14 Aug An Ode to the Hip Hinge: Why It’s The Most Important Movement
This past weekend, I spent the majority of my time in a “hip hinge” position.
For those who don’t know what this is, here you are:
At first speculation, you may wonder…
Was I deadlifting?
Was I trying to avoid germs on a port-a-potty toilet seat?
Was I at a festival dancing?
With my feet firmly planted into the ground, hips sunk back, knees softly bent, chest out, I was head banging to the beats of dubstep. As I banged my head harder against mid-air, my hips comfortably sat back in a hinge, with the load placed in my hamstrings and glutes.
While an act like this would normally pull out my spine and send me to the ER, I was totally okay.
And I give thanks to the hip hinge position – not only for allowing me to safely dance at a festival and avoid a hernia, but for empowering me through other parts of my athletic endeavors.
With that said, let’s get right into why the hip hinge helps with everything in terms of sport performance.
1.) Posterior Chain Strength.
The more someone is able to master the hip hinge position and dissociate their hips from spine, the more likely they’re able to pull some serious weight for hinge-y movements like the deadlift.
What does “hip-from-spine dissociation” mean?
The primary movement (flexion) occurs at the hip joint, with minimal knee bend and minimal spine curvature. You could argue that Shakira does an exceptional job of this as a dancer.
The more hip-y you get, the better you’re able to groove the hinge position and spare your low back. In turn, this will help with a stronger deadlift which is good for these things:
1) An ass of steal (posterior chain strength).
2) More speed and power.
3) Reduced chance of knee injury.
4.) Stronger core.
5.) More capable to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Ever seen a deadlift done like this?
Cue Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho soundtrack.
Yeah, you don’t want to do that.
So start mastering the hip hinge first. Here are a few ways you can groove into it to better improve your deadlifting skills.
2.) Athletic Position
The hip hinge is an interchangeable term for “athletic position.”
So what does this look like?
If you envision it being as cool as Jon Snow fighting a White Walker King, you’re pretty darn close.
I’d argue he’s in a solid athletic position: hips back, chest out, knees softly bent, so that he’s ready to dodge left or right at any given moment. If he were stiff-legged and too tall, he’d get rocked and die.
Another side note: I just related athletic stance to Game of Thrones. I’m good.
So need I say more? Once the hip hinge is mastered, athletes and Jon Snows are more comfortable in getting in an athletic position, which will help to improve their agility, lateral speed, and reaction.
When we nerd out with principles of biomechanics, the hip hinge allows us to achieve optimal shin angles that help us to exert maximum force into the ground.
If our torso is too tall (as seen in the picture on the right), we’re unable to achieve a small shin angle, which doesn’t allow us to exert maximum force into ground and utilize the quadriceps and calves to accelerate quickly and change direction at rapid speed.
So get comfortable with “staying low” in athletic stance with a hip hinge, otherwise it’s a performance and injury recipe for disaster.
Building off the idea of athletic stance, the hip hinge can help with footwork with a soccer ball.
Especially when players are performing quick fakes, dribbling in tight spaces, or crafting creative 1v1 moves, the load must be placed in the hips for speed’s sake.
Here’s a prime example:
4.) Landing Mechanics
A lot of coaches will cue their athletes’ feet when working on landing mechanics. One common cue could be “land soft” or “pretend you’re landing on hot coals.”
What’s problematic with these cues is we’re forgetting the most important musculature of absorbing force during a landing, and that’s the hamstrings and glutes.
Once we place our focus on the hinge position, we organically will have a soft and controlled landing, with the load taken off of the knees and shins.
I know what you’re thinking.
This is NOT a jump tantamount to the level of Lebron. Nor is it as heroic as trying to jump as high as you can so you can impress the girl at the gym and get her SnapChat.
Jumping and landing is for improving body control, hip and shin angles, explosiveness, and power.
By trying to jump the highest box height with a whacky landing is doing your athleticism a disservice.
So don’t be an idiot. Stick with the hip hinge in the starting AND landing position and you’re good to go.
5.) Power Exercises
Name every power exercise you know and the hip hinge is a part of the movement.
Kettlebell swings, power cleans, snatches, hang cleans, kettlebell snatches, box jumps, and medicine ball slams.
Again, all power exercises include some degree of hip flexion and extension with the hips.
And something like the medicine ball slam…it doesn’t get more hinge-y than this.
To that end, we do power exercises to improve speed.
Triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips is critical for this. And in order to get the most out of hip extension, we have to be comfortable with hip FLEXION.
…All while using our core (not our low back) to exert force into the ground and sprint with as little energy leaks as possible.
Alright I’m done.
If you can remember how many times I said “hip hinge” in this post, I’ll take you to a Justin Bieber concert.