12 Feb How To Perform A Proper Hip Hinge

Hip-hinge

The hip hinge is an essential movement pattern for strength training, but it’s often misunderstood or underutilized.

If we don’t get this movement right, we won’t get the right technique in many key lifts and exercises, such as the kettlebell swing and the barbell deadlift.

We must learn to hinge properly for safety and effectiveness.

What is a hip hinge?

A hip hinge is where the movement pattern occurs at the hips only. The hips simply hinge (or flex). 

This keeps the spine in a neutral or optimal position and allows for the hips to generate power and strength.

The hip hinge is the foundation for the kettlebell swing, but it’s also important for other exercises like squats, deadlifts, good mornings, barbell rows, kettlebell cleans, and kettllebell snatches.

It may also be a contributor to Olympic weightlifting, although my opinion is that the hip hinge in kettlebells is a very different movement pattern than the power position (as performed in weightlifting).

But, that’s an entirely different discussion and I have written about this previously.

How do you perform a proper hip hinge?

Well, you simply need to “hinge” at hips, which means that the movement (or axis of rotation) occurs only at the hip joints.

For some reason, this can be more complex for some than it seems.

Depending on the exercise performed, the degree of motion will change in the hip hinge.

For example, a barbell row will probably demonstrate more of a hip hinge angle than a kettlebell swing.

Also, one is static (the row) while the other is dynamic (the swing).

And, what makes the squat hip hinge different from the kettlebell hip hinge is the degree of knee flexion (or bending) that occurs.

In a squat, there will be increased knee flexion as compared to the kettlebell swing, in which there will be less knee flexion.

Does this make sense?

This is a very important distinction between squat and the swing as “the swing is NOT a squat.”

The proper hip hinge requires a few things.

It requires us to maintain a “neutral spine” and it requires us to have good pelvic mobility and control in the hip flexors and extensors.

Make no mistake, a poor hip hinge leads to poor mechanics in movement and exercise training.

It is essential to get this important movement pattern established.

There are a few ways to do this.

One of the easiest ways to learn the hip hinge is with the dowel rod (or pvc pipe or something similar).

The use of a dowel rod basically forces the body to learn the hinge pattern.

HOW TO PERFORM THE HIP HINGE DRILL

STEP 1:

Place the dowel behind the back while the athlete stands tall with a shoulder width stance and feet pointed straight forward or toes slightly outward.

STEP 2:

One arm is placed behind the low back and grabs hold of the dowel – and the other arm is placed behind the neck and grabs the dowel at the top (see pic at the top of this post). This is important: the dowel has three points of contact; the head, the thoracic spine, and the sacrum.

STEP 3:

The athlete then bends forward while sitting back with the hips and keeping the chest up. The dowel must maintain the three points of contact throughout the duration of the movement. Bend forward at the hips, then stand tall again. Perform 5-10 repetitions slowly in this manner.

This drill is the proper hip hinge pattern that needs to be practiced and programmed so that it becomes automatic and natural.

I’ve found this drill to be an excellent primer if someone is having trouble hinging properly.

What I’ll have them do is practice this hinge drill, then immediately perform a kettlebell swing.

Again:

  • Do the drill
  • Practice the swing

There’s also another simple drill I use to program the hip hinge for the kettlebell swing.

You place your hands in the fold of your groin and when you hinge as described above, your hands will sink into the crease of your hips as the hips drive backward.

It’s very easy and this greatly helps to “pattern” the hip hinge.

The hinge is essential, so we need to make sure we program this properly for maximum movement efficiency with the major multi-joint, compound exercises.

We hip hinge to improve performance and minimize risk for injury.

If you got value from this – please share the article with others.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS, SFG-TL is a strength coach, athlete, and former “physio” who’s mission is to bridge the gaps in strength, performance and injury preventionLearn how to train at a high level of strength and performance while minimizing (or negating) risk for injury to achieve an unsurpassed level of results. You’ll find free training resources and giveaways at RdellaTraining.com/join.
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