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What are hip hinge exercises?
Hip hinge exercises involve flexing the hips while maintaining a relatively straight spine. The exercises focus on engaging the posterior chain muscles and are essential for several activities, including lifting, bending, and athletic performance.
What does the hip hinge do?
The hip hinge pattern involves bending at the hips while keeping the spine neutral or slightly arched. That helps to minimize stress on the lower back and promote proper biomechanics.
The hip hinge serves several functions and benefits. Learning and practicing proper hip hinge mechanics can contribute to improved movement quality, reduced risk of injury, and better physical capability.
- Efficient lifting mechanics
The hip hinge is the biomechanically correct way to lift objects from the ground.
It allows you to use the strong muscles of your posterior chain to generate power and lift without putting excessive strain on your lower back.
- Injury prevention
Proper hip hinge mechanics reduce the risk of lower back injuries by ensuring the force generated during lifting gets distributed across the hips, glutes, and hamstrings rather than concentrated on the lumbar spine.
- Functional movement
The hip hinge is a movement pattern used in daily activities, such as picking up objects, bending over, and sitting down.
Practicing the hip hinge improves your ability to perform these activities with proper alignment and reduced risk of injury.
- Posture Improvement
Learning how to hip hinge correctly reinforces a neutral spine position.
That can help counteract poor posture caused by prolonged periods of sitting.
- Athletic performance
The hip hinge is a foundation for athletic activities like jumping, sprinting, and throwing.
Developing strong hip hinge mechanics can enhance your explosive power and athletic performance.
- Muscle development
Hip hinge exercises target major muscle groups, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Strengthening these muscles can help develop muscle balance, improve aesthetics, and enhance strength.
- Core activation
The hip hinge requires core stability and engagement to support the spine and maintain proper alignment.
That can help build core strength and stability.
- Improved hip mobility
Practicing the hip hinge can help improve hip mobility and flexibility, which is crucial for proper movement mechanics and injury prevention.
- Weight lifting and resistance training
The hip hinge is a foundational movement in weightlifting and resistance training.
It’s a key component of several exercises, including deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and hip thrusts.
- Functional fitness
Mastering the hip hinge enhances your functional fitness by allowing you to move more efficiently and safely in several situations.
Hip hinge exercises – Target muscles
Hip hinge exercises mainly target the posterior chain muscles. The muscles work together to execute the hip hinge pattern while maintaining proper spinal alignment.
The main target muscles during a hip hinge include
- Gluteus Maximus
- Erector Spinae
- Core Muscles (including Transverse Abdominis and Obliques)
- Hip Flexors
- Latissimus Dorsi
Best Hip Hinge Exercises for Boosting Strength, Power And Stability
Below are the best hip hinge exercises that can help stabilize and strengthen your posterior chain and help lay the foundation for other exercises and activities.
Conventional Deadlifts are excellent and classic hip hinge exercises where you lift a barbell or other weights from the ground to a standing position.
Deadlifts are one of the most fundamental strength training exercises for developing the posterior chain muscles.
The movement engages several muscles in the hips, legs, lower back, and upper body.
That makes it a highly efficient compound movement that promotes strength development.
The movement pattern of the conventional deadlift is a pure hip hinge, making it a primary exercise for targeting the posterior chain muscles.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Romanian Deadlifts (RDL) are a variation of the traditional deadlifts and fantastic hip hinge exercises.
The RDL strongly emphasizes the hip hinge movement pattern, making it a valuable addition to your strength training routine.
Like the conventional deadlift, the RDL involves lifting a weight from the floor, but the attention is on hip hinge and hamstring engagement. The knees are slightly bent, and the movement primarily comes from the hips.
RDLs are some of the best hip hinge exercises for emphasizing the hamstrings and glutes. They are excellent for building strength and muscle in these areas, helping to promote hypertrophy or muscle growth in the posterior chain.
The RDL involves a slow and controlled eccentric phase, where you hinge at the hips to lower the weight. That emphasizes the eccentric contraction of the hamstrings, which can help with muscle development and injury prevention.
Compared to conventional deadlifts, RDLs generally place less stress on the lower back. The focus on hip hinge and less emphasis on lifting a heavy load reduces the risk of lower back strain.
