Ten Hip Hinge Progressions To Help You Move With Less Pain

hip hinge demonstration

The hip hinge exercise is one of the most important movements to practice to limit the impact that goes through our back, knees, joints as we move throughout our day. It is also very important for anyone beginning an exercise or strength training program as it is foundational movement that is used to safely perform a variety of important exercises. 

Having a working understanding of how to hinge will save you from YEARS of joint pain.

For anyone new to strength training, having a list of progressions is important to be sure we have a safe starting point (based on your experience level) and a direction to work toward so we can continue to improve, grow, and build our strength. In this article I’ll walk you through 10 different hinge progressions for the very beginner all the way to the most advanced.

1. The Hero Squat

The hip hinge movement is performed by reaching the hips back (vs. bending forward at the hips). So the first thing we want to learn is how to ‘unlock at the hips’. The Hero Squat is a very entry level hinge exercise for anyone who is having a hard time reaching their hips back. By taking the knees out of the equation we are forced to reach our hips back towards our heels.

2. Butt Taps

Progressing to a standing position, we’re still working on ‘unlocking the hips’ with the next exercise, The Butt Tap. Having the wall as a cue and ‘reaching’ back with your hips is a great way to teach clients how to reach back with their hips.

Important to note that while we allow the knees to bend, we’re not actively bending them. We want this to be a hinge, not a squat.

3. The Hip Hinge

Now that we know how to reach our hips back, it’s time to get to the full movement itself – the hip hinge. As we practice the hip hinge we need to focus on keeping a neutral spine. Reach the hips back, keep your spine straight, and stop the minute you feel tension in the hamstring to avoid rounding your spine.

Placing a PVC or broom on your  spine can sometimes help learn the movement.

4. The Hinge To Squat

Understanding the difference between a hinge and a squat is important as we progress our movements into weighted variations. In it’s simplest form: the hinge is reaching your hips back. The squat is getting your hips down.

The Hinge to Squat exercise allows you to differentiate the two movements while further ingraining the hip hinge patterning.

5. The Banded Hip Hinge

Now that unlocking at the hips and neutral spine can be maintained, we can start to build some strength by adding a bit of resistance. The Banded Hip Hinge is a safe way to add resistance to the movement and will help you really feel the tension in your hamstrings so you will know just where to stop the movement.

6. The Weighted Hip Hinge

Incorporate heavier weights and begin transition to more functional movements (lifting) with the weighted hip hinge. As we get to heavier weights we need to be more careful that we’re reaching out hips back and keeping a neutral spine. Think of the weight pulling you straight down while you reach your hips back, stopping when you feel tension in your hamstring.

This is also a great hamstring mobilization tool.

7. The Elevated Kettlebell Lift

Now that we’ve mastered the hinge movement it’s time to start transitioning to the lift. Similar to the hinge only now we’re starting with the weight from an elevated surface. The Elevated KB Lift is a great movement to help us transition from the hinge to the lift. 

Movement is kept primarily at the hips but you get practice lifting from the ‘ground’. Remember to keep your neutral spine and develop tension in the hips.

8. The Kettlebell Lift

The next progression is to move the weight to the floor. While we still initiate the movement with the hinge, our knees have to bend in order to reach the weight on the ground. Brace your abs, chest up, develop tension in hamstring, and drive through the floor to stand up.

Practicing our deadlifts is one of the best ways to build glute and hamstring strength while improving movement patterns for less joint pain.

9. The Banded Pull Through

By now we should have a solid understanding of the hinge movement. Now we can start to practice how to use the hinge to generate power from the hips for a variety of other movements that are beneficial to build strength and stamina.

Banded Pull Throughs are a great way to safely train the hip thrust.

10. The Kettlebell Swing

Once you’ve mastered the hip hinge movement, you can use it to generate power to move weight. When done correctly, Kettlebell Swings help further engrain the hip hinge pattern while also teaching out bodies how to generate power from the hips. 

From our hinge position we shoot the hips forward to created the momentum to lift weight swing the weight. ‘Catching’ and slowing the weight should be done in a perfect hinge position.

As you can see, for such a simple movement there is a lot to think about with the hip hinge and many ways you can use the movement to build strength – WITHOUT stressing your joints. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email at drbaird@solvingpainwithstrength.com.

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4 thoughts on “Ten Hip Hinge Progressions To Help You Move With Less Pain”

  1. Hello, i just started doing the hinge progressions and it feels awesome! I woke up with no pain in my hips/knees/lower back! Thanks for that! 👍🏼 any recommendations how many sets/reps for each exercise. I did 3×10 for hero squats but i think i can do more. And should i do it daily or day-after-day? Also when exactly i should progress the exercises? Thanks a lot and keep up the good work! 👏🏼

    1. Dr. Carl Baird DC, MS

      That’s great to hear. It really depends on what the rest of your program looks like. When we incorporate hinges as part of our program we focus on time rather than reps. Meaning we do hinges for 1 minute before moving to the next exercises. Keep up the great work!

  2. I went straight on to using a dowel, bypassing getting to open hips first as I just found this website and have practiced before hand., etc, and yet I still have Low back pain, burning sensation every time I hip hinge, I don’t suffer with any back pain in general but as soon as I do hip hinge. I eventually want to learn deadlift, and do strength training, weight lifting. , don’t have any medical problems or take medication, is this a exercise not to do.

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