Teaching the Hip Hinge for Better Posture

Kevin Mullins | 14 May 2015

A fast-paced world where people spend more time resting on their backside while bouncing between various pieces of furniture has left many individuals with terrible posture. Furthermore, low back pain, upper cross syndrome, and poor breathing patterns are rapidly chipping away at our population’s quality of life.

When these problems become too much to handle with our clients we will refer up to our partners in the physical therapy department.

The physical therapy community would begin attacking problems from the ground up and the shoulders down, while working to alleviate back pain. Over time postural reform would occur and hopefully the pain would subside as the client returns to a more neutral, and healthy state.

What can trainers do to ensure that the client doesn’t regress into old habits?

Even more, what can personal trainers do to prevent it from happening in the first place?

The answer to both of these questions lies within mastery of one major movement…the hip hinge.

I would be willing to argue that many individuals in this world suffer from lower back pain due to highly inactive glutes (major and minor), as well as tight hip flexors, and poor spinal alignment.

Kyphosis in the thoracic spine coupled with lordosis in the cervical spine is a common occurrence in lifelong desk-jockeys.

Inactive glutes, weak hamstrings, and the inability to mobilize the shoulder blades into a packed position put severe pressure on the lumbar discs and cause a dramatic deterioration in posture and ability.

Amazing enough, mastering the Hip Hinge, especially with a loaded barbell, can train all of these aspects simultaneously, all while providing a training effect.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you drag ol’ Java Johnny into the weight room, load 315 on the bar and tell him to deadlift. In fact, that is a quick way to watching Johnny’s vertebrae shoot across the room like bottled corks, as well as a quick way to start googling injury lawyers.

Here is a Hinge:

The deadlift and all its variations play off of the basic human movement, the hip hinge. Beginning with an anterior pelvic tilt, soft knees, and neutral spine a client should look like an NFL running back standing in the backfield.

Continuing pressing the hips backwards while maintaining a stiff spine; the client should begin bending their knees until they are able to touch their mid-shins.

The scapula should stay “packed,” or back-and-down. I tell my clients to imagine I have strings on their shoulder blades and I’m tying it to their belt.

The head should be neutral with the spine. Sure, some advanced lifters can get away with looking forward and still pull well. Yet, for our clients it is more important to create a stiff line from forehead to butt-crack. I tell my clients, “your eyes look where your belly button points.”

The core needs to stay rock-solid. Tighter than tight. A big breath that expands the space coupled with “pulling the belly button to the spine” can brace the transverse abdominals and prefer for liftoff, even if there is no weight.

Push your heels in the floor as though you are trying to leave your footprint forever, and squeeze your glutes together at the top of the lift. I often say, “Make yourself a rocketman and take-off,” which is followed by “make lemonade back there.”

Mastering the deadlift, AKA the hip hinge, will strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and latissimus dorsi. Furthermore, it will teach the client how to achieve a neutral spine with stabilized scapula. Breathing drills, thoracic extensions, and core bracing can change the dynamics of the body dramatically.

Our ultimate responsibility is to change our client’s lives by helping to add years to their total, and life to their years. Six pack abs and sweet set of biceps look great on paper, but don’t hold up to the test of time. Be a guide stone for your clients that they use to find their way!

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Kevin Mullins

About the author: Kevin Mullins

Kevin Mullins, CSCS is the Director of Product Development for The St. James in Springfield, VA. The author of Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint to Achieving Ultimate Success is a former EQUINOX Master Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness coach. He has presented for the NSCA, SCW Mania, and contributes content to PTontheNet, other websites, and his own page: KevinMullinsFitness.com.

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