Hip hinge exercises are among the most important movements you can do at the gym. If you care about building power, mobility, flexibility and functional strength, you need to be doing these every time you work out.
In this article we’re going to explain everything you need to know about the hip hinge, from a detailed explanation of the movement and why it’s so beneficial, to a list of the best hip hinge exercises to work into your routine.
We’ll finish up with some form tips and frequently asked questions about hip hinges.
What is a Hip Hinge Exercise?
A hip hinge exercise is one where your movement centers around a hinging motion at the hips. Your hips are the fulcrum of the movement, with your legs staying upright and the upper half of your body leaning forward and closer to the ground.
The hip hinge is one of the human body’s most fundamental movements. Many simple, everyday movements involve a hip hinge, such as sitting down in a chair, getting up out of bed or bending over to fold laundry.
This extends to most athletic movements, such as running, jumping or climbing. In most cases, the hip hinge movement is responsible for most of the power you generate in the movement.
Why is it Important to Learn the Hip Hinge Movement?
Learning how to do a hip hinge properly, as well as strengthening this movement, is important for improving your athletic performance, as well as strengthening and preventing injuries in surrounding areas, such as the lower back.
Getting familiar with the hip hinge will help you build a stronger foundation for your body, which makes you more mobile and helps you maintain better posture.
Hip hinges are also a great thing to work on because of how efficient they are, and how many muscle groups you can hit with just a single exercise.
Since the hip is such a central joint in the body, you’ll usually end up getting a full-body workout from one movement, which delivers more benefit in less time, compared to isolation exercises centered around the arms and legs.
What Muscles Do Hip Hinge Movements Work?
The primary muscles worked in hip hinge movements are those along the posterior chain, such as the glutes, hamstrings, calves, erector spinae, lats, and back side of the shoulders.
These muscles are supremely important for functional athleticism, full-body strength and power, and for building a strong foundation that helps you avoid injury.
Hip hinge movements also often work the core muscles, which provide similar benefits for full-body strength and mobility.
7 Best Hip Hinge Exercises
The bottom line on hip hinge exercises is simple: they’re as fundamental a movement as the push and pull, and you should incorporate them into your workout routine.
Now let’s help you apply that, as well as help you understand the hip hinge better, with some of the best hip hinge exercises out there.
The deadlift is probably the most fundamental hip hinge exercise. It’s built around the hip hinge, which is the movement when you lift up from the bent over starting position to the upright, standing position in a deadlift.
The muscles worked in a deadlift are pretty much the same as what we described in the last section - deadlifts are great at building strength along the posterior chain.
Thinking of a deadlift as a hip hinge is a great idea, as it helps you maintain correct form, which is vital when you’re doing deadlifts. Next time you do this, think of the hips as the center of the movement, keeping everything else stable and using this movement to generate power for the lift.
This goes for pretty much all deadlift variations, from standard barbell deadlifts to sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, single leg deadlifts and more.
If we were to name the second best example of a hip hinge exercise, it would be the kettlebell swing.
Kettlebell swings are a super versatile exercise, great for building full-body strength, mobility, core strength and even getting a decent cardio workout.
All of this is centered around the hip hinge. Your hips are where all of the power comes from in a kettlebell swing, generating amazing results for every muscle along the posterior chain.
It just goes to show how present the hip hinge is in so many key athletic movements that squats and deadlifts are both great examples of hip hinge exercises.
Squats, when done right, are all about the hinge motion at your hips. You’ll notice that when you lower down in a squat, your hips contract, activating your glutes, quads and hamstrings (among other supporting muscles).
Good mornings are another fundamental hip hinge exercise.
The good morning is kind of a hybrid between a squat and a deadlift, so it stands to reason that these exercises would all utilize the hip hinge movement.
Good mornings are a great warmup to do before deadlifting or squatting, or as a way to work on your hip hinge form at a lower weight before moving on to deadlifts or squats.
Though not a traditional strength lifting exercise like deadlifts or squats, box jumps are another great example of the hip hinge in action.
Box jumps incorporate a hip hinge at the start of the movement, as you shoot your hips back and lower your body to generate power to propel yourself upwards. In essence, it’s much the same movement pattern as a deadlift.
This exercise is great for building lower-body power while getting a cardio workout, and is perfect for athletes, helping you run faster and jump higher.
