The Hip Hinge
The hip hinge is a fundamental exercise and joint movement that is required not only in the gym but in everyday life. If you were going to master any exercise or movement pattern, I would strongly recommend getting comfortable with the hip hinge.
If you have ever lifted or squatted with lower back pain, knee pain or feeling awkward, the chances are you aren’t hinging at the hips correctly.
What is the hip hinge?
The hip hinge is the ability to fold at the hips and load the hamstrings, glutes and lats whilst maintaining a flat back position.
As a picture paints a thousand words, check out the video below of a correct hip hinge and an incorrect hip hinge during the deadlift. The first example shows the hips sitting down and back whilst the back remains flat. The second example shows the back flexing and the legs not taking the load.
Good Hip Hinge
Bad Hip Hinge
There are a few areas that start to go wrong when people begin carrying out the hip hinge. I have broken the main areas of concern into sections below. I would recommend filming yourself and taking a look at the area of concern. If you need help mastering this movement, then get in touch today by filling in the form at the bottom of this page.
Problem: Not sitting the hips back
Wall touches – Aim to stand 6-12 inches away from the wall. Attempt to squat down whilst reaching to touch the wall with your bum cheeks. You should be able to touch the wall before you reach the bottom (no pun intended) of the movement.
Don’t knock the foam roller over – A lot of people compensate for the hip hinge with excessive knee bend in the squat and deadlift. Whilst all of our bodies are made differently, I would avoid excessive forward knee motion on the squat and deadlift. Think of hips back rather than knees forward.
Seated squat – Place a bench of box behind you about 6-12 inches away from your feet. Squat down and reach for the bench with your bum forcing you to sit back and down.
Problem: Not bending at the hips
Glute bridge – This exercise is great for ‘feeling’ the glutes contract by squeezing hard at the top. Try and drive your weight through the heels to get the hamstrings firing too.
Bench glute bridge – This exercise is similar to the above but it allows for a greater range of motion. Contract the glutes hard and have a 2 second pause at the top.
Kneeling squat – This drill takes the knees completely out of the equation and highlights the need for the hips to hinge and sit back and down.
Cable pull through – Think of this exercise as more of a hamstring stretch than a squat. The aim is to feel the hamstrings pull tight like a spring under tension by pushing the hips back and the chest coming over. Let the arms hang loose and don’t be tempted to pull up with the arms. On the way up, drive through the heels and contract the glutes HARD! Imagine you are trying to crack a nut between those cheeks.
Problem: Flexing the back
Bar on back – Place a plastic pipe or wooden dowel placed across the back. Ensure it is touching the neck, top of the back and your glutes. Hold the bar behind the neck and at the lower back. Attempt a hip hinge and ensure your hands stay tight on the bar and your back stays in contact with the bar.
Dumbbell Deadlift – Place the dumbbell on the end and hold the top weighted section. Try to keep the back flat and contracted during the exercise whilst sitting back and down. On the way up, drive those hips forward and contract the glutes hard.
Once you have mastered all of the above exercises, here are a couple of exercises that will allow to put more load on the target muscle groups and make solid progress. If your form begins to fall apart, don’t be afraid of taking a step back and moving back to the drills above.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL) – This is a hamstring and glute dominant exercise and is great for building that peachy bum. The hips come back and are stretched out whilst the chest comes over. Drive through the heels and whilst bringing the chest up, push the hips forward contracting the glutes. Keep the core tight and the chin tucked in. Only come down as far as the back remains flat. As soon the back starts to bend, you have gone too far.
Single leg RDL – This is similar to the above moment but using a single leg. This requires a little bit more balance and the weight will reduce dramatically. By working legs individually you will highlight any imbalances in strength and flexibility between the two legs.
Rack pulls – Not everyone has the mobility or the ability to start deadlifting from the floor. The rack pull is a great alternative as gives you the ability to lift a large load. Use the safety bars or boxes to keep the bar from going all the way down. You want to aim for the bar to be just below the knees at the bottom. Keep the body in a strong tight position, like a gorilla over the bar.
This movement should be in everyone’s exercise routine. Whether that’s as a deadlift variation or one of the drills above. Fully understand how your body is moving to get the best out of your training and the best out of your body. By getting to grips with the hip hinge you will prevent injuries, make solid progress and train pain free.