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October 06, 2022
A foundational movement pattern, the hip hinge occurs anytime you pick something off the ground, jump, or sprint. As it is arguably the most critical movement pattern for getting jacked and strong, you can see why it's such a staple in most strength programs, too. In fact, learning to hinge correctly can help you deadlift more weight, build big hamstrings, and stay pain-free.
Although it is a simple movement, getting the hip hinge dialed in can be challenging. The natural inclination is to fold, not hinge. But, with some information and practice, you can get it right. And, trust us. It is well worth your time.
In this post, we will go over everything you need to know about the hip hinge, including:
First, a hip hinge is not an exercise. It is a category of movements that target the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Any activity that involves bending at the hip joint and shifting the glutes back while maintaining a neutral spine position is a hip hinge.
Being able to perform a hip hinge movement involves hip hinge mobility and proper hip hinging form.
As mentioned, the hip hinge movement pattern is one of the fundamental movement patterns along with the squat, push, and pull.
The most common hip hinge exercise is the deadlift. Not every hip hinge is a deadlift, but every deadlift is a hip hinge. Romanian deadlifts and trap bar deadlifts are examples of hip hinges.
In addition to deadlifts, the snatch and clean are hip hinges, as are kettlebell swings, hip thrusts, and good mornings.
A lesser-known example of a hip hinge is a vertical jump. Think about when you jump up on a box or reach up to touch a basketball rim. What is the first movement? It is a hip hinge.
A lot of exercises involve an isometric hip hinge as well. Think of barbell rows, standing rear delt raises, and standing dumbbell kickbacks.
Since the hip hinge motion involves a collection of exercises, not a specific movement, the muscles involved vary slightly. However, all hip hinges train the posterior chain muscles: glutes, hamstring, and lower back.
Glute training is no longer an afterthought. With the rise of social media, glutes are in style. However, having a well-developed backside is good for more than Instagram likes. The glutes are strong muscles critical to performing well in many athletic events.
Although all hip hinge movements train the glutes to some extent, the barbell hip thrust is the gold-standard glute exercise. Made famous by the Glute Guy himself, Bret Contreras, more glutes have been built with hip thrusts than any other exercise.
The hamstrings are the primary mover in most hip hinge exercises. As you hinge forward, it creates a stretch in the hamstrings. The hamstrings need to contract to reverse the hinge pattern and return to standing.
A Romanian Deadlift (RDL) might be the purest example of a hip hinge exercise, and it is no coincidence the RDL is one of the best hamstring exercises you can do.
How often have you heard, "lift with your legs, not your back," when moving furniture or picking up a heavy box? Even though it's a common expression and certainly well intentioned, it's not entirely accurate. Even when you use perfect form, the lower back is activated anytime you pick something off the ground.
The spinal erectors are the important stabilization muscles involved during hip hinges. The erector spinae, which runs down your entire back on both sides of your spine, must contract isometrically to maintain a neutral spinal position during the movement.
Depending on the exercise, muscles besides the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back come into play, most notably the adductors, quads, core, and upper back. Examples of movements that require these muscles include the deadlift, hip thrust, and clean.
Not many movements we do in the gym are as versatile as the basic hip hinge movement, which provides aesthetic, performance, and functional benefits. Everyone from an elite athlete to your grandmother can benefit from hip hinge exercises.
In addition to the benefits below, hip hinge exercises strengthen your posterior chain and ensure your large lower body muscles are activated, which can help prevent or fix anterior pelvic tilt and posterior pelvic tilt.
Here's why you should be including hip hinge exercises in your routine.
If you want to build muscle along your posterior chain, mastering the hip hinge is a must. A workout program including deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, and the cable pull-through is the best way to add muscle to your back, hamstrings, and glutes.
The deadlift is one of the three powerlifting exercises, so it is required if you desire to do competitions. However, the deadlift is an excellent exercise for improving general muscular strength and power. A 2020 study found that the deadlift significantly increased gains in maximal strength and power of the lower body1.
The vertical jump is a great measure of explosive strength and power. There is a reason why NFL scouts test the athlete's vertical jump at the combine each year. Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that ten weeks of barbell deadlift training improved vertical jump height2. If you want to jump higher, start deadlifting.
Back pain is one of the most common ailments for adults. Although not a cure, one way to help prevent the onset of back pain is to make your back stronger. Researchers found that eight weeks of deadlifts as a rehabilitation exercise improved back pain, especially those with lower pain intensity3.
