WHAT IS THE HINGE?
The hinge is a movement pattern that shows up in a gazillion different exercises we do here at Valeo. It’s so very important to moving well, feeling good, and executing exercises correctly (read: safely).
To “hinge” is to simply fold at the hips, projecting them backwards with minimal knee bend and a neutral spine (not rounding the back). This differs from a squat, where we also fold at the hips with a neutral spine, but with much more knee bend and a downward projection of the hips vs backward.
WHAT MUSCLES GET SVELTE AND STRONG FROM HINGING?
The muscles on the backside of the hips and legs are the hamstrings (back of thighs) and glutes (butt) and are the prime movers during a hinge. These hamstring and glute muscles are much more activated in a hinge vs a squat, helping them become toned and strong. And strong hamstrings and glutes equals happy low backs, happy knees and lovely, curvy bottoms. 🙂
WHAT IF I HAVE TROUBLE HINGING CORRECTLY?
Hinging properly is typically limited by a few factors: tight areas like ankles and hamstrings that inhibit mobility + muscles that aren’t prepared to fire correctly.
A drill we incorporate into many member’s workouts, especially those who have a difficult time understanding what a hinge should feel like, is the TOES ELEVATED HIP HINGE aka Dowel Drill. This not only stretches the backside of the legs and hips like crazy but cheats some ankle mobility (by elevating the toes) in those who lack it and teaches how to maintain a neutral spine. This is super important for those who tend to round their backs during hinging – a position that isn’t safe to be in, especially while picking up heavy loads.
Aside from the stretch and feedback this drill gives, it also “pre-loads” the hinge pattern. That is, it essentially turns the brain on and says “don’t forget what muscles should fire!” before stepping up to a heavier hinge exercise like a deadlift or kettlebell swing. We’re pre-loading the muscles, turning them on in the right way, establishing that muscle-memory and THEN hitting it big on the heavier lifts after the prime movers have already been activated.
Give it a try! (written instructions below pictures)
HOW TO DO THE TOES ELEVATED HIP HINGE DRILL:
1. Wear low-cushion shoes or, ideally, go barefoot or in socks. Stand with toes elevated on a platform that’s a few inches high (a short box or weight plate works).
2. Grip dowel in two spots: the curve of your neck or above your head and the curve of your low back.
3. Place dowel so that it touches three areas: Back of head, middle back (thoracic spine), and tailbone area (sacrum).
4. Slowly point hips backwards – not down – as if you’re trying to touch a wall behind you with them. Point backwards, backwards, backwards (weight should be on heels), keeping chest proud in order to keep spine neutral. Feel those hamstrings and glutes stretch…oh the burn! lol
DON’T LET THE DOWEL COME OFF ANY OF THE THREE POINTS
5. Slowly stand back up straight by squeezing glutes. Repeat 5-8 more times!
If you’re finding your back rounding or the dowel coming off of any of the three points, it might be time for some more mobility work in the ankles, hips, or t-spine. Consider hiring a coach to help you fine-tune your movements so you stay safe and strong. We’d love to help!
Walk in the gym at 7am most mornings and you’ll be greeted by name by this friendly gal, Lucie. Always cracking jokes and throwing encouragement to fellow members, she makes the hour fun, positive, and welcoming.
We’ve seen such growth in her physical abilities, too, gaining so much strength and fitness across her whole program. This is undoubtedly due to her dedication to getting in the gym consistently and giving it her all, even in her Finishers. For these reasons, we awarded you, Lucie, with the GOLDEN KETTLEBELL this past week. You rock!