Hip hinge exercises are useful in many ways, especially to help you with more advanced kettlebell and deadlift exercises. As we all know, mobility is extremely important to have before completing exercises. You absolutely do not want to complete exercises that are out of the comfort zone of your muscles’ range of motion around your hip bones.
If you have ever been a part of a sports team, then you probably have heard the term ‘athletic position’. This position is synonymous with the hip hinge. It requires that you keep your back straight and rest on your hips and heels. This position allows you to power through your movements using your posterior chain.
Hips and their hinges do a lot of work to keep you upright and moving. Injuring this area could do some serious damage to your lower back and lumbar spine. So before we get into the particular exercises that rely on hip hinge mobility, let’s talk about what muscles and joints are involved. Among all the personal trainers that use our fitness software platform to train their clients, proper hip hinging is rated as one of the top areas of improvement for their clients. In fact, we have several hip hinge exercises in our fitness program templates provided to trainers.
Hip Hinge Exercises – Muscles n’ bones
The Posterior Chain
The posterior chain as a whole is the main focus of this exercise and all of its endless variations. The posterior chain is made up of the muscles in the back of your legs and around your spine. These muscles have everything to do with your posture and ability to stay active as you age. It also drastically reduces the likelihood of developing sciatic nerve pain and reduces the symptoms of it if you are already suffering.
Simply put, the hip hinge movement is a slight bend at the knees with your back straight and a forward lean pushing your hips backward. Think of it as a more intense curtsey where you can feel the stretch of your hamstrings and quadriceps. All the power of this movement is in and around the hips. This means that your glutes are also heavily at play.
The hip hinge works these two muscles in particular as they pull around your pelvic bone. This movement is essential to many different training styles including strength training, yoga, cycling, and even day-to-day activities like picking up your toddler. This movement is designed to protect your spine when completing these different exercises.
Picture the movement of a deadlift. Deadlifts can be extremely dangerous for your back and spinal health if you do not have this movement mastered. When completing exercises like this with improper form, you place all of the pressure on your spine. On a different note, hiring a personal trainer can benefit anyone to ensure proper form.
Your spine is made up of a delicate series of bones that were not meant to take on the pressure of movement in the transverse plane.
Imagine using a hockey stick to hit a powerful slapshot into the net. If the hockey stick was structured like your spine, connected at multiple different points down the shaft, then it would not be able to handle the pressure from the action. If you’re not familiar with a slapshot, then this is what it looks like:
When you don’t use the hip hinge motion, then your spine will be doing that sorta thing ^ and not be too pleased with you. Then, the muscles around your spine will strain trying to keep it in place.
Your hips and the rest of your posterior chain, however, are sturdy as can be and hold most of the power for lifting and other movements. This point of the body distributes the weight you are lifting evenly around your entire body.
Before the Hip Hinge Exercises
To master it, you must work on a series of different stability functions and controlled movements. One of the most important muscle groups in ensuring stability around your lumbar spine is the core. Well, duh, right? The core is pretty integral to just about any exercise you complete.
(Sometimes, I think about engaging my core when I’m walking up and down the stairs in my house to maximize the exercise. Ha!)
In this case, core stability decreases the risk of injuring your spine. Therefore, it’s extremely important to develop your core strength in tandem with your hip hinge mobility. The important stabilization muscles involved are the spinal erector and transversus abdominis.
Essentially you want to be able to keep your chest up and your weight on your heels. Balancing this requires core stability. Before adding any resistance or weight, it’s best to practice with a dowel on your back making contact at three points. Your head, between your shoulders, and your glutes.
Now that you have had a briefing on the importance of this exercise, let’s get into the ways that you can increase the strength and mobility around your hip hinge.
Kettlebell Exercises for Hip Hinge
Kettlebells are a popular tool for working out the hip hinge. Using these will help you increase the strength of the muscles associated with the posterior chain. Kettlebell exercises for hip hinge movements are very technical and use your glutes as the main force. Therefore, if you are looking to add some mass to your glutes over time, then keep reading. These exercises will be listed in increasing difficulty. Click the image to see the video demonstration.
Kettlebell Hip Hinge Drill
The Kettlebell Hip Hinge Drill is a great exercise to get started with. Line your feet shoulder-width apart and complete the basic hip hinge movement to pick up your kettlebell. Slight bend at the knees and your back straight. When lifting, power through the lift using your glutes until there is no bend in your knees.
While holding the kettlebell at both of the horns, rest the bottom of it just beneath your belly button, in between your hips. Then simply perform the hip hinge movement and power through it. We have a youtube kettlebell hip hinge drill link as well.
Kettlebell Twisting Hip Hinge
The simple hip hinge drill is a basic movement that can be modified into the youtube kettlebell twisting hip hinge. This is when you twist to the left or right as you move downwards through the movement. The leg on the opposite side of the twist will take more of a bend than the leg on the side you’re twisting to. You will also need to rest the kettlebell at the base of your sternum instead of your torso.
