Thursday, July 11, 2013

Teaching the Hip Hinge

This was previously posted on EliteFts, you can check it out here

Everyone who has been serious about moving around heavy weights, knows what the hip hinge is.  Hinging at the hip puts our posterior chain muscles in a position of advantage so we can work the shit out of them.  This movement is key in developing strong and powerful hamstrings and glutes which will carry over to improved athletic movement.

The hip hinge is not a squatting movement and being able to separate these two patterns is very important.  Hip hinging is emphasized in deadlifts, RDL's, Olympic lifts, swings, and even in some upper body rowing and scapular stabilization movements.

Anybody who has ever tried to teach, or for that case tried to learn the hip hinge, knows just how hard it can be for people to pick up.  Most people do not know how to separate the squatting movement from this hinging movement, and if you're like me, this results in urges to rip your hair out and scream until your lungs are sore.

First and foremost, we need to accept that the hinge is a basic movement that all athletes need to be able to master.  As athletes develop they learn to run, land, jump, skip, squat, push-up, tumble, and change directions, among others.  We need to make it a priority to learn the hip hinge, as this will set up athletes for success and safety in the long run. 

Just like the name states, the hip hinge, put simply, is your hip acting as a hinge for your lower and upper bodies. 

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Having worked with athletes ranging from 9 years old to college seniors, I can tell it's anything but. 

It's incredible to see how difficult it can be, for all levels of athletes, to perform this movement.  For all of us with a ton of experience using hinging exercises, we often take for granted how "easy" it is to hinge. 

So what do we do when someone can't hinge?  We cue the hell out of them!

"Push your hips back, keep your back flat/neutral, don't let your knee track forward - press them back, pull your chest forward, created horizontal separation from your hips and shoulders, etc"

We cue these athletes until we're blue in the face, and the athlete just does not get it.

It is very hard for unexperienced athletes to exhibit the correct body position and motor pattern of the hinge.  They don't have the connection of how their body moves, operates, and feels in this kind of movement setting. 

So they tend to either flex (round) their spine, flex their neck, use a squatting patten, and not get their posterior chain involved. 

Why do they do this? 

Because it is easier for them to do so.  Heck we as well trained professionals round our backs when picking up things off the ground because it is easier than keeping a flat/neutral spine.  They also lack the ability to perform a proper hip hinge because they lack, strength, mobility, stability, and like we touched on, don't have proper education of their body to perform these movements.

While it is dificult to teach, it is also essential that we take the time and effort to ingrain this movement in young athletes as it is so important for later in their lives.  Below I give my favorite progression to teach the hip hinge, and have been using these with good success. 

It takes proper progression, adequate reps, and being patience for it to become permanent.  We would all like to fly through these progressions and start adding some weight so we can really load the p-chain, but we need to slow down and perfect this movement first.

Dowel RDL

The dowel RDL involves the athlete holding a dowel behind their back.  We place the hands behind the small of the neck and the small of the back. 

The dowel must make contact with the athletes butt, upper back, and head.  This needs to be emphasized!  The athlete is instructed to maintain all three points of contact throughout the entire movement.  Because the dowel must remain in contact with those three points, the hip hinge movement will come naturally. 

This is great because it gives the athlete self-feedback and they develop the knowledge of how to self-correct their movement.  For example if the dowel loses contact with their butt, then the are flexing their spine.  They then teach themselves how to fix that, and really learn on their own how to perform the movement correctly. 

We will stay with this progression for as long as we feel they need work.  I will throw this exercise into our warm-up, rest periods, and in our cool-downs as a way to get lots of reps to instill this pattern. 

Here are the mistakes you are looking for when using the dowel RDL.  Dowel coming off the butt means spinal flexion, dowel coming off the back means squatting to much, dowel coming off the head means cervical flexion.

 Dowel Extension w/ Wall Touch

The next progression we make is called Dowel Extension w/ Wall Touche.  We now have the athlete hold the dowel behind their backs, but parallel to the ground. 

We externally rotate their arms so their palms are facing down.  This automatically get them in scapular retraction and makes it difficult for them to round their thoracic spine.  From there we set them up 8-10 inches from a wall and tell them to keep the dowel pressed up against the wall.

We que them to touch the wall with their butt and pack their neck.  This forces them to press their butt back and because they are in external rotation, it keeps their spine neutral.

 Good Morning w/ Wall Touch

The next progression involves a good morning with a wall touch.  The good morning, again externally rotates the shoulders and promotes a big chest and flat back. 

But this progression makes it easier for the athlete to flex their spine.  So we use it as a check mark.  If they have learned to retract their scaps, pack their neck, and maintain a neutral spine, they will show it here.  If not, we know we need to keep working on the earlier progressions.

 Snatch Grip RDL

We then move to the snatch grip RDL.  The load is now put anteriorly, and now their arms are not externally rotated or pulled behind their body to assist in correct positioning. 

To help this we take a snatch grip to naturally pull their pack their scaps and assist in better positioning.  This is the true test to see if they have mastered the hip hinge.  Often we will see relapses in technique here, and now we have to take a step back and keep working on Good Mornings or earlier progressions.

KB Swings w/ Object Between the Legs

Finally if the RDL is mastered, we start loading it.  We now have established proper technique, motor control, and strength in the hinge movement.

So what's next?

Time to progress to dynamic hip hinging!

This could be Olympic variations, dynamic deadlifts, but my favorite to start with is the swing. 

The swing is a dynamic hinge movement that allows for greater speeds to overload the eccentric portion and really stress the SSC for great dynamic hip power. 

When first learning the swing I like to start with a progression that involves placing an object betwen the athletes legs.  This prevents a squatty swing, and overall fixes a while mess of technique errors that commonly occur in the swing. 

Depending on the height of the athlete, we want the object to come up to the tibial tuberosity (object in video is too low).  So this could be a cone, yoga block, medicine ball, whatever works for you.  In the video I use a dumbell, but I would recommend using something like a cone or yoga block, so if the athlete hits it, their won't be any chance of injury or damage to equipment.

A whole other article could be written on swing technique, but for the sake of time, here is our technique overview

Great advice from Dan John
   Attack your zipper/crotch on the downswing, it is active not passive
   Snap your hips and glutes to drive the weight back up
   After hips and glutes drive weight out of the hole, the torso should be tight and stable like in a plank
   Don't let the weight come above shoulder level
   It is a RDL, but with more speed

After finishing all of these progressions the athlete will be very proficient in the hip hinge.  They can now safely move on to higher loads and greater speeds of movements. 

This is a great basis for learning olympic lifts, deadlifts, good mornings, and RDL's.  If you work with youth athletes or even higher level athletes that can't hip hinge, this progression is key.  The hip hinge technique will allow these athletes to progress to later exercises that will build the foundation of their lower body strength, especially the glutes and hamstrings. 

So grab a dowel and get to teaching.  Until next time Go Get 'Em!

Like, Dislike, Agree, Disagree, WORLD CHANGING, or a big turd; whatever you feel, leave a comment below and let me know!

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