Hip Hinge and its Relationship to Low Back Pain

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Hip Hinge is the name given to describe the maximal range of motion achieved through a hip bend with minimal knee bend.

 

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Hip Hinge is a movement that is used on exercises such as deadlifts. More importantly, it is a movement that protects your back from getting hurt when picking up objects from the floor. One too many times we have patients walk in saying, “I just bent forward to pick something light up and it felt like my back went out.” We can usually imagine that as the patient bent forward to initiate the movement, there was almost no use of their hips in the process. In fact, our lower backs are not meant to carry the weight from a forward bent position. Not during normal life activities and especially not during exercises like deadlifts or kettlebell swings. Instead, we should rely on bigger muscles, our powerhouse posterior chain: the glutes and hamstrings to execute the movement.

There are different reasons why we do not hip hing

e as we bend forward. The most common reason is that we lack the mobility or range of motion to get there. Although it is a natural movement that everyone should be able to perform, most of us, due to lack of activity or sitting too much, have to re-train our body to learn the correct movement. Another reason why this is so common is that we never do it; when we do not do something regularly we lose the ability to perform the movement. What makes people even more prone to injury is when they keep using the same incorrect pattern of bending their backs under load instead of creating a hip hinge. Whether that is lifting a heavy object or performing deadlifts for reps, with an improper form it just leads to back pain.

How can we improve the Hip Hinge?

You always hear “use your legs” but what does that really mean and how do you engage your legs without overstressing your low back?
First off, I always start my patients off with the cue “weight on your heels”. When you feel your weight on your heels, you will have more activation of your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings).

Secondly, you must be reminded that as you bend forward there should be minimal knee bend. This is not a squat. Once you bend your knees, you lose tension in your hamstrings, glutes, and your low back musculature wants to compensate for the slack. Think “soft knees” not fully extended knees.

Thirdly, keep your “chest up” or lead with your chest, this will help to prevent a rounding of the mid and low back spine, thus keeping tension on your strong posterior chain.

Lastly, think, “Press your feet into the ground” as you stand up instead of, “Pull the weight off the ground.” When you shift focus to your feet, you will be less likely to use your upper body to initiate lifting the weight off of the floor.
For most people it takes doing some drills until the movement pattern is achieved.

Here are some of our favorite drills:
1. Use a PVC pipe:
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2. Use a bench in front of your knees to limit the knees shifting forward
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3. Bar only RDLs
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4. Back wall touches
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