Master the Hip Hinge: The Powerhouse of Athletic Movement

Want to be strong and powerful? We’ve all heard the saying “it’s all in the hips” and it couldn’t have been more true. This is why it is so important to master the hip hinge.

The hip hinge, which can simply be described as hip extension, is one of the most powerful and important movements of human performance. Sprinting and jumping all require powerful hip extension. Exercises such as the kettlebell swing, deadlift, and the Olympic lifts require a powerful and smooth hip hinge.

The problem is the majority of humans don’t know how to hinge at the hips correctly. If you can’t hinge at the hips correctly you lose a lot of your strength and power potential. An improper hip hinge can also put stress in all the wrong places.

What is a Hip Hinge?

The hip hinge is the ability to bend, or flex and extend, at the hips with minimal movement at the knees(this would be a squat) and lumbar spine.

Typically people mess up the hip hinge for one of two reasons: the knees shoot forward or they bend at the spine.

You lose a lot of strength and power when the knees bend as your are pulling a heavy weight from the floor.

If you bend in the spine while lifting a load you are asking for the discs of your lumbar spine to splat against the wall behind you.

Here are a few cues to remember when performing the hip hinge.

  • Push hips back
  • Slight knee bend but maintaining vertical shin angle
  • Big Chest, squeeze an orange in your arm pit
  • Don’t bend at the spine

How to Master the Hip Hinge?

Don’t fret if you can’t hinge at the hips yet. Just like any skill, it can be learned but it takes time. Here two of my favorite drills to help “groove” the movement.

Dowel Hip Hinge

This drill is great at reinforcing an inline and neutral spine. The dowel gives you immediate feedback on correct form.

It is also a good indicator of how far you can control the hip hinge before compensating.

  • Hold the dowel vertically behind your back with one hand above your head and the other behind your lower back
  • Dowel should touch your head, upper back, and the top of your glutes
  • Feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent
  • Slowly push hips back and lower chest to the floor
  • Dowel should maintain contact with head, upper back, and top of your glutes

Once dowel loses contact with the three points, return back to the top.

Handcuffed Hip Hinge

A lot of people have problems of pushing the hips back with minimal knee bend. This drill helps cue you to push your hips back and feel the stretch through your hamstrings and glutes. The drill is relatively simple and is a bit of it’s own coach. Check it out!

One way to regress this exercise is to take out joints that may deviate the movement. The tall-kneeling variation of this exercise is a great way to regress this exercise and allow the focus to be kept on the hips.

Where To Go Next??

So you’ve “mastered” the hip hinge, what now?

This all depends on your ultimate goal and what exercises you want to include in your strength training programs. But I will say this, once you unlock the hip hinge the options are endless.