Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Basics 101: Hip Hinge

I think the biggest reason people do not know how to squat correctly, is because they lack the "know how" of hip hinging. I teach at least one person a day how to squat correctly. And everyday, I see the same thing: breaking at the knees FIRST, and squatting "down" toward the front.

I train many office workers that exhibit tight hip flexors, and weak abdominals--but these individuals would also like to play golf. And they would like to be good at it. A game of golf is more enjoyable when you are semi-good at it. So, the first thing I tend to look at is their "address" position and "athletic stance".

Next, I examine their squat form using their bodyweight. I tend to have them place their hands in front of them straight so that they are level with their line of sight. I give them the scenario that water should be able to "trickle" down their arm and end onto their shoulders. This position actually helps a trainee offset the bodyweight shift from their center of gravity.

Each first time, I see the knees break first and the trainee doesn't shift the bodyweight back onto the glutes and hips. It can be a classic "fear" of falling tendency or a case of weak hamstrings that cannot support and decelerate the load. If the latter is the case, I can only assume this because the pelvis has not tilted back. If the pelvis is not tilted posted anteriorly, the hips and gluteal muscles are not involved or involved minimally. If this occurs, maximal stress is put on the knees and trainees will usually complain of "pulling" above the kneecap. This indicates that the quadriceps tendon is doing too much work (trying to decelerate the movement for the posterior muscles). So how do we fix this? Enter the hip hinge drill:

Hip hinging is an important aspect of movement because it helps the trainee to develop an awareness of where the hips should be in a strong position. Every starting athletic posture begins with the hips back and buttocks out. This is the strongest stance, because it activates the glueal muscles and ensures that the body's center of gravity is in its strongest set position to counteract any external forces.

In this video, take note at how the hips "fall back" to initiate the movement. The band (which is attached in a doorway, level with my shoulders), acts as a counter weight. The pelvis tilts anteriorly (to the front, so the butt sticks out) and then the weight is shifted to the mid-foot/heels. Once this occurs, the calves and hamstrings "turn on" and the knees flex to stabilize the femur. This is the actual "hip hinge" part. Furthermore, the trunk flexes forward with the lower back flat (looks like a good-morning exercise). This is again, to train the hamstrings.

I also incorporate a "row" to polish off the exercise. Squeezing the shoulder blades back and contracting the glutes. The drill incorporates a number of movements beginning with the hip hinge, stable flexed knees, good-morning, hip flexion/extension, scapular retraction and stabilization.

Most mistakes will be made with the "good-morning" phase of the drill. This can be omitted until proper "hinging" is mastered and adequate flexibility and strength are acheived. Give it a try!

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