Hips don’t lie. Shakira was on to something when she sang this back in ’05. These lines have never been truer, especially in pertaining to the hinge movement. The hip hinge is a movement, that with strength and proficiency, makes your life a lot easier.
Developing a strong and proper hip hinge is one of the first and most important steps you can take in order to protect yourself from lower back problems as well as knee issues. Usually, the muscles worked in hip dominant movements are the glutei, the hamstrings, and the spinal extensors amongst others. Common hip dominant exercises are the back extension, the goodmorning, and the deadlift. Today we are going to go over several of these exercises, their benefits, and how to do them safely and effectively.
The 45 Degree Back Extension
The 45 degree back extension is one of the first progressions I like to use with new trainees so they can get used bending the hip while keeping a flat neutral spine. Because it can be done with just body weight, it’s a good way to get people movement without adding extra load to unfamiliar movement patterns.
To perform the 45 degree back extension, set up on the apparatus with your toes pointing down and so your hips can fold over the edge freely. Lower down slowly, while keep the back flat – focus on keep the ribs stacked with the pelvis and the lats tight. Once at the bottom, squeeze your glutes to extend the hips and return to the starting position. Perform 3-4 sets for 10-20 reps depending on your goals.
The Kettlebell Good Morning
The good morning is an exercise that can be done with a variety of tools from kettlebells, to bands, and barbells. But for newer trainees, I prefer to use a front loaded kettlebell, which will force you to keep the upper back engaged while maintaining tension through the back so you don’t collapse in the spine. The objective is to push the hips as far back as you can into a hamstring stretch while maintaining a flat back.
To perform the good morning, start with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing forward. Push your hips back while keeping a flat back and maintaining a vertical shin position with a slight bend in the knees. Push the hips back until you get a stretch in your hamstrings, from here extend the hips and return to the standing position. Perform the good morning for 3-5 sets for 8-15 repetitions depending on your goals.
The Kettlebell Deadlift
The next movement I like to progress my clients too is the kettlebell deadlift. The deadlift can be quite daunting for a lot of people and can present a lot challenges in terms of maintaining proper form. The kettlebell deadlift is a fantastic variation beginners because of the central loading it puts less strain across the back and allows you to lift more with your legs.
To perform a kettlebell deadlift, stand with the kettlebell between your feet, and your feet hip width a part. Bend down and set your hands on the handle, engage your back, by pulling your shoulder blades down and back and imagining that you are try keep your arms glued to your ribcage to keep your “armpits shut.” From here, keep a flat back, and lift the weight with your legs. Imagine that you are trying to push yourself 5ft through the ground beneath you. Finish by standing up tall but without flare the ribcage and overextending the lower back. Lower the weight back to the floor the same way that you picked it up. Perform the kettlebell deadlift for reps of 8-15 depending on the load intensity and your goals.
The Trap Bar Deadlift
Once someone has show they are proficient with the kettlebell deadlift, I’ll usually progress them into a trap bar deadlift. The trap bar deadlift is another back friendly deadlift variation that can be loaded heavier than the kettlebell deadlift. It’s a fantastic variation for people who are taller and have longer limbs and those who have back issues.
To set up for the trap bar deadlift, stand inside the bar right in the centre. Place your hands in the middle of each handle to prevent the bar from sliding in your hands while doing the lift. While keeping the back flat, press the feet into the ground and extend the hips to come up. Lower the weight back down by pushing your hips back and keeping a neutral spine. Rinse and repeat. The trap bar can be used for a variety of purposes, but I find it’s best suited for heavy lower rep strength work – 6 reps or fewer – however it can be used effectively for higher rep endurance and hypertrophy work as well depending on your goals.
The Barbell Deadlift
The conventional deadlift has been a staple in many strength training programs around the world for many decades. The conventional deadlift is a deadlift variation that will strengthen your posterior chain and grip like no other. Because this exercise can be quite taxing, I generally reserve it for more intermediate and advanced trainees who are very comfortable with hip hingeing. It’s a great movement to be loaded heavy to train for maximum strength.
To perform the conventional deadlift, set up with a loaded barbell on the floor. Stand so the barbell is inline with your feet over top of your shoe laces and your feet are about hip width apart with your toes pointing forward. Grip the bar so your hands are outside of your hips but not too wide. While keeping your back flat, push your feet through the ground and extend your hips while keeping the barbell against your legs not allowing it to drift away from your body. Lower the bar to the ground by pushing your hips back and setting it down the same way that you picked it up.
Anyone one of these hinge exercise will be fantastic for developing your posterior chain for better strength, endurance, and posture. It’s all about finding the right variation for current needs, skill level, and goal, and progressing the movement over time by manipulating the volume, load, and movement variation.
Get out there and start hingeing, your hips and back will thank you!
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