Learn To Hip Hinge – 3 Drill Progressions
Learning to hinge at the hips is important for everyone but bust crucial for mamas. Hip hinging helps strengthen the back of the body as well as teaches us the pickup items properly.
In my last blog I wrote about how dramatically important it is to train the posterior chain. Having a strong back of the body not only helps with daily tasks and mom life but it’s also effective at preventing low back pain and postural imbalances. Learning to properly hinge at the hips is the bare minimum skill you need when looking to train the posterior chain and pick things up safely.
Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many people butcher.
Hinging from the hips is a technique in which you break at the hips (not like a squat in which your knees flex). You then proceed to sink your weight backwards and bend towards the floor all while maintaining a neutral or semi extended spine.
Where most people fail is the initiate the movement like a squat (and drop the bum to the floor) or they allow their lumbar and/or thoracic spine to come into flexion (like a ragdoll). This puts unnecessary pressure on the low back and can cause pain.
Below are three progressions to learning the hip hinge. These drills start out simple and teach the basics (just how to hip hinge) and then scale up to using the hip hinge in a workout.
Until you truly master the technique of hinging from the hips, no external load should be given. Otherwise, you’re at more of a risk to injure the back than help it! Learn, practice and perfect the basics before jumping into anything intense.
Drill #1 Dowel Hip Hinge
This first drill isn’t to get you working hard, it’s to teach you how to hip hinge. Standing upright, place a dowel (broom/swiffer/mop) along your back securing it with your hands.
Ensure the dowel has three contact points: your tailbone, your upper back & the back of your head. Only when the dowel is touching all three points is your body in proper position. The trick to this exercise is that the dowel presses into those contact points through the entire movement.
To begin the movement, break at the hips and start to sink backwards. Basically, you ae sticking out your bum as far back as you can. As you do this, keep a slight bend in your knee but do not flex them further (otherwise you’re squatting).
As you sink backwards your torso will begin to come towards the floor. As it does, make sure all three contact points stay in touch with the dowel. If at any time one has come off than you’re no longer in proper position.
Hinge forward until you are slightly above or almost parallel to the floor. In this position if the dowel is still in contact you should feel a stretch in the hamstrings. If the dowel is missing a contact point go back and figure out at what point you lost it and work to improve that range.
At the bottom of the drill, keeping the weight in the heels reverse the movement thrusting the hips forward (still maintaining a slight bend in the knees) and return to a standing position, still with the contact points intact
That is how you hinge from the hips. By placing a dowel on the contact points you are able to really see at what point in the movement your form beaks down and work to correct it.
Until you can do eight repetitions back to back without losing touch with the dowel you should not move on to the next drill. Master the basics first.
Drill #2 Bodyweight Romanian Deadlift
Once you have mastered hinging from the hips you can move up to using your bodyweight (specifically the placement of the arms) as resistance. Modifying the exercise with your arms provides a bit of different load and challenge to the body as you strive for perfect form.
To begin, stand upright and place your arms palms up on your lower back. This is the easiest variation because the “load” is behind you.
From there perform a hip hinge just as you did with the dowel. Break a the hips, sink the bum backwards and bring the torso towards the floor. Pause when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and pull through the heels using the glutes and hamstrings to pull your body back up into an upright position. Repeat for a total of ten repetitions.
After the ten repetitions you should be feeling warm in the back of the body specifically the hamstrings.
To progress the drill, move your arms to the side of your head and finally crossed across the chest. Each one providing your body with a slightly greater challenge.
When you can perform 2 sets with the hardest variation you are ready for the full exercise.
Drill #3 Romanian Deadlift
The romanian deadlift is a staple in many lifters programs because it is just that effective in targeting, improving and strengthening the posterior chain.
To perform you’ll need a babell or dumbbell. Hold the weight in front of you against your legs. Slowly begin your hip hinge pausing when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
At this point your torso should be near or paallel to the floor, the knees bent ever so slightly and the weight still close to your legs. Reverse the movement and pull into an upright position.
Perform 2-3 sets of the exercise with 6-10 repetitions depending on your goals.
Tip: keep the weight close to your body. Allowing it to swing down from your arms causes you to round the upper back and places much more (unwanted) tension on the low back
And that, mamas, is how you learn to master the hip hinge. As a crucial exercise to prevent low back pain the hip hinge is a necessity in your workout arsenal. Other exercises I love that mimic, train and utilize the hip hinge are:
Cable Pull Through
Stand Band Hip Thrust
Deadlift (of all kinds)
Learn to master the art of hip hinging and your body will thank you. Implementing and using this basic movement pattern in daily life will prevent low back pain, improve posture and keep you strong enough to play with your little ones!
Check out the demo video below.