If you’re unfamiliar with what a hip hinge is, it’s not too difficult to understand.
It’s a movement where you bend over from the hips. When done properly, the hip joint should actually shift backwards while the knee joints stay where they are in a slightly bent position.
The deadlift exercise closely resembles what a hip hinge should look like.
Watch what my hips and knees do as I begin to lower the bar:
The hips are gradually pushing backwards in space
The knees aren’t moving a whole lot
The head lowers with the rest of the spine in one stable segment
This movement pattern is seen in many more exercises beyond the standard barbell deadlift. If you can master it early on in training, you are going to have a much easier time learning new exercises down the road.
During a good hip hinge, you should feel:
A resisted stretch in the back of your thighs (aka your hamstring muscles)
A shift of your bodyweight toward your heels (aka a posterior weight shift)
A slight hint of muscle tension in the low back or lower spinal erectors (but not pain or significant soreness)
To take the hip hinge a step further, we can do it on one leg at a time 🙂
The single leg hip hinge, better known as the single leg Romanian deadlift (SLRDL on my training programs), is significantly more difficult to perform well. It’s a skill that will take most folks months to perform a reasonably decent level. Occasionally I will encounter an athlete or general population client who can nail it on the first workout, but they are few and far between.
One thing that’s really difficult to feel in the single leg version (and even on two legs it can be for some) is that whole “posterior weight shift” thing. In my coaching experience it seems the most common error throughout the movement is the athlete or client becoming too top heavy and falling forward onto the toes of the feet, therefore losing control of the body and falling to either side.
By using a resistance band we can give the trainee something that provides just enough stability to guide them through the movement without falling. As long as your keeping the band in a stretched position, you’ll be able to grab onto it a little bit harder if you need to catch yourself during the exercise. When you regain your balance, the band will simply pull you into the position we’re looking for. Here’s what a few good reps look like with a half inch thick light band:
I’ve had great success with this one for people who struggle to feel their weight shift posteriorly during the movement. There are so many variations of this exercise that I would encourage you to try as many as possible to find what feels best. The band variation is only one of probably 5-6 other variations I frequently use in my training programs.
A few key cues to get the most of it:
Make sure you’re far enough away from the anchor point that the band will not lose tension (aka will not slack) when you’re in a fully bent over position.
Make sure you get the working hip (the hip of the grounded leg) into full extension at the end of the movement, This means you should thrust forward and squeeze your butt cheeks at the top of each rep.
Attempt to keep your hips and entire pelvic structure as flat as possible throughout the exercises. This means there shouldn’t be a whole lot of tilting to either side. It’s not going to look great at first, but you will improve.
Attempt to keep your low back and lumber spine area in a slightly arched position as body becomes increasingly horizontal. It may be difficult to feel and you may be slightly rounded over when you are first learning the movement.
If you’re still having trouble shifting back at this point, try adding just a little bit more knee bend on the ground leg. Imagine that you’re going to push the bottom of your opposite foot straight through a wall behind you.
Try it out and let me know what you think!