The Hip Hinge
The hip hinge is arguably the most important movement pattern in strength training and basically involves sitting back with little knee bend,yet so many people are unable to perform this technique efficiently.
Deadlifts kettlebell swings, and other hip dominant exercises are great for building strong glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles, but the majority of people at the gym aren’t getting close to optimal results from these exercises because they haven’t mastered the basic hip hinging pattern and are at risk of serious injury
A properly executed hip hinge will protect the spine and also the knees. Once you've mastered the hip hinge you can either simply maintain it for health and injury prevention or use it to truly load the hips and build some athletic power.
The hip hinge movement is flexion and extension through the hip joint and not a squat which so many of us do. The key is to keep a neutral spine, a tight core and the knees slightly flexed and is a fundamental human movement pattern that's gone chronically wrong in lots of individuals but when performed correctly.
When leaning over to pick something up off a surface, most people, instead of hinging from the hips will hinge from their spine, arching forwards and creating spinal flexion this is looking for serious injury especially if this poor lifting technique isn't addressed early. Back injury, herniated discs, torn spinal ligaments etc are so common and this is not only confined to the gym enviroment. Something so innocent as pulling the plug out of the bath bending over to pick up our child or even our weekly shop. These everyday tasks are often where back injury occurs and why learning how to re-educate ourselves with proper hip hinge execution is important, something as a child we used to do with ease.
As children we are so flexible being able to perform this movement pattern without hesitation but as we age and take a more seated approach to our lives our hamstrings and hip flexors have become tight and stiff and what was once a natural movement has now become a very problematic one with our loss in flexibility and mobility and the confusion with the hip hinge and the squat.
The squat requires maximal hip bend and maximal knee bend, the hip hinge requires maximal hip bend with minimal knee bend.
To protect your knees and spine and help increase your lifting power as well as re-educate your motor control into the hip hinge pattern, practice this movement regularly until it becomes second nature. Think before you pick your child up, think before getting something off the floor or out of the fridge, think hinge everytime you bend forward.
Here's a few tips on how to re-educate yourself with this movement, like all exercises it's all about steady progression and safe lifting technique. So avoid the heavy weights, start light and do it right; and progress only when you are ready.
This is probably the best way to practice this movement, it involves either a wooden dowel or plastic tubing. Something like a long brush handle would do, anything really with a straight long handle, long enought to go roughly from the top of your head to your bottom.
Place the pole behind the back while you stand tall with a shoulder width stance and feet straight forward. One arm is placed behind the low back and grabs hold of the pole and the other arm is placed behind the neck and grabs the pole. This is important - the pole has three points of contact; the head, the thoracic spine and the sacrum. You then bend forward while sitting back with your hips, keeping your chest up, the pole must maintain the three points of contact throughout the duration of the movement.
If the pole comes away from your bottom, you are flexing your spine too much and if it comes off your back you are squatting too much, If it comes away from your head then you are going into cervical flexion bending your neck forward.
This technique allows you to feel the points of contact with the pole so you can adjust your body accordingly making sure all 3 contact points are being touched while you complete the move in full. Practice it until it becomes second nature and try and prevent those possible future injuries with sloppy form.
If you would like help perfecting this routine then call me for a free no obligation consultation.