Hinging at the hip in another movement pattern that is essential to your health. Like the squat, it is a movement that we learned as little kids and overtime we lose the skill due to lack of practice and movement. The hip hinge is a movement in the hip while maintaining a neutral spine. This is an important skill to have because it can spare the low back from extra movement. Anytime you pick something off the floor you should be hinging at the hip first, loading the glutes and hamstrings. If you do not have the skill to hinge well, your low back is the one who gets put under load and overtime can cause extra soreness, tightness, and maybe even low back pain. I want to point out that moving the lower back is not a bad thing, but if you do it many times and under load, it could cause issues.
Learning how to hinge properly is not only an important movement to keep the low back from over working, it is also a foundation for other movements, like the squat. When you squat you have to hinge at the hips while also moving the knees to get into the bottom position. It is also the foundation to learn how to properly perform other exercises like the deadlift, kettlebell swings, Romanian deadlifts, and more.
What muscles are being worked when your hip hinging?
Great question, the primary movers of the movement are the glutes and hamstrings, with some smaller muscles that aid in the movement like your adductor muscles. When you are loading the movement and have to hold a weight, your core gets more involved to stabilize the spine from moving. The arms and upper back are also being worked to stabilize the upper body from any movement as well. Overall it is a great way to work on the whole backside of the body. In today’s world, that is very important since we are all on a computer or phone and looking down. Think about your posture when you are on your phone/computer, you are slouched over and this over time can weaken your back and all those muscles responsible for your posture. Learning to hip hinge and strengthening this movement will aid you in your posture.
So how can I start learning to hinge properly?
- Grab a stick like a broomstick or pvc pipe. I have a wooden walking stick in my gym. Anything that is long, lightweight and easily manageable.
- Position your feet hip width apart and straight. Corkscrew your feet into the ground, without moving the feet. This will help create stability in the foot. Grab your stick and place it on your back with three points of contact; head, shoulder blades, and low back/butt.
- Brace the core, and with soft knees meaning slightly bent, push your butt back, like you are going to sit down. Keep the stick on all three points of contact. You should feel a pull in the back of the legs, the hamstrings. You can also imagine a string tied around your hips and it is pulling your hips behind you.
- Before you add any weight, get really good with this movement. Get to the point where you do not need the stick to get into the bottom position.
Watch out for these common mistakes:
- Low back excessively arched
- Back bending instead of hinging in hips
- Knees caving in
- Feet collapsing to floor, flat feet. That’s why we corkscrew them into the floor.
- Bending the knee to much
- Toes lifting off the floor. Keep the whole foot on the ground.
Just like any exercise, there are ways to progress the movement. After you learn the movement with the stick, I would recommend moving forward with a kettlebell hinge, also known as a Romanian deadlift. This is a great way to learn the movement with load, which will reinforce the skill of the movement while also strengthening the muscles. It’s an easy progression compared to using a barbell, which is a harder variation that requires more skill and focus. Here is my list of progressions for the hinge movement pattern:
- Stick Hip Hinge
- Kettlebell Hinge
- Suitcase Hinge
- Double Kettlebell Hinge (kettlebell on both sides of body)
- Elevated Kettlebell Deadlift
- Elevated Double Kettlebell Deadlift
- Trapbar Deadlift
This is not the only way to progress, especially if you want to get into barbells. This route of progression is typically what I will put my clients through. Depending on the client I will skip a progression or two, but that is highly individual based on their lifting history, and how fast they are learning and progressing with the movements.
The goal of you getting better with this movement and strengthening this movement will help you with life. You will be able to use your hips more efficiently to pick items off the floor, your glutes and hamstrings will grow along with your back. It feels good for the body and the mind knowing you can lift heavy weight from the floor. It’s a great feeling that helps boost your confidence, boost your metabolism, and build a body that can move better as you age.