Hip thrusts (usually done with a barbell) are one of the best exercises out there at targeting the glutes.
You start sitting at a 45 degree angle, with feet flat on the floor, knees bent, back on an elevated surface and a barbell across your hips. Then, with a hinge motion, you propel your hips (and the barbell) up, to where your knees are at a 90 degree angle and your body is horizontal.
This movement is amazing for lower body power, and a perfect complement to the standing hip hinge exercises we’ve talked about earlier.
Standing Bent Over Row
Finally, hip hinge exercises do not necessarily have to involve active movements with the hips.
Some exercises incorporate a hip hinge as an isometric movement, where your hips stay still throughout the action. Bent over rows are a great example. You hinge and lock the hips in a position similar to the starting position of a kettlebell swing or deadlift, and hold there as you lift the barbell, dumbbells, etc.
Though the primary muscles worked here are generally the lats and/or delts, the posterior chain also gets a great workout here as you hold the position, similar to the kind of workout you get from holding a plank or wall sit.
What are the Benefits of Hip Hinge Exercises?
Now let’s look a little bit more at the benefits you get from doing hip hinge exercises.
First, if you want to look good, hip hinge exercises are a great place to start.
These exercises are efficient, effective, and are great at simultaneously building muscle while burning fat - helping you build a leaner and more attractive body composition.
Hip hinge exercises work the erector spinae muscles, which are muscles that run along the middle of your back, near the spine.
These muscles don’t get as much attention as other muscle groups along the back (the lats in particular), since they don’t contribute as much to aesthetics. But it’s vital to build and develop these muscles, as they help prevent debilitating long-term injuries by supporting the spinal column.
If you want to build muscle, hip hinge exercises are the best thing to do. They work a ton of different muscle groups at the same time, allowing you to get more benefit in a shorter time.
These exercises also tend to work big, noticeable muscle groups, such as the lats, hamstrings and glutes, which is great if you want people to see how big you’re getting.
Probably the biggest benefit from hip hinge exercises is their benefit for athletic performance and functional strength. As discussed already, the hip hinge is a common movement in many activities, and working this movement directly translates to increased performance in many other areas, from basketball to boxing.
Many injuries come from a weak or poorly developed posterior chain, or bad habits originating from poor posture. Hip hinge exercises help you build a strong posture, as well as strengthening your core muscles, lower back and more, which helps avoid injury both in lifting and in everyday activities.
Common Hip Hinge Mistakes
Now we’re going to touch on a few common mistakes to avoid with hip hinge exercises, to ensure you maximize benefit and minimize risk.
Not Engaging Your Core Muscles
All hip hinge exercises require you to engage your core. Without this, it’s easy to lose your balance, and shift the load from the posterior chain to other muscle groups that are more susceptible to injury.
Bending Your Knees Too Much
Though some exercises (such as squats) require you to bend your knees, in general with a hip hinge you want to maintain your hips as the main fulcrum.
With a deadlift or kettlebell swing, for example, your knees will move a little bit throughout the motion, but it’s important that the hips are at the center of the movement, allowing you to spread the weight throughout more of the body.
Using the Lower Back Incorrectly
Probably the biggest mistake you can do with a hip hinge is rounding the back, putting too much load on the lower back.
This is very common with deadlifts, kettlebell swings, squats and good mornings, among others, and is the number one way people develop long-term injuries from lifting.
It’s vital you keep your back straight throughout these lifts. Engaging your core, focusing on the hips as the center of the movement, and shooting your hips far enough back will help you keep your form on point.
FAQs About Hip Hinge Exercises
Is the Romanian deadlift a hip hinge exercise?
Romanian deadlifts, along with all deadlift variations, are great examples of a hip hinge exercise, as the lift involves a movement at the hips to raise and lower the bar (or kettlebell, dumbbell, etc).
What is a hip hinge exercise for glutes?
Almost all hip hinge exercises work the glutes, but the best hip hinge exercise to specifically target the glutes is the barbell hip thrust exercise. Deadlifts and squats are also great alternatives.
Should I hip hinge when squatting?
Squats should involve a hip hinge motion. When you lower the bar, your hips should shoot back, thus creating a hinge motion. If you don’t have this, you’re likely putting too much stress on your knees.