Movement Baselines: The Hip Hinge

picture courtesy of soheeleefitness.com

Movement baselines, or the minimum movements necessary for human function and performance, are essential to efficiency and resiliency. The inability to perform basic movements set us up for failure down the road as I believe it lowers the ceiling on performance and movement efficiency.

You can buffer large loads and high reps with poor movement for a while, sometimes even a long while, right up until you can't. Taking some time to work on these basic movements can improve system adaptability and ultimately improve performance.

The hip hinge is one of these baseline movements. The ability to load the posterior chain without compromising the spine and lower extremity sets up the system for optimal loading patterns. I continue to be amazed at how many athletes (from the strong to the injured) seem to be unable to adequately perform a hip hinge. Certainly, I see it often in those with spine, hip, and knee dysfunction. Those who are unable to dissociate the spine from the hips and the hips from the knees are leaving a ton of potential on the table and are probably gonna get hurt, bro. Those who ARE able to perform this well typically have great pulling mechanics and are able to effectively load order the squat, something I've discussed in detail previously.

The hip hinge is a prerequisite movement for so many patterns: squat, deadlift, jumping, going from sit to stand, running (think single-leg hip hinge). So rather than always skipping ahead to those movements our best bet is to master the movement baselines so that each rep of the more advanced patterns makes you better, not worse!

This is primarily a motor control exercise of spine and pelvis, which should always be prioritized. After even brief work with the hip hinge, we can see marked improvements in squatting and pulling patterns. The hip hinge is a great movement to teach because of its scalability (all patterns should be scalable). You can add bands around the knee for a knees-out cue, and we can add speed, range, and load to challenge the movement.
Using an external focus will help with skill retention and transfer. Progressing to a single-leg hip hinge is an excellent lateralization for training pistols. In the rehab setting, hip hinging is extremely effective as a preliminary closed-chain rehab intervention for those with spine or knee dysfunction because restoring movement patterns tends to re-map and resolve pain. It seems like I am teaching this to almost every person with problems at the spine or below with excellent results.

**It is crucial to pay attention to the details here. Mastering this movement gives a schema to understand how to load the hips while bracing and stabilizing the spine. Any change in the curvature of the spine during the motion or premature knee flexion is a fault and must be corrected with a proper breathing and bracing strategy.**

Here's more on the why:


A good starting stance is individual depending on each person's motor control and anatomical alignment.


Bottomline: Take 5 minutes to work on this movement pre-workout (just add it into your warm-up). Many will be surprised at how much of a struggle it is to maintain a neutral spine while flexing at the hips and maintaining vertical shins. Try it prior to a pulling or squat pattern and see if movement quality improves and pain resolves.

Contributed by Dr. Seth Oberst, DPT, CSCS

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