4 inches away from the wall. Unlock your knees, push your butt back and tap the wall. Keep your chest out. Now try it from 5 inches. Then 6. You should feel a stretch in huge hamstrings, and a good squeeze in the butt as you stand upright. Your low back is doing none of the work!
If you want to ensure that you have neutral spine, you can do this drill with a dowel or broom stick. Put the dowel on your back and touch your butt, between your shoulders and the back of your head to the dowel while maintaining a slight curve in your low back. This is neutral spine. Do the hip hinge drill again this time maintaining all three points of contact. This is harder than it looks! There are 24 vertebrae in the spinal column, and you’re trying to move while keeping them all lined up. I can’t talk and do this at the same time. It takes al little bit of practice!
The cable pull though his probably the easiest way to load the hip hinge. Put the handle in a low position. Simply stand in front of a cable column, load up 20-30 lbs and grab the cable between your legs. Hinge at the hips. The nice part about this exercise is that the cable pulls your hips in the direction that they need to go. If you’ve practiced the drill above, this exercise is a snap. I like to progress the cable pull through until my clients reach about 60% of their body weight before moving onto a more advanced exercise.
The kettlebell swing is a slightly more advanced version of this exercise because it is ballistic, but it still is an easy and natural movement. Take a kettlebell in your hands and bend your knees slightly with your butt out behind you and your chest out. Allow your arms to hang freely. Use your lats to hike the kettlebell behind you toward your baby making region while hinging at the hips. Quickly squeeze your glutes to change the direction. The kettlebell should go forward and swing up to shoulder level, let the kettlebell fall naturally with gravity and your arms will guide the bell back to the hike so you can repeat the swing. Try and get a rhythm going and make sure your butt is doing all the work. If your shoulders burn, squeeze your butt harder. If your low back burns, squeeze your butt harder.
The Romanian deadlift is the most difficult to learn of the three, but it also builds the most muscle, so learning the movement is well worth it. Take a barbell in two hands with an overhand grip. Hinge at the hips to lower the barbell. Use your lats to keep the barbell close to your body. Think about dragging the barbell down your thighs and this will ensure you keep the barbell balanced directly over the foot. Lift the barbell by squeezing your glutes. Beginners can start this exercise by hinging until the barbell reaches the top of the knees. As your flexibility and strength increase, you can increase the difficulty by hinging below the knee, to the shin, and finally to the floor. This exercise develops the lats, low back, glutes, abs, hamstrings, and all the of the stabilizing muscles of the upper back, low back and legs. It trains A LOT of muscles and produces muscular soreness on par with a night of heavy drinking and a bout of pneumonia while moving a friends apartment up three flights of stairs. It will leave you sore so start slowly!
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