The hip hinge in my opinion is one of the most important movements to master for better performance and overall protection against lower back injury. The hip hinge is also one of the hardest movements to teach when an athlete does not get it down right away. When done correctly it allows the athlete to shift all their weight into their hips which avoids excess loading of the spine. When done correctly there should be a slight bend in the knees but without the knees translating forward towards the toes and without the knees totally locked out. I usually describe it as the knees are “soft”. After that you will push your hips back like you’re trying to close a car door with your butt while also keeping a neutral spine. When you hit full range of motion on a hip hinge your torso should be parallel or near parallel to the floor. This may sound simple but for many this takes months or more to truly perfect.
The main reasons why an athlete can’t accomplish this position is usually due to poor movement patterns, tight and weak hipflexors, general lack or hip mobility, and lack of ability to keep a neutral spine or brace correctly. Occasionally it is due to high hamstrings and calves but I’ve found that it’s rare.
When teaching this movement to a novice it’s a good idea to put restrictions on the movement pattern so it’s hard to mess up or they get instant feed back when they do. Here’s some of my main lower level progressions that I use to teach this movement.
1. 3 point hinge drill
2. Chain loaded goodmornings
3. Toes elevated kettle bell goodmorning
4. Banded goodmorning in front of a bench
Once they master this they can move on to higher progressions where there is more room for error. In the first group of progressions the weights were used for feedback, in this progression the load is actually used for increasing strength and reinforcing movement skill and competency. Once you move past this progression these can still be useful exercises to put in as accessory work and during deload phases. You can also always come back to these exercise when movement competency seems to have decreases or taken a step back for whatever reason (which can happen more than you think).
1. Dumbbell RDL’s
2. Kettle bell deadlift
3. Double kettle bell deadlift
4. Landmine RDL’s
5. Cable pull throughs
The next progression is when you’ve essentially mastered the skill of hip hinging but you’re still relatively new. You could be considered on the higher end of novice or lower end of intermediate. You probably have at least 4-6 months of consistent and consecutive training under your belt, you’re ready to progress to the next level of strength training. I will also note that these exercises I’m about to show you are still pretty good exercises for the advanced athlete in the gym. I still use these often with athlete who have been training with us for a long time. These exercises do a great job to add strength in the hinge movement and they’re relatively easy to understand and get down the first few times you do it.
1. Trap bar deadlift
2. Barbell RDL’s
Lastly these variations would be at the highest-level progression of the hip hinge. These would be the most difficult to perfect and get down and I wouldn’t recommend doing straight to these variations until you’ve mastered the other progressions I mentioned above. Unfortunately, all too often most people go straight to this progression and miss out on all the gains they could have made at the lower level progressions early on. This often results in injury and overall not being good at these higher level progressions of the hip hinge. Remember, skipping steps will show in your performance one way or the other.
1. Sumo deadlift
2. Conventional deadlift
Hope you’ve found this article useful! Feel free to reach out any time if you have questions about your own training and training with KTS! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.