3 Exercises for Improving Your Hip Hinge
In part one, we focused on the hip hinge as it relates to deadlifting and athletic performance. In part two I’m writing for the average gym goer; Those who aren’t young athletes, but want to reach a high level of fitness without getting hurt. To review, a hip hinge is the ability to move the hips without allowing the low back to flex along with it. The failure of the hips to move can often be the chief culprit for low back pain. We typically see tight hips in those who spend prolonged hours sitting down. I won’t go deep into the anatomical hazards of too much sitting. Just know that pelvic misalignment, tight hip flexors, weakened glutes, and tight hamstrings are just a few things that can result.
With New Years recently passing, a handful of resolutioners set a goal to get back in shape. “Get back in shape” is a phrase we hear all the time. It implies at one point things were going well then motivation dwindled and movement ceased. Let’s face facts; When we stop moving our muscles weaken and stiffen like rubber bands that have been in a freezer, our joints range of motion decreases, our body fat percentage increases and our low back hurts when we put our socks on.
I’ve met a handful of people who thought group H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) or “boot camp” fitness classes were the answer to finally getting back in shape. “What’s the warm-up like?” is a question I always ask and a common answer is “We usually don’t warm-up.” Which leaves me scratching my head thinking “Ok, sounds like you have a blazing desire to get injured.”
In these workout environments (not all of them) it’s common to see risky exercises being performed by packs of immobile people in a race-against-the-clock format. Burpees, squats, and kettlebell swings (don’t even get me started with kipping pull-ups) shouldn’t be done for speed in this demographic of people. Yes, your heart rate jacked up and you probably broke a sweat. But this doesn’t mean you did your body any good because your hips are tight and you rushed your movements. Putting stiff hips through rapid, repetitive, rounded spinal flexion is a recipe for low back pain. My advice to anyone who’s been inactive is to crawl before you walk. In other words, be careful when selecting your method of getting back in shape. Unsure of where to start? Seek help from experienced fitness professionals in your area who think about functional movement longevity.
Here’s a few quick exercises and mobility drills to help your hip hinge
Hip Hinge with Dowel – The goal of this exercise is to push your hips back while maintaining three points of contact with the dowel; behind the head, back of the shoulders, and the tailbone. This drill helps your ability to maintain a neutral spine while undergoing a hip hinge.
Shoulders-Elevated Hip Extension with Mini-Band – This drill is great for somebody to really grasp what it means to “activate the glutes.”
Single Leg RDL with Superband – The band serves as a feedback mechanism. If it’s rotating or getting slack, something’s wrong. Great for trainers to narrow down what may be hindering an individual’s inability to hinge at the hip.