The Importance of Proper Hip Hinge Mechanics
Combating Back Pain with Strength
Upfit Training Academy
-Jacob O’Connor, Brian Santanelli-
The vast majority of us have experienced back pain at some point in our lives. The individuals who haven’t yet experienced back pain are lucky outliers among a sea of people who at some degree share this experience. There are a great deal of reasons as to why one may be experiencing back pain. For some of us we may have suffered an acute injury, others may have chronic pain caused by prolonged sitting and/or poor movement patterns. My guess is that the majority of back pain is caused by the latter. This is why it is essential for personal training and small group fitness programs to prioritize proper technique. Think about how much of each day you spend seated… Most of us are at a desk the majority of the day, at stressful jobs (especially in NYC), moving poorly if at all.
All of this time sitting takes a toll on your hips, back, neck, and shoulders, leading to stiffness and discomfort. Back pain can be incredibly debilitating for some, bleeding into aspects of life such as sleep, recreation, and simple household tasks. Do you or someone you know commonly experience back pain? What are you doing to combat your pain? Improving the strength, stability, and mobility of your hips and back is a strategy on the forefront of treating and preventing back issues.
The hip hinge is a fundamental movement for the vast majority of personal training and small group training programs. It is necessary to master the hip hinge in order to perform many hip/back strengthening exercises. The hinge looks simple, but it can be a deceivingly difficult movement to conquer. You can find our progressions of the hip hinge below.
A great introduction to the hip hinge, a heavy emphasis is placed on technique execution to properly develop this movement pattern. The front loaded weight gives a trainee an idea how to use the front muscles of the core. The feet will be hip width apart while engaging the core and lats. From there, drive the hips back with a slight bend in the knees. Once you’re at the bottom of a rep (you will feel a stretch in the hamstrings) bring the hips forward and shoulders upright while squeezing the glutes through the move.
This is a progression from the medicine ball good morning. The set-up is very similar here, but now the weights should be held at the side of the hips. The weight placement forces the trainee to use and strengthen the lats, as well as the upper back. Movement execution will be just like the med ball good morning.
Now that we’re pulling from the floor, our set-up will change. Standing over the kettlebell, hip hinge backward then bend the knees more than you typically would for a good morning. Grab the kettlebell by the horns and make sure the lats are engaged with a “squeeze the armpit” cue, creating pre-tension. Then drive your feet into the ground with your hips and shoulders moving at the same speed.
Set up with the feet hip width apart inside of the trap bar. Hinge back, bend the knees and grab the bar. Center your hands and the weight, create pre-tension by squeezing the lats like the kettlebell deadlift, and fire up the core (take the slack out of the bar). Drive the feet into the ground and stand up.
Set-up with the barbell over your midfoot and feet hip width apart. Hinge back and bend the knees, grab the bar with your hands just outside your legs. Create pre-tension to take the slack out of the bar and drive feet into the ground. Make sure to stand up tall and straight, not hyperextending at the low back.
In a world full of back pain it’s important to identify exercises to strengthen these areas. As someone who has been through a few stints of back pain myself, I have a great appreciation for practical movements that go a long way. It can’t be understated how important it is to perform these movements correctly. Poor execution will not yield the same results and can be counterproductive, causing more discomfort. We hope that this progression can be of use to you and help you continue living a healthier, happier, and more physically active lifestyle.