Movement Basics: Hinging

July 10, 2018


Have you ever bent down to pick up a bag of groceries or pick up a small child or how about weed your garden? I feel pretty confident in saying that you do those things, or a similar movement, several times a day.

Congratulations! You are doing one of the movement basics on a regular basis. Those motions where you shoot your hips back and bend at your waist, are called hinging movement. In the gym these translate to deadlifts.

Why should we perform hinging movements?

  1. Functionality:  Strengthening and properly executing hinging movements improves mechanics for the every day movements listed above. If more people would learn how to properly hinge (and strengthen their midline), we would omit a lot of low back pain in this world!
  2. Strengthen Posterior Chain. Due to our sedentary lifestyle, Every day frontal plane movement,or even sport specific movement, most people are anterior dominant. That means they use the front of their body more often than the posterior, or back of the body. Hinging movements help to strengthen the posterior side.
  3. Strengthen Core. To safely protect our spine during injury movements, we need to have a strong and stable midline.

How do we properly perform hinging movements?

First remember this doesn’t just apply to lifting heavy barbells in the gym, it applies to lifting potted plants, children and that massive bag of dog food.

  1. Start standing as close to the object as possible to ensure you can keep it close to the body. Letting the object away from your body, puts you at greater risk for injury and makes the lift way harder!
  2. Get organized: stand with feet hip width apart or as wide as needed to pick up the object, pull shoulders back to set lats, take a big deep belly breath in and brace midline.
  3. Initiate movement by reaching hips back as one unit, allow torso to hinge forward, and maintain alignment from tip of head to tailbone.
  4. Grab object with a strong grip, double check that everything is locked in, stand up with weight pushing through entire foot.

Common errors while performing hinging:

  1. Losing spinal alignment: Rounding or arching of the spine underload can result in injury. Most commonly, rounding is seen while lifting the weight from the ground and is related to a week core. Arching is most commonly seen when initially reaching the hips back and putting the spine into extension. This is usually related to a weak core and weak glutes. Drop the weight and work on perfect mechanics to dial in these issues.
  2. Using quads: If knees track forward over the foot, quads are being incorporated more than we want. This happens a lot, as most people are quad dominant. Focus on reaching hips back to feel hamstrings turn on. It is helpful to do in front of a wall or object that you can use a target to reach hips toward.
  3. Chicken neck: I would say 9.9 times out of 10, when people are learning to hinge, their head is disconnected from the rest of their body. You will see people looking up when their chest is facing down, putting their neck into extreme extension. Focus on eyes facing where chest faces all throughout the movement.

Hinging exercises

In my opinion there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to progress deadlifts as far as which exercise you choose as they are all important. The main goal is that position is safe and that you progress weight appropriately.

Dumbbell Deadlifts

Barbell Deadlifts

Kettlebell Deadlifts

Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

  • Note: you do not have to use the equipment listed.You can use anything that weighs something. A rock, a log, a backpack with books in it or of course a small child.

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