The Core Four Movements Part 2

Squat, Hip Hinge, Push & Pull

Photo by Taco Fleur on Unsplash

Today’s installment will review the hip hinge and exercises that strengthen these muscles. Although a simple concept on paper, the hip hinge can hard to learn. Exercises that utilize the hip hinge are the deadlift, kettlebell swing and back extension. These exercises primarily work the muscles of the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves, which together make up the posterior chain.

Anytime you bend over to pick something up off the ground, you’re performing a hip hinge. Usually that thing on the ground isn’t a heavy weight, so worrying about form isn’t an issue. However, when performing a deadlift or kettlebell swing, good form is essential to prevent injury. These exercises can place immense amounts of force on the lumbar spine. As someone who has injured themselves via deadlifting too heavy which resulted in a pinched nerve that led to sciatica, I can assure you this is an injury you don’t want. Lower back pain is among the most common issues for those in middle age and above. Sitting all day and lack of physical activity are the primary culprits. With that said, let’s look at a simple hip hinge exercise to get you started.

The Single Leg Deadlift

This is a great exercise to introduce the hinge because you don’t need any equipment and can be done almost anywhere. The act of standing on one leg also helps with your balance as well.

  • Stand on one leg, with a slight bend of the knee you’re on.
  • Slowly hinge forward with your arms hanging down and reach for a spot just in front of your toes. Don’t worry if you can make it all the way to the floor though, just go as far as you comfortably can.
  • Press your free leg back, like you’re trying to push your foot through the wall behind you
  • Slowly pull yourself back up by squeezing your butt and pulling the knee of your free leg forward.
  • Remember to keep the slight bend in your standing knee throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Move through the entire exercise at a slow and steady pace, going fast will only cause you to lose your balance and get frustrated. Slower is better when learning how to do this.

Below are examples of the single leg deadlift, one without weight, and the other with a 10 pound kettlebell. I’m a big fan of doing this exercise barefoot as well, since you get a better sense of balance. The bottom of you feet are full of sensory receptors and shoes block that sensation. Having shoes on makes it too easy in my opinion.

Starting position with a very slight knee bend. Use your toes to grip the floor to help maintain balance.

Halfway down, notice my free leg is pushing back, acting as a counter balance.

Bottom position with fingertips just above the floor. Finding a spot to stare at just in front of you is another way to help with balance.

Single Leg Deadlift With Kettlebell

10 pounds might not sound like much, but it only takes a little weight to make this exercise more challenging. It also makes it harder to balance. Notice that I’m holding the kettlebell in my right hand, while reaching down to the big toe on my left foot. If you need to make it easier, keep the weight on the same side that you’re balancing on.

Starting position with a slight knee bend, focusing just in front to help with balance.

Lowering down slowly, aiming for just in front of my left foot.

Bottom position, notice how my left arm is lifted, this helps with balance as well. In my experience pulling yourself back to the top is where you’re most likely to lose your balance.

There you have it, welcome to the wonderful world of the hip hinge. Learning this basic exercise will lead you into harder hinge movements like the barbell deadlift and kettlebell swing, but you’ve got to crawl before you can walk.