The One Movement You MUST Master: The Mighty Hip Hinge
To rule them all.
Okay I’ve never actually seen Lord of the Rings, I just know the reference from Clerks 2…
BUT, there really is one movement that does rule them all and that not one person can afford to skip in the gym.
Whether your goal is to build a great physique, get really strong, or to run faster and jump higher, the Hip Hinge is a must to help get you there.
Hip hinging is the foundation of all deadlifts – double and single leg, Olympic lifts, glute bridging, kettlebell swings and squats – aka some of the most effective movements you can perform in the gym.
The hip hinge involves bending at the hips (as opposed to the lower back) while maintaining a neutral spine and soft knees. The hinge pattern takes stress off the lower back, which can go a long way in preventing injuries, aches and pains, and teaches you how to properly lift heavy things using your glutes and hamstrings instead.
The positioning and movement pattern of the hinge allows for safe movement in a variety of situations in and out of the gym and provides the ability to effectively move heavy loads.
Our hips are absolute powerhouses, so learning how to properly move through them to load and strengthen your glutes and hamstrings will open up a wealth of strength and power potential, as well as build you one heck of a rear-view. If you know what I’m saying.
Aside from the performance (and aesthetic) boosting benefits, having strong glutes can prevent injury to the lower back and knees by creating more stability in the hips.
Unfortunately, if you don’t use ‘em you lose ’em and due to sedentary lifestyles and less than optimal gym routines, many people tend to suffer from ‘glute amnesia’ or weak glutes, making the hip hinge a little harder to master at first.
Owning Your Hinge
At Hurst Strength, movement quality comes before movement quantity.
What that means is that it’s not about how far you can go, how much weight you can haul with sloppy form or mindlessly cranking through workouts just to burn calories – it’s about moving well and improving the function of your body. Strength isn’t always about how much weight you can move, it’s about owning how you move and your mind-body connection.
Just because you can walk or run on your two feet doesn’t necessarily mean that you move well.
Before earning the right to pick up heavy things, you need to demonstrate that you can move with control through the proper joints with sufficient range of motion, while creating stiffness at other joints and using/feeling the correct muscles, without pain or compensations.
So before we can use our hip hinge to do badass things like picking up heavy barbells:
-Set up with a hip-width stance and toes pointing straight ahead with your weight on your mid-foot. You should have a slight bend in your knees.
-Start the movement by standing tall with your chest up, tucking your chin and driving your hips backwards as far as you can (think: “sticking your butt out”) while maintaining a neutral spine. You should feel a lot of tension in your hamstrings.
-Push your feet through the floor to stand back up straight, drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Be mindful of your knee position – too much knee bend turns the hinge “squatty” and doesn’t use the hamstrings effectively, too little knee bend is a lumbar disc injury waiting to happen. It’s also integral that your spine, from your neck to your hips stays neutral – not rounded or overextended.
If you’re just starting out, once you’re confident with your body weight hinge, hold a weight under your ribs like I’m doing in the above picture. Use this position to help practice keeping your chest tall and your shoulders pulled down towards your butt to build tension in your upper back so you’ll be well-prepared when you progress towards more advanced hinging movements, like deadlifts and kettlebell swings:
Keep in mind, you should feel hinge movements in your hamstrings and glutes. If you feel strain in your lower back, stop, check your form or lower your weight. Remember, we don’t want to feed this compensation – the purpose of the hinge is to take stress off of your lower back!
Taking time to master the hip hinge is what will turn you into the ultimate strong, athletic and vibrant badass in the long-run. You’ll be better equipped to chase big squat and deadlift numbers, swing heavy kettlebells, you won’t have to worry about throwing your back out doing something silly like yard work, and you’ll look and feel pretty damn good too.
Need help with your hinge? Reach out – Erika@HurstStrength.com