Teaching The Hip Hinge: Things Most Trainers Don’t Think About
We learn through analogies.
Whether we’re conquering calculus or coordinating our arms, legs and trunk into a bear crawl, or having awkward, drunken, eye-contactless sex with a Tinder date named Gretchen that, consequently, doesn’t speak English as well as she types it, and you’re trying to bump uglies but she doesn’t understand the hand gesture for “turn over.”
Context, and the ability to align it with information we already understand, gives the means to integrate a new concept or a new movement.
But, rather than appreciating context and analogy’s importance, we rush folks to the test, which, in our case, is the barbell. To further specify—the deadlift.
It’s like giving people the test before they’ve mastered the material. Or, perhaps, teaching exclusively to the test rather than teaching to learn and think. Welcome to the movement equivalent of No Child Left Behind. I think we’ve all see what that hellhole of an education policy has done.
I’m a man that appreciates overt directness, but in some cases an oblique approach benefits us more than a straight line. This is certainly true for teaching folks to hip hinge, and eventually progress to barbell deadlifting.
We create context using words and movement, and we start with questions.
Does a person understand where their hips are?
Does this person understand where their spine is?
Can they denote the difference between moving their hips and their spine?
The answer is often no, expressed in a trifecta.
So where do we start? How do we begin to create a learning context using movement analogies so that people, absent the necessary raw materials, can barbell deadlift.
We start with a baseline: a hip hinge with a PVC pipe.
So the gent in this video, Corey “the Puerto Rican Prince” Berrios, is doing a great job. But most people aren’t going to be this handsome, and they’re also not going to move this well. They’re going to flex through the spine rather than hinging at the hips. The pole will shoot erratically off of their backs. They’ll drop into a deep squat rather than finding tension in their hamstrings.
PVC hinges give us a standard of understanding. Internally—it gives the client a means to compare good vs. bad movement. Visually—it gives us the means to, somewhat objectively, measure progress.
Now we enhance the raw constituents that constitute the hinge. We create spinal awareness. We create hip awareness. And we examine the influence of position.
Cat-Camel CARs and Spinal Understanding
First, let’s view Cat-Camel CARs in all their glory:
Not only do they make the performer look like a twerk dragon, but they improve spinal mobility while also enhancing spinal understanding, Most folks have no idea how to move their spine—they’re rarely, if ever, asked to do it in a controlled fashion. And, since they don’t know how to move it, they don’t really understand where it is unless it hurts. That’s a problem.
So it gets lumped in with the hips in a conjoined humpfest devoid dissociation. The spine and the hips end up moving together all the time, and the spine is given more responsibility for range of motion than it should be.
But, learning how to move it, teaches us where it is and allows us to separate it from our hips. That means we can keep it still when we’re supposed to.
Hip CARs don’t look anything like a hip hinge, but they explore every inch of hip range of motion. Which, you guessed it, creates movement understanding. They improve mobility while also creating a general schema of “hey, here are my hips!” Once we understand general hip movement, it’s much easier to learn specific movement, like hip hinging.
Kneeling Hip Hinge
Different positions impose different threat levels on the body. The more we extend our body in to gravity’s influence, or the closer we get to standing, the more our nervous system must deal with the environment. As we get closer to the ground, threat diminishes as we have less space to navigate.
Standing up is sometimes too much to ask. But if we regress position down to kneeling, and move closer to the floor, we can learn better. We have less threat to deal with because we have more contact with the ground. We have less space to navigate and more input that tells us where we are in that space. (The knees and the feet are on the ground rather than just the feet.)
We’ve also, a ha!, created a new movement analogy. We learn how to move the hips from a different position. The more analogies we accumulate, the easier it is for us to build context for a new movement.
This Is Nice, And All…But What Do We Do?
This is the point where paralysis by analysis kicks in. I just gave you three tools to help you teach someone to hip hinge. This almost immediately sends folks down the rabbit hole of where, when and why?
Do all of them. Do them in the same session as teaching the hip hinge. Do your hinging movement, then do Cat-Camels, then hip hinge again, then do Hip CARs, then hinge from a kneeling position.
Do them in separate sessions. Do them in a circuit. Do them between lifts.
The point is, just do them. The more often they are performed across different contexts, the better our general movement becomes. When general movement improves it’s easier to improve specific movement.
Because I’m nice, I’ll give you one specific application.
Let’s say you’re teaching someone to hinge and they can’t even attempt without bending through the spine and flexing rather than folding at the hips.
Here’s what you do:
You say, “That’s not bad, but I want to try something to see if we can improve it.”
They’ll say, “Only if you make me look like a twerk dragon!”
Then you’ll say, “Well, Aladdin, you’re in luck, because I’m about to grant that wish.”
At this point you have them perform the Cat-Camel and you ask them if they feel how that’s their spine moving and not their hips. Now they understand where their spine is.
Once you’ve done that, hinge again.
It’ll likely get a little better, but won’t be solid.
Now introduce the kneeling hinge. It will be easier for them to segment hip movement from spinal movement. When they do, you say, “do you feel how that was your hips moving and not your spine?’
They’ll be like, “Yea dawg.”
You’ll say, “Cool.”
Then you stand that lady or gent back up and have them hinge again. It will be better.
Now introduce Hip CARs to broaden their hip understanding. Then have them hinge again. It will be better.
Repeat this process until the hinge is solid. Then sink that hinge in with some lifting—KB deadlifts, rack pulls, barbell deadlifts, whatevs bro.
Not just whatevs—find the loading level that fits them. It’ll probably be a kettlebell deadlift or a light rack pull.
Folding Things Up
This is some hip hinge shit that most trainers don’t think about. But when you do, your clients will learn faster and you’ll be a hero. Why?—your folks get stronger faster, they feel better and they generally move better. These are the results that keep folks parading through your doors.
(I’ll be going into this in more detail, and actually demonstrating the coaching and cueing, at my Barbell and Beyond Chicago Seminar on January 23rd and 24th. Registration is still open, snag a seat and then hinge like there’s no tomorrow!—-> Register Here!)