It’s All in the Hips
Watching the sunrise off the shore of Miami, the smell of the air as soon as you cross the border into North Carolina, the jolt you feel in your heart cresting a mountainous road in Colorado — watching the world open as you enter a vast and wild valley snuggled in the bosom of the surrounding mountains — these are some the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.
There’s one thing I consider the most beautiful in this world: a perfectly executed hip hinge.
Ask any personal trainer or fitness coach (at least the good ones) and they’ll tell you that any client who comes in and knows how to hip hinge immediately gains +100 cool points. Modern humans have forgotten how to properly move their hips.
What some assume is “moving” their hips, actually ends up looking more like the wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.
Skip learning how to properly hip hinge and you’re setting yourself up for a whole host of problems, especially if you do any type of weightlifting.
Hey, guys, I’m talking to you now.
The only time you really know how to hinge your hips is in the bedroom, but that’s a minor hinging motion at best. However, the badass warrior princesses I train (yes, this is what I call all my female clients) typically understand how to move their hips a bit more.
Tony Gentilcore, the Jedi Master of Deadlifting, broke hip hinging down like this:
Hip Hinge = maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend.
Squat = maximal hip bend, maximal knee bend.
Psst btw I interviewed Tony on my podcast, it’s an epic nerd out on Star Wars and deadlifts. So you should totally check it out.
Hinge For Wins
There are a handful of great drills to show people how to hip hinge like:
I use many of the drills with new clients. But I’ve also noticed that new clients have small bits of intimidation behind their eyes when I teach the hinge movement.
We’ve all felt unconfident when we’re learning something new.
*Ahem* flying a plane in Battlefield 4, pretty much just crashed every plane in 10 seconds, so I stopped trying.
If you’re really good flying in Battlefield, it can turn the tide of battle.
Learning how to hip hinge with good form can turn your tide of battle in the gym — giving you more firepower to ignite your metabolism, build more muscle, and develop better-humping motions (giggity).
If you’re new to the gym or even have trouble now with perfecting your hip hinge, check out the three cues below I use with my clients in the gym. Each of these is designed to get you away from overthinking the movement pattern.
Fold Your Hips like Paper
How many times in your life have you folded a piece of paper?
A hundred? A thousand?
Are you trying to remember but are reminded of all those finely folded notes you passed to the cute girl three desks behind you in middle school, only to have Greg, that douchebag friend of yours, open your letters and make jokes about their contents on the bus ride home?
Fuck Greg, he was a douchenozzle anyways.
Putting Greg’s shenanigans out of your mind, grab a scrap piece of paper and fold it in half. Now, open the paper all the way back up, then fold it again, and unfold it again.
Know what you’re doing when you do this?
You’re swinging — hinging — that paper on the fold. This is the same motion your hips should move during a hip hinge.
Since we’ve all folded our own fair share of paper in our lives, I have my clients place their hands on their hips and tell them to imagine their folding their hips like a piece of paper.
This does two things for them:
- Creates Proprioception – Touch is one of the most powerful senses: when we touch our muscles and place force on them to move, we better understand how our body works.
- Stimulates a motion, or action, all of us are already familiar with. Creating a connection to an action you already understand makes learning a new task far easier.
Close the Car Door with Your Booty
This is a cue I picked up from a conversation with a colleague.
Preston Sprimont (@PSprimont on Twitter) and I were chatting one morning on Skype about deadlifting when he told me about this cue he gives his clients.
I tell my clients to imagine they’re carrying big grocery bags in both arms (holding the bags to their torso) and they have to close the car door behind them with their butt.
Usually, this gets them to unlock their knees, stick their hips back without their knees traveling forward, and keep a neutral spine with a relatively upright torso–so as not to spill their imaginary grocery bags as they hinge at the hip.
I love this cue because I’m a firm believer in the power of your imagination or using visualization techniques with my clients.
The Bend and Snap
The last one doesn’t really work with guys but it makes my female clients laugh and wonder who the hell this ridiculous trainer is they hired. More importantly, it also gets them out of their “head.”
One of the first things I’ll ask a new badass warrior princess is, “have you seen the movie Legally Blonde?” If they say yes, then I proceed with this drill. If they say no, I use the paper folding cue above. There’s a scene in Legally Blonde where Elle teaches
Stiffler’s Mom Paulette how to get a man’s attention, you can watch that here.
In the clip, Elle’s “bend” isn’t much of a hip hinge, but they get the general sense of the motion as I recreate the bend and snap in front of them.
After my clients typically stop laughing at me and I ask them to perform the hip hinge again, they nail the movement and are able to continue to perform this movement properly.
The Hip Hinge Don’t Lie
The hip hinge is crucial for big, powerful, calorie-burning movements like deadlifts, squats, kettlebell swings, or explosive Olympic lifts.
Learning how to hip hinge properly will reduce your risk of injury when doing these movements. Take time to learn how to hip hinge and OWN the movement before you add weight.
Mastering the hip hinge is one of the most important things you can learn to do in the gym.