Sprinting performance is critical in many sports - football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and track and field events. A 2019 systematic review examined the barbell hip thrust, finding it improved sprint time in the short and long term4.
Learning the basics of the hip hinge fundamental movement pattern will transfer to various exercises. You can practice the hip hinge at home without any equipment.
Correct Form For The Hip Hinge:
If you can't do a proper hip hinge, you may be making one of these mistakes. Correcting them is the best way to improve your hip hinge.
The most significant error anyone can make when performing a hip hinge is allowing the back to round. Multiple factors can cause this, but the biggest is a lack of flexibility. Performing hamstring stretches and hip mobility exercises can help keep the back straight and improve your range of motion.
We want to avoid turning the hip hinge into a squat. Maintain only a slight bend in the knee and keep the hips relatively high and pushed back throughout the entire movement. If you need to bend your knees more, it means your hips are not back far enough.
Here are the eight best hip hinge exercises. Putting these exercises together leads to an incredible hip hinge workout that targets the entire body. These are the moves to build your training program around.
When you think of hip hinge exercises, the first one that should come to mind is the deadlift. The deadlift is the king of all hip hinge exercises. It is excellent for building muscle along the posterior chain and improving strength, power, and performance.
If you're new to this move you may notice your lumbar spine area is sore, which is because the deadlift is working and strengthening your low back muscles.
How to do the Barbell Deadlift:
Although popular in the powerlifting community, you don't see many good mornings done by average gym lifters. It looks intimidating and dangerous, but it can be highly beneficial if you do it correctly.
How to do Barbell Good Mornings:
The Barbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL) places more emphasis on the hamstrings than a traditional deadlift, making it the gold standard for hammy development. The eccentric focus of the exercise causes a lot of muscle soreness.
Don’t be surprised if your hamstrings are incredibly sore the day after doing these for the first time.
How to do the Barbell Romanian Deadlift:
The traditional barbell deadlift can be challenging to master when first starting a lifting program. A great alternative is a trap bar deadlift (we've got a great article that explains the differences between the trap bar vs. traditional deadlift if you'd like more information on the two moves).
The movement pattern is nearly the same, but the handles are at your sides, allowing you to get in a better starting position. The trap bar deadlift is the perfect introduction to hip hinge exercises. That said, it can be an excellent exercise for experienced lifters, too.
How to do the Trap Bar Deadlift:
The hang power clean is the most straightforward and accessible Olympic lift variation. It provides a foundation to learn the other Olympic lifts, but the power clean is an excellent movement to develop lower body explosiveness in its own right.
How to do the Barbell Hang Power Clean:
The barbell hip thrust is arguably the best glute-building exercise there is. The benefits don’t stop with aesthetics, either. Glute strength plays a role in many athletic movements, such as running and jumping.
How to do Barbell Hip Thrusts:
About ten years ago, kettlebells exploded onto the fitness scene. It wasn't long before the kettlebell swing was a staple in gyms nationwide. It is easy to see why. The swing is one of the most versatile exercises in existence. It is an explosive power movement, muscle and strength builder, and a conditioning tool.
Once you can hip hinge effectively, the kettlebell swing is easy to learn. Working everything from your upper body to core muscles to lower body, this is a full body move requiring hip extension and flexion.
How to do the Kettlebell Swing:
The cable pull-through is a fan favorite glute exercise. It is an excellent compliment to barbell hip thrusts and makes a great finishing exercise.
How to do the Cable Pull Through:
When analyzing hip hinge exercises, two movements stand above the crowd: the deadlift and hip thrust. With the deadlift, you have the best vertical hip hinge, and with the hip thrust, you have the best horizontal hip hinge.
If you could only choose two, these would be the best and all you would need. The combination of the deadlift and hip thrust is excellent for strength, muscle hypertrophy, mass gain, and performance.
This is not to say other hip thrust exercises are useless. However, every other hip hinge besides the deadlift and hip thrust are assistance exercises.
Get the most out of your hip hinges by following these programming tips.
The hip hinge is widely considered one of the most important movement patterns for new and advanced lifters to master. The skill not only transfers to improving your deadlift and hip thrust but also improves how you look and perform in athletic events. If you want to build strength and muscle, these movements are essential to your routine.
The key, of course, is learning the correct technique, and then adding several, if not all, of these moves to your workout split. After finishing this article, you have everything you need to take advantage of the many benefits of the hip hinge. All that is left is for you to get started!
Author: Kyle Hunt, Hunt Fitness
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