The hip hinge is one of the fundamental movements of several workouts, and one of the most effective ways of building lower body strength, mainly hip extensors.
We have become a sedentary population; researchers have estimated that we sit between seven to ten hours a day! This means that your hamstrings and hip flexors remain in a shortened position for a minimum of seven to eight hours a day, possibly longer. If you sit in front of a computer, your chest muscles begin to tighten, shoulders begin to protrude forward and your low back muscles are stretched almost to an end range. Let’s not forget that your discs are being compressed and pushed out towards your nerves.
How Do These Muscular Changes Cause Lower Back Pain With Daily And Recreational Activities?
Well, it inhibits you from performing one of the most essential and basic movements correctly - the HIP HINGE!
A right hip hinge done for a forward bend or while lifting, places most of the weight on your legs and hips, instead of your lower back. This permits an individual to return upright using their glutes and hamstrings, two large muscles groups more than capable of performing such a task.
On the other hand, if you do not perform the hip hinge correctly, most of the strain will go to your lower back muscles, which are not designed to handle such tedious loads. This may lead to severe back pain and eventually chronic back pain because your hip hinge never changes!
So, before starting any lower body exercises, you need to first get the hip hinge movement right. Let’s start with the basics.
Exercise 1: The Wall Tap Hip Hinge
• Begin by standing tall, feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest up, shoulder blades retracted in towards the spine, and head up and facing forward.
• One should feel the hinge by placing the hands palms-up and gently pressing on the crease of the hip flexors (inguinal line) just below the hip bone.
• Brace the abs and focus on moving (hinging) the hips back until your butt touches the wall. You should actually feel the hips fold down on the hands as you hinge forward and there should be very little bend in the knees!
Exercise 2: Dowel Hip Hinge
• Here the dowel will provide instant feedback to help determine if you are performing it correctly or not.
• Hold the dowel vertically on your back, touching three specific areas – tail bone or sacrum below your lower back, area between shoulder blades and head.
• If you lose contact with any of these three points, then you know that your hinge is flawed and you should run through the basics to correct it.
Exercise 3: Band-Resisted Hip Hinge
• Simply attach a flat-looped resistance band around a bar at waist height and then get inside with the band sitting at hip level. You don’t need a ton of resistance in the band; just enough to feel it wanting to pull you back a bit.
• The movement puts a nice focus on your glutes. Plus, with the band pulling you back, you are forced to stabilise through your mid-section and control the movement.
• After you have mastered the hip hinge movement, we can move forward to learn exercises that replicate the hip hinge movement and can be loaded.
Exercise 4: Cable Pull-Through
• This movement requires you to use different equipments such as bands and cables. It should be reiterated that all pull-throughs are executed with exactly the same pristine loaded hip hinge movement pattern.
• To get started, find a stable area to secure the band around – it should be as close to the floor as possible. Loop the band inside your base of choice and step out facing away from the setup. With an overhand grip on the band and your palms facing down towards the floor, let the band wind between your legs.
• Now, make sure that your feet are positioned in an athletic power stance that should be similar to your squat stance (about shoulder-width apart and toed out slightly). With a stable spine, drive your butt back into a perfectly braced hip hinge with a slow and controlled eccentric contraction; then drive through and flex your glutes for a second at the top of the movement.
Exercise 5: Stiff Leg Or Romanian Deadlift
• Grasp the bar using the prone grip (palms facing down)
• Standing shoulder-width apart, and keeping your knees stationary, lower the barbell to over the top of your feet by bending at the waist (partial at knees) while keeping your spine neutral.
• Start bringing your torso up and straight again by extending your hips and knees until you are back to the starting position. Exhale as you perform this movement.
Exercise 6: Single Leg Deadlift
• As the name suggests, everything remains the same as a deadlift, but needs to be performed with a single leg.
• You must have all five toes on your stabilising leg and your heel firmly planted on to the floor.
• Slowly hinge your hips (flexion) back while also hinging your knee (flexion) until you have a very flat back.
• The moving leg should be straight out behind you, with minimal knee bend to keep your spine aligned properly. Remember that the torso and the back leg have a seesaw relationship; so the higher your back leg goes, the lower your chest goes. Be careful to never let your chest drop lower than your hips. This is the eccentric phase where the muscle is lengthened.
• Now, the concentric phase is where you come up with your spine to the starting position, keeping it absolutely neutral. Lock out (keeping the knee soft) your stabilising leg and clench your glutes.
Exercise 7: Conventional Deadlift
• Grab the bar shoulder-width apart. Your arms must be vertical-looking from the front.
• Drop into position by bending your knees until your shins touch the bar. Do not let the bar move away from your mid foot. If it moves, start from scratch with step one.
• Lift your chest and straighten your back. Do-not change your position – keep the bar over your mid foot, your shins against the bar and your hips where they are.
• Pull the bar and exhale. Hold and stand with the weight. Keep the bar in contact with the legs while you pull. Don’t shrug or lean back. Make sure the pelvic tilt is neutral and your glutes are tight.
Exercise 8: Squats
• Stand with feet shoulder-width apart or a little wider, hips stacked over knees, and knees over ankles.
• Roll the shoulders back and down away from the ears. Note: Allowing the spine to round will cause unnecessary stress on the lower back. So it's important to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
• Initiate the movement by inhaling and unlocking the hips, bringing them back just a little. Keep sending the hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.
• While the butt starts to stick out, make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright, and the back stays straight. Keep the head facing forward with eyes straight ahead for a neutral spine.
• The best squats are the deepest ones your mobility allows. Optimal squat depth would be your hips sinking below the knees (again, if you have the flexibility and mobility to do so comfortably).
• A good squat is where your tibia (shin bone) is parallel to your upper torso (axial skeleton). If you lean forward, then you aren’t really squatting; you’re doing more of a deadlift.
Exercise 9: Olympic Lifts
• Olympic lifts is all about power and your glutes are your power house. Till the time your glutes are not strong, power lifting is pretty much impossible.
• Only after mastering your form and technique for strength movements like deadlifts and squat can you progress towards Olympic lifts (Cleans, Snatch, Clean & Jerk). It’s not just strength that is needed to perform Olympic lifts; you also require skill, form and technique. Further, one cannot learn Olympic lifts overnight. It takes lot of consistent practice!
Note: Olympic lifts should be performed under proper guidance as you may be susceptible to injury.
About The Author- Mr Adnan Sulia, Head Trainer - Prosport Fitness Centre