The Power of the Hip Hinge

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When you think of the word POWER, I’m sure the phrase “hip hinge” isn’t the first thing to pop into your head.

I mean, when I think of it I think of things Bruce Lee’s punch, a Mack truck, the look my wife gives me whenever I don’t clean the dishes, or the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.1

The hip hinge isn’t high on the list for many people.

But it should be.

Those in the know understand that the hip hinge is a (if not the) common denominator in lifting heavy things. Many exercises we vouch for and hold dear have their base in the hip hinge – squats, deadlifts, OLY lifting, KB swings, or 17,803 other exercises (give or take).

Speaking from a physics standpoint – the rate of doing work (P = W/t) – the word “power” is very much affiliated with the hip hinge.

Watch anyone squat, deadlift, or hip thrust an un-godly amount of weight and there’s some power involved.

 

Taking bravado out of the picture, however, the word “power” can have ulterior meanings other than physical might.

In the case of this post, power can equate to mental efficacy and/or influence.

If I can get someone to master the hip hinge, their exercise tool box becomes all the more expansive.

They have a green light to kick-ass and take names in the gym.

I love the hip hinge.

 

1. As noted: the hip hinge is the base for a plethora of exercises and drills. There’s no need for me to elaborate here.

2. Too, the hip hinge has infinite carry-over to athletic performance. Watch any athlete jump, sprint, or be athletic in general, and you can bet they’re a hip-hinging boss.

3. In addition, the hip hinge is a cost-effective endeavor with regards to movement quality and injury prevention. Teach and coach people to understand the difference between gaining movement from the hips rather than their lumbar spine – and learning to dissociate between the two – and miraculous things will happen.

They’ll move better, feel better, get stronger, maybe beat Jason Bourne in a fist-fight. Anything is possible.

 

The obvious question, then, is….”so, Tony, what are you favorite hip hinge drills?

Don’t mind if I do.

Hip Hinge Badassery

1) Wall Hip Hinge Patterning with Kettlebell

 

Standing a few inches from the wall with feet shoulder width apart, press the bottom of a KB into your sternum and pretend as if you’re trying to press through it. This will help better engage the anterior core, posteriorly tilt the pelvis, and “nudge” someone into a better “canister” position. I.e., rib cage is locked into pelvis and there’s little rib flare.

From there push the butt back towards the wall via the hips (and not the lower back). Some people will only be able to start a few inches from the wall, while others may be further way. That’s okay.

The objective is to groove your own hinge, wherever the starting point may be.

2) Wall Hip Hinge Patterning with KB Behind Head

 

To make things a little more difficult you can place the KB behind your head. All the same rules from above apply – brace abs, squeeze glutes, limit rib flare – except now it’s going to be more challenging to not want to fall into lumbar extension. Don’t do it!

To up the ante you could do this drill shirtless. Just, because.

3) Wall Assisted 1-Legged RDL

 

It’s important to be able to move through both hips, separately. The human body is excellent at compensating, and someone who seemingly rocks a two-legged hip hinge may be a nightmare when you transition him or her to one leg.

The key is to make sure one moves/hinges through the hip without rotating or bending at the waist. Using the wall as an external support helps tremendously.

Think:

  • Backside long. With RDLs I like to cue people to pretend as if they’re trying to push their head and foot as far away from one another as possible.
  • Soft knee (it shouldn’t be locked).
  • The only way the KB (or DB) is getting closer to the floor is moving through the hip and NOT actively lowering with the arm (they need to keep the lat engaged on that side).

4) Foam Roller Assisted RDL

 

This is an ingenious variation I “stole” from Boston-based physical therapist/coach Zak Gabor. This drill really helps to hammer home the concept of “long backside,” as well as simultaneous core/glute/lat engagement.

5) Kettlebell Deadlift vs. Band

 

Hip Hinge = Deadlift. Deadlift = Hip Hinge

Einhorn= Finkle. Finkle=Einhorn.

The band serves as a form of RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training/Technique) to help groove the hip hinge

6) Hover Kettlebell Deadlift vs. Band

 

We can kick things up a notch by adding a “hover.”

This is a great way to teach people how to get and maintain lat tension throughout the entire ROM of the movement. As one initiates the movement, they’ll hover (or pause) 1-2″ off the floor for a 1-2s count and then stand tall finishing with the glutes at the top.

On the descent, they’ll pause again 1-2″ off the floor making sure to maintain their abdominal brace and lat tension.

The idea here is to 1) rock the hip hinge and 2) prevent the shoulders and upper back from rolling over. Again, it’s crucial that the upper torso stays “locked down” to ensure proper alignment/position, force transfer, and to (hopefully) prevent the likelihood of injury.

7) Landmine Hip Hinge/RDL

 

I feel this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Almost always I get an immediate positive response whenever I use this drill with someone who’s having a hard time with the hip hinge. The drill itself is the coach. I rarely have to say anything.

What the f*** do I know anyways?

Wrap Up

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the idea was to give you some insights on some (maybe) new to you drills that you could incorporate with yourself or that of your clients.

UPDATE:

Here’s another sick Bourne fight scene, just because:

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  1. Especially the Pink Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson. The first official crush for any guy who grew up in the 90s.

  • Megan

    I like the foam roller version! Definitely will be making my clients try that…Thanks for the great ideas!

    • TonyGentilcore

      I liked that variation too! Credit to Zak Gabor for that one.

  • Brent

    Love the foam roller asisted RDL Tony. You come up with this? I’m always looking for fun, unique and challenging ways to get my kids in class (I’m a PE teacher) starting to hip hinge like bosses and actually do it correctly while still making it fun and challenging. Especially like the fact that they can’t cheat with their hand by putting it on the ground when they hinge.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Nope, I “stole” that one from a Boston-based coach, Zak Gabor.

  • Awesome post. Mixed martial artists would certainly benefit from these drills. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ryan

    Hi Tony, Love the blog and have found it very informative. What cues to you typically use for someone that is working through a hip hinge progression that falls more into lordosis or when trying to do a deadlift?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, lordosis is fine. APT IS technically a neutral spine position. If you deem it excessive and that it may potentially cause issues then I’d be inclined to address it.

      Basically they need to learn to “lock” the pelvis to the rib cage, brace, and learn to get motion from the hips and NOT fall into lumbar extension. I think many of the drills in the video will help address this, you just need to make sure as the coach they’re executed correctly.

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