Hip Hinge Coaching Points
The proper hinge is flexion and extension of the hips. Unlike certain weight room coaching points which compromise body position for bigger PR’s (extremely arched low back on a max-effort squat), the hip hinge greatly increases the amount of weight you can lift while simultaneously preserving and strengthening your low back, win-win-win as Michael Scott would say.
The prime movers of the hip are the glutes with the antagonist being the hip flexors. When your glutes are flexing (hip bridge), your hip flexors are lengthening. Think of a DB curl where your bicep is flexing/shortening, your tricep is extending/lengthening. Weak glutes plus tight hip flexors equate to a compromised low back putting excessive compression on the lumbar spine (anterior pelvic tilt).
In the pic below, notice the severe arch in my lower back. I am putting excessive stress on my lumbar spine by tilting my pelvis forward.
If you place this position (picture above) under load, as in a squat or deadlift, you are compounding dysfunction and predisposing yourself to injury. Load upon dysfunction equates to a dysfunctional load. In short, you are playing Jenga with your discs.
100lb is and always will be 100lb, but how one adapts his or her body to move the weight will determine how the load is distributed throughout the muscles and joints.
If you are performing a BB RDL with no hip hinge, a rounded low back, and bent knees, the load is being dispersed into your lumbar spine and knees. A properly executed RDL places the emphasis on the posterior chain of the hamstrings, glutes, lats and spinal erectors while preserving your discs.
Think of hip flexion and extension in the context of jumping. As you lower your body preparing to jump, you are actively flexing your hips by pushing your butt back. When you jump and your body is straight in the air, your hips are fully extended.
A sprinter positioned in the starting blocks, with at least one-hand fixed on the ground, has his hips in flexion. When the horn sounds and he explodes out to sprint, his hips go into extension.
In the context of the weight room, the descent of the squat is your hips going into flexion. As you rise, your hips extend.
- Feet slightly outside shoulder width
- Strong, athletic position
- Toes pointed straight ahead
- Knees slightly bent
- Core in a neutral position
- Back not arched or rounded
- Initiate the movement by actively pushing your butt back
- Keep the same slight knee bend throughout the movement
- You will feel your hamstrings lengthen and glutes activate
- You are shifting the load to your posterior chain
- Maintain a neutral spine as you hinge
- Your low back should not go into extension (hard arch) or round
- Once you reach the end of the movement, drive/extend your glutes back to the starting position
- Contract your butt at the end of the movement to reinforce the final position
Unable to perform a proper hip hinge severely limits your exercise selection in the weight room and predisposes to injuries outside of it. If you can't hinge, then you can't deadlift, squat, or pick up a DB for a set of 10 on bench. Take the time to master this movement because doing it correctly strengthens your low back, builds your glutes, and keeps you safe in the weight room.
Trey Thornton is a NASM Certified Person Trainer. He spent 4 years interning with the University of TN Chattanooga Athletic Performance Dept. along with spending time at Harvard University Strength & Conditioning. He attained his Bachelor's in Exercise Science From UT Chattanooga and coached at D1 Sports Performance in Bowling Green, KY before joining the TF Staff.