RDLs are some of the best hip hinge exercises for enhancing hip mobility and flexibility, essential for functional movement.
Kettlebell Swings are excellent hip hinge exercises that offer cardiovascular conditioning and strength development.
It is a dynamic movement that primarily targets the posterior chain muscles.
This explosive movement involves swinging a kettlebell between your legs and using the power generated by your hips to bring it to chest height.
The kettlebell swing is one of the best hip hinge exercises for building power, explosiveness, and functional strength in the hips.
The movement pattern closely resembles the hip hinge. It engages the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, promoting muscle development and strength in these areas.
Good Mornings are strength training and hip hinge exercises that can help strengthen the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
They are advanced exercises that require proper technique to prevent injury but are excellent for improving hip flexibility.
Performing the Good Morning requires a strong understanding of the hip hinge movement pattern, which can carry over to other hip hinge exercises and functional movements.
Incorporating the movement involves a significant hip hinge, which can help improve hip mobility and flexibility over time.
The Good Mornings are excellent hip hinge movements that can serve as an accessory to complement the likes of deadlifts and squats, helping to strengthen weak points in the posterior chain.
However, because of the potential stress it places on the lower back and the need for proper form,
Beginners should approach the Good Morning cautiously because of the potential stress it places on the lower back and the need for proper form.
The exercise involves holding a barbell across your upper back and hinging forward at the hips while keeping your back straight.
Beginners should start with a very light weight or just their body weight to help master the movement pattern without overloading their back.
To get the most out, avoid excessive forward lean that could compromise your lower back. Lower the torso until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, but don’t go beyond a comfortable range.
Keep your core muscles engaged and focus on using your hips to initiate the movement. Do not rely solely on your lower back.
Hip Thrusts are excellent hip hinge exercises that target the glutes. They are highly effective for building strength and muscle in that area.
Hip thrusts are popular exercises for improving glute development, enhancing hip stability, and addressing imbalances in the posterior chain. They are some of the best hip hinge exercises for targeting the hips and posterior chain in strength training and bodybuilding programs.
This exercise involves sitting on the floor with your upper back against a weight bench and lifting a barbell or other weight using your hips until your body is parallel to the ground. It is a potent glute-building movement.
The movement pattern closely mimics the action of hip extension, which is crucial for many athletic activities, and proper biomechanics during activities like standing up from a seated position.
The hip thrust can help improve hip stability, helping you to maintain balance and prevent injuries, especially in the lower back and hips.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
The Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (SLRDL) is a variation of the traditional Romanian Deadlift (RDL) that adds an element of balance and stability to the exercise, making it a challenging movement that targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
You perform the variation on one leg. That challenges your balance and stability and engages the stabilizing muscles in your hips, ankles, and core. It also helps to work the hamstrings and glutes of the standing leg.
The SLRDL are one of the best hip hinge exercises for improving proprioception and addressing muscle imbalances.
The SLRDL can help identify and address any strength imbalances between your legs. Working each leg independently allows you to promote balanced lower body strength development.
Performing the SLRDL requires a solid understanding of the hip hinge movement pattern, which can benefit other hip hinge exercises.
The Sumo Deadlift is a great hip hinge exercise that offers unique benefits compared to other deadlift variations. It is a deadlift variation where you use a wider stance and grip the barbell inside your knees.
The Sumo Deadlift emphasizes the posterior chain, particularly the inner thighs and the hips, while engaging the lower back and core.
The Sumo Deadlift requires good hip mobility to get into the wide stance and maintain proper form. Over time, this can contribute to improved hip flexibility.
Due to the wider stance and more upright torso position, the Sumo Deadlift may reduce stress on the lumbar spine for some individuals compared to the conventional deadlift.
Steps to follow
- Start with a wide stance with feet pointed slightly outward.
- Grasp the barbell with your hands inside your knees, but not so close that your knees push your arms out of the way.
- Initiate the lift by pushing your hips back and bending at the knees while keeping your spine neutral.
- As you lift the barbell, engage your lats or the muscles on the sides of your back to help keep the bar close to your body.
- At the top of the lift, fully extend your hips and stand up straight.
- Lower the barbell back to the floor with control, maintaining a neutral spine.
The Single-Leg Deadlift is an excellent hip hinge exercise that challenges your balance, stability, and lower body strength.
