Learn How to Hinge in Three Easy Steps

TAGS: lower back injury, hinge, romanian deadlift, deadlift

Learn How to Hinge in Three Easy Steps

Ahh...the hinge—king of lower body movement patterns. I would tell you that learning how to hinge was a catalyst in clearing up many of my problems including lower back fatigue and chronic knee pain, but you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway (you should.)

The truth is that we grow up "unlearning" the hinge. From a young age, we’re taught that lifting heavy things is bad for our backs. Show a random person on the street your latest deadlifting feat, and you’ll likely hear, “but doesn’t that hurt your back?” Or you can hark back to when you were sixteen years old working at that retail store with the obese sixty-year-old guy who unloaded the truck sporting a cloth lifting belt.

I can go on here, but somehow and someway we’re taught to protect the lower back at any cost. So when we start picking up barbells for fun, we’re sure to lock the lower back in extreme extension. But extreme extension—an anterior pelvic tilt—causes strange things to happen.

First, our abdominals lose their tightness. (I guess I should also mention that it’s around this time we’re also told that abdominal training is for sissies. This doesn’t bode well for preventing hernias and general force transfer throughout the body, but I digress.) Second, and more importantly, our hips lose tightness. Contracting the glutes from an anterior pelvic tilt is tough. Try it yourself. Yet we see this position at the lockout portion of both squats and deadlifts.

It's All About the Hips

But what does this have to do with the hinge? Well, the hinge is all about the hips, and you can’t really hinge if you’re stuck in an anterior pelvic tilt. It requires a “pop” or “snap” of the hips, bringing them to a solid contraction in the finished position.

People are afraid of losing their lower back tightness, which prevents the hip snap, but the lower back can remain in a neutral—and very safe—position at lockout even if you do snap. So don’t worry about shearing your spine into slithers.

Now, there’s a lot of hocus pocus that can potentially go into teaching the hinge, but let’s face it—a hinge is learning how to push your hips back and snap them forward. That’s it.

There’s some viability in teaching an RKC plank before the hinge in order to follow a smoother progression, but in my experience, people—high school students especially—have a hard time carrying over what is done on the ground to what is done when standing on two feet. I teach the hinge with a quick and dirty three-step process. I dare say it's fool proof, but I’ll let you decide.

One

First, have the athlete contract his glutes from a standing position. This is the easy part. Stand, squeeze, simple. This is the “snap.” You can even do the masochist thing and have him punch his own glutes.

Two

Second, teach him how to push his hips back. Most times, this is tough without it becoming a freak show of a squat. Make it simpler by reducing the amount of joints that can potentially move—teach it from a kneeling position.

Get him kneeling and have him—once again—squeeze his glutes at lockout. Remind him again that this is the snap—the completion of the hinge.

To initiate the hinge from there, cue two things—dropping the butt to the heels and dropping the chest to the thighs. Once he does that, tell him to snap his hips back to lockout. Do that a few times until he catches on.

Three

Third, teach him how to hinge from a standing position. You can do the Dan John thing and place the athlete a few feet in front of a wall and have him push his hips back until it contacts the wall. But I must suck with this technique because it never works for me as well as it does for Dan in his videos. Instead, I like using a position that most everyone is familiar with, something I like to call the “I just ran up and down a basketball court twelve times” position.

Tell the athlete to rest his elbows on his thighs as if he was winded from some physically exhausting run. Most will drop to a position with their back about parallel to the floor with minimal knee bend and with their hips pushed back. From there, all that’s left is snapping the hips back to lockout.

Finishing Touches

Congratulations. This is the hinge. And for all intents and purposes, it has been learned. Of course, it doesn’t end here, but the hard part is over.

After the athlete gets comfortable with the above drill, cue his lower back into the proper position at the bottom position. When you teach him the bottom, he applies it to the top. The reverse isn’t true. Once his back is settled, he can snap his hips forward.

The next progression is for him to do the movement “touch and go.” Have him reach his hips back and touch his elbows to his thighs, pausing for one second before snapping the hips back forward.

The last step is to have him hang his arms by his side and do it without any touching, pauses, or cues—just a fluid movement of pushing the hips back and snapping them forward. Once he can do that, he's almost always ready to grab a barbell and transition into Romanian deadlifts—the simplest barbell hinge. And if he can do that, the conventional deadlift and all the other hinging movements aren’t too far away.

Moving Forward

There isn’t an easier way to teach a movement pattern than this three-step process. After learning it, most athletes will be ready to fly into Romanian deadlifts without any problems. If you’re learning this for your own benefit, don’t be surprised if you notice some crazy things happening, like feeling much healthier and needed bigger jean sizes. Consider this a warning.

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...