Perfecting the Hip Hinge

The Hip Hinge:

The hip hinge is a fundamental movement that all humans should know how to do. It is the backbone for all athletic movements as there is no way to jump, land, change directions or train power without being able to get in this position. Spinal bending (flexion) is fine for certain motions like tying your shoes, but not for movements that require a greater load or more explosion. The spine and hips need to be able distribute weight evenly and safely in order to avoid pain and injury and need to be in a position to accept load. If you can’t hinge at the hips, then you will be forced to bend solely through your spine putting it at risk for injury.

Proper hip hinging means:

  • shifting your weight back onto your hips with minimal knee movement
  • loading your hamstrings
  • shoulders should be retracted to maintain spinal integrity
  • good core control
  • weight through your heels.

Beginner Dowel Drill:

This is a helpful drill for giving you some proprioceptive feedback while making sure your form is correct. Place a long dowel along your back holding it with one hand at you neck and the other hand at your lower back. Keep the dowel in contact with you head, thoracic spine and sacrum as you complete the pattern.

Setting the Hip Hinge Pattern:

  • Stand facing away from a wall about 6 inches and bend (hinge) at the hips until your butt touches the wall. Your knees will stay over your toes and bend slightly. Your head  will stay in line with your spine, so your gaze should be pointed downward.
  • Next, step forward about 2 inches and repeat, making sure you get your butt to the wall. Your head will be in line your spine, so you eyes should be focused downward; not up.
  • Continue stepping out a few inches until you really feel your hamstrings burning, then you know you are doing it right.

Examples of this pattern:

  • Romanian deadlift and variations
  • Kettlebell swings

Other hip dominant exercises include:

  • Glute bridges
  • High box steps
  • Squat (hip and knee dominant)


Bird, Stephen,PhD., C.S.C.S., & Barrington-Higgs, B. (2010). Exploring the deadlift. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(2), 46-51.

Boyle, Micheal. New Functional Training for Sports. second edition. Human Kinetics. Campaign , IL. 2016.

Cook, Gray, Burton L, et al. Movement: Functional Movement Systems- Screening, Assessment and Corrective Strategies. On Target Publications. Aptos, CA. 2010. 277-278.

Kritz, Matthew,M.Sc, C.S.C.S., Cronin, J., P.H.D., & Hume, P., PhD. (2009). The bodyweight squat: A movement screen for the squat pattern. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31(1), 76-85.

Steele, J., Bruce-Low, S., & Smith, D. (2015). A review of the specificity of exercises designed for conditioning the lumbar extensors. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(5), 291.

Published by Blake Russell

Olympian, physical therapist, mom

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