It is a unilateral movement that targets the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core while also working on hip stability and proprioception.
The Single-Leg Deadlift challenges your balance and stability. It involves lifting one leg off the floor while hinging at the hip. That engages the stabilizing muscles in your hips, ankles, and core.
The movement works each leg independently, helping to promote balanced lower body strength development. Thus, the Single-Leg Deadlift is one of the hip hinge exercises that can help identify and address strength imbalances between your legs.
To perform the hip hinge exercises successfully,
- Start with your body weight or light dumbbells. That will help you to focus on maintaining balance throughout the movement.
- Maintain a neutral spine and avoid rounding or arching your back. Imagine a straight line from your head to your lifted heel.
- Push your hips back and lower your torso while simultaneously lifting your non-working leg behind you.
- Keep your core muscles engaged for stability, and focus on using your glutes to bring your torso back to an upright position.
- Lower the weight or your torso with control, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings. Avoid allowing your lower back to round excessively.
The Deficit Deadlift is a variation that involves standing on a platform or weight plates, which increases the range of motion of the deadlift.
The exercise emphasizes the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, making it one of the valuable hip hinge exercises for posterior chain development and strength.
The added height from standing on a deficit increases the distance the barbell must travel, making the movement more challenging and requiring greater hip mobility.
The increased range of motion stretches the hamstrings and engages the glutes more intensely, which can contribute to greater muscle activation and growth.
Incorporating the Deficit Deadlift into your regimen introduces a variation that can help improve strength gains and stimulate muscle growth.
Steps to follow
- Place weight plates or blocks on the floor to create a platform under your feet. The height of the deficit can vary based on your comfort and mobility.
- Position the barbell over the deficit.
- Approach the barbell and position your feet at hip-width. Place your shins close to the bar without touching it.
- Grasp the barbell with either a double overhand or a mixed grip, with one palm facing you and the other facing away.
- Hinge at your hips and slightly bend your knees as you reach down to grasp the barbell. Maintain a neutral spine and engage your core.
- Begin lifting the barbell by driving through your heels while extending your hips and knees simultaneously. Keep the barbell close to your body as you lift.
- Lower the barbell back to the floor, ensuring you maintain proper form and control throughout the movement. The increased range of motion due to the deficit will require greater hamstring flexibility.
- Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets to complete a session.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlifts, or the Hex Bar Deadlifts, are good hip hinge exercises and a deadlift variation performed using a specialized barbell called a trap bar or hex bar.
The variation changes the mechanics of the lift compared to traditional barbell deadlifts, helping to target the posterior chain muscles differently while potentially reducing stress on the lower back.
Using a trap bar allows you to stand within the equipment, which can feel more natural for some exercisers and places less stress on the lower back.
The trap bar’s design allows for a more upright torso position than in traditional deadlifts.
The neutral grip handles on the trap bar are often more comfortable for exercisers with wrist mobility or grip strength issues, making the trap bar deadlifts excellent hip hinge exercisers for such people.
To perform the Trap Bar Deadlift,
- Step inside the trap bar and position yourself at the center of the bar. Your feet should be at hip-width.
- Grasp the handles with a neutral grip, palms facing each other. Your arms should hang straight down from your shoulders.
- Hinge at your hips while keeping your back straight and chest up. Your shins should be nearly vertical, and align your knees with your feet.
- Engage your core muscles, push through your heels, extend your hips, and stand upright while holding the barbell.
- Lower the barbell back to the floor with control.
The Cable Pull-Throughs are good hip hinge exercises that target the posterior chain muscles,
This exercise involves using a cable machine to perform a hip hinge movement, making it a versatile option for training the muscles involved in hip extension.
The cable provides constant tension throughout the movement, ensuring the engagement of the muscles throughout the concentric and eccentric phases.
To perform the Cable Pull-Through,
- Attach a rope handle or a triceps rope to the low pulley of a cable machine.
- Face away from the machine, with your feet at hip-width and the rope handle between your legs.
- Push your hips backward while keeping your back straight, and slightly bend your knees.
- Pull the rope handle through your legs using your hips and glutes, bringing it to the front of your body. Keep your arms straight throughout.
