Monday, April 18, 2011

Regression Options for the Hip Hinge

If you have a client who is able to perform a proper standing hip hinge as demonstrated in my last post, then it is time to move him or her into your hip hinge progression - possibly starting with a pull-through, kettlebell deadlift, or even a trap bar deadlift.  Whatever your starting point is, you must ensure that he or she is maintaining that proper movement pattern throughout the lift. 
On the other hand, as we discussed last time, you will have clients who will not be able to perform a proper standing hip hinge.  This could be due to a number of reasons, but you cannot continue to hammer repetitions of this pattern thinking that it will improve - you must have regressions.

Therefore, today I want to discuss some possible solutions for you and your clients to use if the standing hip hinge is too difficult in terms of stability or motor control. 
First, how do you determine if the problem is due to a lack of stability or motor control?  The answer is you place them on their back and move them passively into a hip hinge monitoring their low back position.
If someone is able to get a decent amount of passive hip hinge motion on their back, then we know he or she has the mobility requirements to do it standing. 
Therefore, to regress someone from the standing hip hinge you must reduce the stability and motor control requirements by moving them to their back, to their knees, or to quadruped (on hands and knees).  Lying supine (on back) will require the least amount of stability to perform the movement, followed by quadruped, and lastly by being on both knees.  You must decide which position is manageable for the person you are working with.
Now, I want to give you some exercise ideas to groove the hip hinge pattern from each of the three positions:  supine, tall kneeling, and quadruped.  There are multiple exercises out there, but I will show you some that we often use at IFAST.
Supine Exercises:
Supine Straight Leg Raise- Lie on back with legs straight and hands in the small of the low back.  Now dorsiflex the foot (pull toes toward head) and raise one leg off the floor keeping it straight.  Continue raising leg until you feel pressure on your hands.  When this occurs, return the leg to the starting position and repeat for a total of 10 reps on each side.

Glute Bridge- Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground.  Now drive through your feet raising your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line.  Focus on squeezing your glutes to get your hips in the air.  Hold the top position for 2-3 seconds and lower back down to the starting position- the motion should only be coming from the hips.  Repeat for a total of 10 reps.

It is important to not hyperextend your back when raising the hips up.  If you feel it in your low back then you are performing the exercise incorrectly.  If performed correctly, the glute bridge will teach a person to get their hips into extension with their glutes versus their low back during a hip hinge.   

Rock Back- Begin on all fours with hands under shoulders, knees under hips, and toes curled underneath your foot.  Now use a PVC pipe to get into a neutral spine position with the three points of contact we discussed in the last post.  Next, slowly rock your butt towards your heels trying to maintain those points of contact.  Once you lose a neutral spine return to the starting position and repeat for a total of 10 reps.
Tall Kneeling:
Tall Kneeling Squat (see pics below)- Begin on both knees with them positioned roughly hip width apart and toes curled under.  From this position, unlock the hips and begin to sit back onto heels.  As you descend back, make sure that you keep a neutral spine and that there is only motion coming from the hips. 
To return to the starting position, fire your glutes and push your hips through by finishing tall (you should be in a straight line from knees to hips to shoulders to ears).

Just use bodyweight initially

Lastly, if someone is still unable to perform the above exercises consistently, then dynamic movements may be too difficult and you may want to move them to a static position.  If this is the case, then do not yet worry about the hip hinge pattern - teach them a proper neutral spine statically.  I like to use birddog variations and planks to teach this.
I hope you can see from these last two posts the importance of having progressions and regressions in mind for each exercise! 
Again, always remember that each person is different and you must carefully consider what is right for the person.  Always test and retest to see if certain exercises are improving the pattern you are attempting to fix.  In this case, the hip hinge. 
Hope that helps!  Have a great week everyone!


  1. Zach,

    Can you contact me at for a guest blog post.

    I can't find you contact info.

    Rick Kaselj