Assessing and teaching a hip hinge is one of the most frequent things I do in my clinic. A hip hinge is a fundamental movement that should be unconscious and natural to ensure lumbar protection, as well as to help generate the most power and force during athletic movements.

Most people associate a hip hinge with a deadlift. Patients will say “But Brooke, I don’t CrossFit and would never deadlift a bar, why do I need to learn this?” Valid question until we dive deeper into where a hip hinge is relevant. Do you sit down in a chair or pick up laundry baskets off the ground? Do you lean over a crib multiple times a day to pick your baby up? Do you want to explode past defenders in your sport of choice? Are you a nurse and need to be able to bend over patients beds to help move them or sit them up? I can go on and on.  If you move around during the day, then you need to hip hinge.

What is a hip hinge?

A hip hinge is a coordinated movement that allows you to lower yourself to the floor and be in the most efficient position to pick something up off of the ground or handle anything weighted. The hip hinge is the beginning movement to many athletic movements (deadlift, KB swing etc). More often then not, people feel like they hinge correctly but when we look closer, they could use a little help.  A hip hinge allows us to bend forward, stabilizing our spines and gaining movement through our pelvis and hips. Technically, a hip hinge is maximally loading the hips while there maintaining little to no knee bend. As a practitioner, my hip hinge checklist is as follows:

  • Posterior (backward) movement of your pelvis
  • Maintaining a neutral (straight) spine
  • Vertical shins

Common faults in the hip hinge:

Rounding the spine

Excessive knee bend (shins moving forward – or “squatting your hinge”)

Poor coordination (stuttering through the movement)

Ways to Train

Practicing and perfecting –  strengthening your hip hinge is not just for this rehabilitating after an injury, but for every human on this planet who wants to move optimally and protect their joints.

Below are some of my go-to hip hinge drills with some thoughts on when to prescribe each one. I fully believe each drill needs to be mastered fully before progressing to any loaded drill.

The PVC/Broomstick hinge:

When to use: I believe this is a great exercise for people who have difficulty maintaining a straight spine. This normally means they cannot disassociate their pelvis from their low back. I also tend to give this drill first to people who have never practiced hip hinging before.

The Most basic movements in life as well as in the gym requires mastering a hip hinge. This allows us to bend over while keeping our low backs stacked and protected. . . Most people with chronic low back have a difficult time coordinating this. So picking up a 300# bar or a basket of laundry can continually add to stress and strain of your low back if this movement isn’t mastered. . . Here is an easy drill To see if you are a master hip hinge-er. Grab a PVC pipe, golf club or broom and place on your back. Keep 3 points of contact at all times . . . 1. Butt 2. Mid back 3. Head . . . Lean forward with soft knees but not excessively bending them. I like to pretend I’m standing on the ledge of a building and trying to look over without falling. . . . The first rep is ✅. The second you see I bend too much from my low back so the broom doesn’t maintain contact. The third is too much upper back so the stick loses contact at my head. . . . If this is awkward/difficult – keep it up! You want this to be an automatic movement! Stay tuned for progressions and other drills to help you master your hinge! . .. . . #hip #physicaltherapy #wellness #lowbackpain #crossfit #hiphinge #functionaltraining #therapy #deadlift

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  • Pipe needs to be placed on your spine and maintain 3 points of contact (sacrum, mid back, and back of head)
  • Send your hips backward as your lean forward, as if you were looking over a ledge
  • Knees should be soft – but avoiding excessive flexion

Anytime the pipe loses a point of contact, the exercise needs to be addressed – somewhere along the way, your spine is bending

Butt taps:

When to use: This is most effective for people who do not/cannot shift their weight backward.

HIP HINGE (PART 2) One of the common mistakes that people have when performing a hip hinge is poor weight shift backwards. As your shoulders go forward, our bottoms should shift backwards equally to balance us out. When people have a difficult time doing this it normally presents itself by: . . . 1. Heels coming up off the ground 2.Poor trunk lean forwards (squatting down) . . . This butt tap drill is an awesome exercise to help you learn to weight shift properly if you have a difficult time. . . . Start by standing just 1-2 inches from the wall. Hinge backwards keeping your back straight and tap your butt to the wall. Slowly step out away from the wall allowing yourself to shift further backwards. You can even add a pole to your back (see last post) to ensure a stacked pelvis/back! Once you get about 10-12 inches from the wall, stay there and allow yourself multiple reps in a row. . . . #physicaltherapy #hiphinge #deadlift #wellness #therapy #crossfit #lowbackpain

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  • Start standing a few inches from the wall.
  • Start with soft knees and send your hips backward, tapping the wall.
  • Place hands on your hip crease and try to pinch your fingers with your hips as you perform each rep.
  • Step forward slightly as your progress

Stool in front:

When to use: I prescribe this exercise for those who tend to want to “squat” their hinge (have too much knee flexion) I like to use a stool with the cue of “do not let the stool roll forward” as opposed to a heavy bench or box where they can jam their knees into it and ride it down.


(PART 3) perfect your hip hinge! . . . Today’s post is for those who tend to “squat their hinge”. When working on a true hip hinge, there needs to be minimal knee flexion. This allows your to load your hips, getting your trunk closer to parallel to the ground. . . . If you find yourself unable to coordinate this resulting in your knees bending excessively and going over your toes, try this! . . Stand an inch or 2 away from a bench. As you hinge, do not allow your knees to bang into the bench. I’ll even give some patients a roll-y stool with the cue of “don’t let the stool roll” to keep them from pushing too far forward and riding it down. . . Even better, incorporate the PVC pipe on your back (part 1) to ensure that stacked spine! . . . Good luck! . . . #hiphinge #deadlift #physicaltherapy #wellness #backpain

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Lastly, slowly begin to add resistance or load. You can use a band, kettlebell or dumb bell. I change these up depending on the faults that I see as my patients or athletes practice.


PART 4/4 HIP HINGE! . . . Now that you have perfected your hinge and can do it no problem, the last step will be to load it up! . . Time under tension is really the answer to life’s toughest problems. The more time you spend loaded, the more your body adapts and strengthens to hold you in desired position. . . . Swipe for 3 KB variations. Each loads slightly different and can be challenging in their own way. Spend time increasing reps/weight for more of a challenge . . . Not pictured but available for practice: doing laundry, picking up a fat baby, moving Christmas decoration boxes, etc. . . Always remember, these drills/exercises aren’t just for gym goers. They are for everyone. So do them and do them well. . . . #wellness #physicaltherapy #lifting #kettlebell #hiphinge

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So give these a go! Then, more importantly, incorporate this into your everyday life to make sure you are nailing down technique and forever showing your joints some love!