Before going full throttle into the Kettlebell swing, an advanced kettlebell exercise, try out kettlebell deadlifts. These are great for strengthening the hip hinge and an excellent step to master before swinging. This is also a safer practice for perfecting your form before deadlifting with larger weights.
For this exercise, you need to complete the hip hinge movement downward to grab the kettlebell. Then, you need to bring your elbows in and push out your chest. Power upwards using your thighs and glutes and bring those hips forward as you power through the movement.
Don’t pull an Abbi. Instead, check out our youtube kettlebell deadlifts video.
Resistance Band Hip Hinge
A resistance band is another type of equipment that is super versatile and extremely effective in helping you work your hip hinge. Practicing this with resistance helps strengthen your hinge and make this movement muscle memory. Resistance bands can actually pair with kettlebells for hip hinge exercises as well.
Banded Hip Hinge with Kettlebell Deadlift
This is a kettlebell deadlift with a resistance band tied to a sturdy post. The resistance band should be placed around your torso so that you are feeling resistance when pushing your hips forward as you lift the kettlebell upward. This exercise starts at the standing position instead of the point at which you pick up the kettlebell. Here is the youtube link to the kettlebell deadlift with a resistance band.
Over the Shoulder Banded Hip Hinge Exercises
These exercises have a couple of different variations that work for different muscle groups but they are all based around hip hinging. To focus on the posterior chain, let’s discuss the basic banded hip hinge over the shoulder exercise shown above first. First, stand on the resistance band and pull it over your shoulders. Make sure to place the band over your shoulders and not over the back of your neck. Keep the band between your forefinger and thumb, then complete the hip hinge movement. Here is a youtube banded hip hinge over the shoulder.
Another similar movement with the resistance pulling the other way can be seen below in the banded hip hinge over the shoulder pull exercise. Stand on the band and cross it at your glues or lower back so that it will stay in place (click image for a video). Then you pull it over your shoulders and hold it there. Here you will still hip hinge except that your core will be more engaged because you are pulling forward.
Complete this exercise with another variation using an unlooped band so that you can cross it over your back. It should rest on your glutes and cross over at the lower back. Once again, complete the hip hinge movement and power through with your hips. Here is a youtube video of the banded hip hinge over the shoulder pull motion.
Resistance Band Deadlift
The resistance band deadlift can be great at preparing you for heavier deadlift weights. Increase the difficulty by tightening the resistance band and holding it in your hands instead as you stand on it. This will help you to focus on your form as the source of resistance is in front of you. Therefore, you will be better prepared and have a stronger sense of muscle memory before completing deadlifts with weight. Here is the youtube resistance band deadlift.
Hip Presses and Thrusts
Guess what? You can even work on your hip hinge while on your back! Hip presses are a great way to build your glutes and strengthen your lower back. The stronger your glutes are, the stronger your hip hinge will be. You have a ton of options when it comes to this exercise, so let’s go over three of them in order of increasing difficulty.
The Age-Old Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is a relatively simple exercise where you lay your back on an elevated surface and keep your feet flat on the ground. All you do is use your core and your glutes to raise your torso from the seated position to where your shoulders, hips, and knees form a straight line. You should bear the weight in your heels and your shoulders and keep your core engaged the whole time. Flex your glutes as you push upward. Youtube hip thrust.
Barbell Hip Thrust
The barbell hip thrust is the same motion and exercise as mentioned before but done using a barbell. Completing this exercise with weight means that you must focus on your core stability to stay balanced. Make sure to keep your back straight and keep the pressure on your hips and not your spine.
You can even complete this exercise with a resistant band instead of weights like barbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls. Here is a youtube barbell hip thrust demo.
The glute bridge is similar to the elevated hip thrust, but this time you will be laying on your back. You can use a knee band to increase the difficulty of the exercise. Once again, make sure that your shoulders, hips, and knees form a straight line. Here is a youtube demo of the glute bridge.
The camel bridge provides a great stretch for muscles involved in the hip hinge movement. This will help relieve glute, lower back, and thigh pain. Sit on your knees with your legs apart shoulder width and your feet pointed behind you. Sit back on your heels and then reach around and place your palms on your heels. All you need to do is push forward to arch your body and create the ‘hump’ of the camel. Here is a youtube video demo of the camel bridge.
FitSW’s library has more hip hinge exercises and an entire exercise list of 1000 exercises that are easy to view and add to your workouts.
For such simple exercises, they hold great power! I cannot express enough how important they are in any workout you complete. Mastering the hip hinge and increasing its strength and mobility of it will reduce your risk of injury in your day-to-day activities, your posture, and when you exercise.
With all of these different applications, you will see major benefits and even help relieve pain associated with your lower back. You might be a little sore after, but that’s the pain we want! With that said, reduce the amount of soreness you experience in any workout by staying hydrated, stretching, rolling out, and especially not overworking yourself.
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