- Fully extend your hips to a standing position while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Reverse the movement by pushing your hips back and allowing the rope handle to move backward through your legs under control.
Benefits of Hip Hinge Exercises
Hip hinge exercises offer numerous benefits for fitness and functional movement.
- Improved strength
Hip hinge exercises are compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
They can help develop strength in the posterior chain.
- Functional movement
The hip hinge movement pattern closely mimics real-world activities such as picking up objects from the floor, bending over, and standing up.
Strengthening this movement pattern with hip hinge exercises can enhance your ability to perform daily tasks with proper biomechanics.
- Enhanced posture
Hip hinge mechanics can help promote better posture by reinforcing a neutral spine position and reducing the likelihood of slouching or rounding the back.
- Injury prevention
Strengthening the posterior chain with hip hinge exercises can help prevent injuries by improving muscle imbalances and supporting the spine and lower back during bending and lifting movements.
- Core activation
Hip hinge exercises require core engagement to stabilize the spine and maintain proper form.
That can contribute to improved core strength and stability.
- Muscle hypertrophy
Hip hinge exercises stimulate muscle growth in the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Building these muscle groups can give you a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique.
- Improved hip mobility
Regularly performing hip hinge exercises can help improve hip mobility and flexibility.
That can help you to maintain proper movement mechanics and reduce the risk of injuries.
- Power development
Many hip hinge exercises involve explosive hip extension.
Thus, they can help improve your ability to generate power in athletic movements like jumping and sprinting.
- Unilateral strength
Some hip hinge exercises, such as the single-leg variations, address strength imbalances between your left and right sides.
That can help create balanced strength and reduce the risk of asymmetrical issues.
- Functional Fitness
The strength and mobility gained from hip hinge exercises can translate into functional fitness, allowing you to move confidently in various activities and sports.
Hip Hinge Progression
Below is a hip hinge progression that you can follow to help build your strength and technique in hip hinge exercises.
Start from the foundational movements and progressively advance to more challenging variations.
- Hip Hinge Bodyweight Drill
Begin with a basic bodyweight hip hinge movement to establish proper mechanics.
That can be as simple as practicing the movement pattern without any added weight.
- Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with Light Dumbbells
Add light dumbbells to the Romanian Deadlift (RDL).
Focus on maintaining a neutral spine, engaging the hamstrings and glutes, and practicing controlled movements.
- Kettlebell Deadlift
Introduce kettlebells to practice the hip hinge with a load.
Use a kettlebell that is manageable for your current strength level.
- Barbell Deadlift (Conventional or Sumo)
Progress to barbell deadlifts, starting with lighter weights.
Choose between a conventional or sumo stance based on your comfort and biomechanics.
- Trap Bar Deadlift
Try the trap bar deadlift to explore a different barbell variation that can be gentler on the lower back.
- Deficit Deadlift
Incorporate the deficit deadlift by standing on weight plates or blocks to increase the range of motion.
Begin with a modest deficit and gradually increase it.
- Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with Heavier Weights
Return to the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), but with heavier weights as you gain confidence and strength. Focus on maintaining proper form.
- Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
Introduce single-leg work with the single-leg Romanian deadlift.
Start with your body weight or light weights and gradually progress to heavier loads.
- Kettlebell Swing
Incorporate kettlebell swings to work on explosive hip power and dynamic movement. Focus on proper hip hinge and powerful hip extension.
- Hip Thrust
Begin with bodyweight hip thrusts and gradually add some weight across your hips as you become more comfortable and stronger.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Incorporating hip hinge exercises into your fitness regimen is an investment in your body’s strength, mobility, and functionality.
Dedicating time and effort to master the hip hinge movement pattern will pave the way to help you build muscles and fortify your body against potential injuries. The benefits extend beyond the gym, influencing how you go about your daily activities, perform athletic endeavors, and maintain an upright posture.
Include the hip hinge exercises and, if necessary, the progressions to your training regimen to help you build a solid foundation to help you achieve your fitness goals.
- Michaud F, Pérez Soto M, Lugrís U, Cuadrado J. 2021. Lower back injury prevention and sensitization of hip hinge with neutral spine using wearable sensors during lifting exercises. Sensors (Basel). 2021;21(16):5487. doi:10.3390/s21165487