How to Master the Hip Hinge: Exercises and Tips

Every time you pick something up off the floor, whether it’s a paper clip or a fully loaded barbell, you’re using a hip hinge.

Or, rather, you should A hip hinge will be used.

The unfortunate truth is that both desk jockeys and powerlifters (and everyone in between) struggle with the hips, relying heavily on forward bends.

In the short term, bending gets the job done.

But to opt out of the hip hinge is cheating yourself out of one of the body’s most basic, foundational movements… and putting the health of your spine at risk.

What is a hip hinge, and how is it different from a bend?

In a forward bend, the movement begins in the lower back, explains Jess Darwin, RSCC, CSCS, head of performance training at Vault Athletics in Seattle, Washington.

Although this type of movement is common, it is not ideal. “The muscles and discs of the lumbar spine become misaligned and can impair function,” he says.

Hip hinges, which emphasize the glutes and hamstrings rather than the lower back muscles, transfer resistance from the lumbar spine to the lower body.

Because they are much stronger than the smaller, less powerful muscles that support the spine, leg and hip muscles are better suited for lifting.

How to do a proper hip hinge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, weight on your heels and a slight bend in your knees.
  • Keeping your back straight and core engaged, push your hips back (imagine trying to close a car door with it) and the hinge Forward at your hips. Maria Heller, CPT, CMT, recommends “act as if you have a board attached to your spinal column that forces you to keep your back straight.”
  • Stop when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes. Depending on your level of flexibility, your chest may be almost parallel to the floor or higher.
  • Squeeze your glutes and bring your hips forward to return to a standing position.

Exercise that trains the hip hinge

Once you’ve learned the basic movement pattern of the hip hinge, use these moves to refine and strengthen it.

1. Good morning

Good Morning Exercise Demonstration  Good morning exercise

Add resistance to a basic standing hip hinge by looping an exercise band under your feet and holding it with both hands.

2. Deadlift

Man doing dumbbell deadlift  Dumbbell Deadlift

One of the big three lifts (the others are the bench press and squat), the deadlift trains the posterior chain, a supergroup of muscles in the back of your body that stretches from your heels to your neck.

3. Dumbbell Skier Swing

A more advanced hip hinge exercise, the dumbbell skier swing uses the momentum of the hip hinge to repeatedly bring it to chest level.

Benefits of hip hinge exercises

There are benefits to training the hip hinge, in and out of the gym.

1. Injury prevention

Improper movement patterns, especially those associated with forward bending, can lead to back pain and injury.

By learning to hinge correctly at the hips, you’re reinforcing healthy, natural movement patterns and, in turn, protecting your spine from unnecessary wear and tear.

2. Functional fitness

The hip hinge is the foundation of countless functional fitness exercises, including squats and deadlifts.

If you want functional fitness benefits (eg, increased muscle mass, cardiorespiratory health, improved athletic performance, etc.) you need to master the hip hinge.

3. Glute Engagement

As a society plagued by dead butt syndrome, we need to embrace any exercise that encourages gluteal engagement. The hip hinge is the answer to all our flat-back problems.

Muscles emphasized by the hip hinge

Hip hinge exercises primarily involve the glutes and hamstrings.

Glutes

Anatomy of gluteal muscles  Squats do not make your butt look bigger

Your butt is made up of three “glute” muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius.

The three muscles work together to stabilize the pelvis, extend (straighten) your hips, rotate your legs, and abduct (bring them to the side) the thighs.

Hamstrings

Hamstring Muscle Anatomy |  Squats do not make your butt look bigger

Located just below your glutes on the back of your thigh, the hamstring muscle group includes the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.

These muscles play an important role in knee flexion and hip extension.

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