Let me give it to you up front. The little move that means a lot is the hip hinge.
First, let’s take a look at what it is.
A hip hinge takes place if you bend over in such a way as to keep your spine straight except for the natural curves, and your butt is out behind you.
To get the idea, try this: stand facing out from a wall with your feet about a foot away from the wall. Push your butt back so that it touches the wall WITHOUT ALTERING THE CURVES IN YOUR SPINE. In other words, do not round your back.
Another way to get the feel for this is to take a broomstick, and hold it vertically behind your back so that it is touching your back. Then bend over, keeping the broomstick in place. Notice where your butt is (behind you), and that a forward bend is taking place at the front of your hips, without a rounded curve happening in your back.
Here’s a couple of graphics for what I am talking about.
At this point you might be saying…
- Is this really THAT important?
- Should I keep reading?
Here’s the thing. This one little move really does do many BIG things for you.
It keeps you aware of what good posture feels like. This can be huge.
For instance, let’s talk about sitting. Most of us spend a lot of time doing this. Even with the best of intentions, may of us sit with our pelvis slightly tucked under us, which makes our low back a bit rounded. These days many chairs are made with a lumbar support or a curve in the chair to encourage us not to do this. Even so, many of us have been sitting slightly rounded for so long that we cannot “get” the hip hinge when we try. I have seen this again and again when training.
It encourages you to activate your core and butt muscles, which protects your spine.
For many motions that you do, your core and butt should be activated first. This keeps your spine stable and protected for what comes next. If they are not activated, the muscles that flex your hip, the muscles at the back of your thigh, and those in the mid back, will try to do that job. Once that happens, they tighten up. Once they tighten up, you will not be able to move with ease and efficiency while walking, playing golf, lifting grocery bags, or just about anything you can think of.
Once your core and butt are activated, your hips can move more freely.
That may not sound like a big deal, but if you have this pattern on board, your daily life gets better. Many things you do, like walking, lifting, climbing, throwing, and even sitting are better.
On another level, if you play sports like golf, tennis, or basketball, hip hinging is key.
Notice how professional golfers set up before hitting the ball. This is the hip hinge. Without it, there is no way to take advantage of the huge powerhouse in the hips; its the same for basketball players preparing to take a vertical jump. First the butt goes back, then the hips drive forward to create a lot of air time. Tennis players send the butt back before hitting a return. This keeps the core stable, the stroke strong and controlled, and the back protected from potential injury when the torso is twisting.
So, what to do?
Check out the two positions above. If you can’t get there, start again, but first brace your abdominal muscles, fire up your glutes and concentrate on sending your butt behind you. In addition, you can place the side of your hand at the crease between your torso and leg. This is the place where the hip hinges back. Use it as a guide, keeping your spine straight as your body folds forward at that place.
If you are still struggling, you can train your abdominal muscles in bracing/stabilizing exercises and you can strengthen your glutes (butt) to help them get on board with the hinge pattern.
Getting back to sports, you can bet that most if not all professional athletes (and lots of jocks for that matter) train using a deadlift. This is the fundamental strengthening exercise for the hip hinge. In a deadlift, the weight is lifted from right in front of the shins, forcing the butt to go back before any lifting can take place.
It turns out that what athletes have known for a long time can be translated into a small but important move that can have big impact for the rest of us.
How is your hip hinge? Leave questions or comments below.
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