Have you heard of the hip hinge? If you haven’t you should have! The hip hinge is one of the most fundamental human movements, and should be perfected by everyone to maximise their lower back health and performance.
What is the Hip Hinge?
A hip hinge is the act of bending at your hips, with minimal bending of your knees whilst keeping you back straight. You should be able to push your hips back to about a 90-degree hip bend, without any rounding of your lower back. If you can’t do this you could definitely benefit from learning how to hip hinge properly.
In the gym, a proper hip hinge is a crucial factor in performing several lifts, such as the deadlift or kettlebell swing, properly. In, everyday life, the ability to hinge properly can help keep your lower back and hips healthy and pain-free.
What if I can’t hinge?
If you can’t hinge properly, then start learning! As I said earlier, the hinge is a fundamental human movement and will improve your performance and lower back/hip health both inside and outside of the gym. A good hip hinge helps load up the powerful glute and hamstring muscles how they are meant to, which means you’ll be able to lift more weight! Read on for some hip hinge drills and progressions to help you get started.
The Broomstick Drill
This is a great drill to start learning the hip hinge pattern in a safe, unloaded environment. Think about pushing your butt back and feeling your weight on your heels. Your knees should have only a slight bend in them, this is not a squat! This is a drill that can be performed daily to help hone the pattern.
1. Grab a broomstick and hold it on your back. It should touch your head, upper back and butt
2. Push your hips back and try and keep the broomstick in touch with all 3 points
3. If your round your lower back you will feel the broomstick start to come off
The Banded Hip Hinge
This is a great drill if you are finding it hard to think about pushing your butt back without squatting. This is a great drill as the band tension forces you to push your hips back, and also adds some gentle resistance. You will need a power band a sturdy pole/power rack for this drill.
1. Set up the powerband around the pole and loop it around your hips
2. Take a few steps outwards until you feel some tension on the band
3. Keeping a flat back, let the band tension pull your hips back towards the pole
4. When you feel you are at your maximum range, squeeze your glutes and straighten
*add a broomstick on your back and incorporate both these drills if you are still having a hard time. Everyone is individual and one drill might not work for everyone!
Cable Pull Throughs
Once you have mastered the proper pattern, it is time to load it! The glutes and hamstrings are some of the biggest muscles in the body, so they respond extremely well to being loaded. The first progression is the cable or banded pull through. This allows us to add more weight, whilst still helping groove the pattern due to the nature of where the weight is.
1. Set up a cable machine on the lowest setting with the rope attachment
2. Facing away from the stack, grab the rope through your legs and take a few steps away
3. Holding the ropes between your legs, hinge at your hips and let the weight pull you back onto your hips
4. When at the end, squeeze your glutes and straighten back up, keeping the rope held between your legs
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The biggest and best exercise to strengthen the hip hinge is the Romanian deadlift, or RDL for short. This is effectively the top half of a traditional deadlift, and is the absolute gold standard for strengthen the hip hinge pattern. If you do a few sets of heavy RDL’s properly you will know, as you will have sore hamstrings and glutes for days afterwards! Only move onto this exercise when you feel you have mastered the hip hinge pattern unloaded or with low loads in the cable pull through.
1. Set up a barbell in the power rack just below hip height
2. Starting from the top of the movement, push your hips back into a hinge pattern and slide the barbell down your thighs
3. When you’re at your end of range, squeeze your glutes and finish tall. The bar should never stray too far away from touching your legs.
Give those progressions a try and learn to master the hinge! Your body will thank you for it! As always, feel free to get in touch with our sports physios or sports technique analysts if you have any questions and we are more than happy to help.