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How To Hip Hinge For Ultimate Performance!

Name: Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS

I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard Ronnie Coleman’s classic line echo around the weight room: “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weight.” I’d say the over/under is around a thousand. And the reason is because he’s pretty much right.

Ronnie shouted out the quote when he was about to step under a loaded bar for the squat, but for me, the line especially rings true for the deadlift. This is why I created my twist on Ronnie’s famous line: “Everybody wants to deadlift, but nobody wants to hip hinge correctly.” I find that saying that in my Ronnie voice helps it resonate more powerfully with clients.

Here’s the thing: The deadlift gets overanalyzed by most lifters, which leads to butchered execution. The answer isn’t to memorize every cue that ever helped a pro powerlifter and then try to remember them all when you stand on the platform. The answer, quite simply, is to master the hip hinge first, and then build your deadlift around that strength.

Spend some quality time fortifying your hip hinge—both when you’re starting out and when you’re more advanced—and you’ll spare your back and build a powerful set of hips and legs that will help you in every other lower-body movement. And you’d better believe it’ll help you lift some heavy-ass weight, too.

The Hip Hinge:

It sounds like something your grandma wears to get out of the bath tub, but the hip hinge is actually an important fundamental human movement that everyone should master. The squat may be the so-called “king of lifts,” but the hinge is perhaps more important in the long-term performance and functionality of everyone from elite athletes to physical therapy patients, elderly people seeking more functionality, and every gym-goer in between.


Barbell Deadlift

In actual practice, hip hinging means moving the hips through a complete flexion (closing) to extension (opening) cycle, while limiting movement at other joints. It’s a precursor to all lower-body movements, but specifically the deadlift, squat, and most Olympic lifts. Hip hinge mastery isn’t optional to move well with heavy loads—it’s necessary.

Nevertheless, while most people can picture a squat, many have trouble imagining a hip hinge in their mind. So to start, picture a door hinge. The joint in the middle rotates while the side brackets remain rigid. This, in a nutshell, is how hip hinging works. The torso is braced and held rigid on the north side of the hips. Below the border, there’s a relatively stiff lower-body guided by hamstring tension. The only dramatic movement is at the hips.

Hammering Home the Hinge

There are a number of problems that can get in the way of a good hip hinge. Some folks simply have poor hip mobility, which can be caused by a congregation of factors including poor core stability and inflexible hamstrings. Hip capsules can also suffer from excessive tightness.

Meager hip mobility reduces the ability to solidify the hinge and causes the spine and knees to compensate for the lack of movement, which is inefficient and potentially injurious. If your immobility is the real hurdle, a solution beyond the scope of this article is necessary.

However, apart from the raw material issues just mentioned, most trainees are simply never taught how to hinge and need instruction with sound cues. They fail to hinge properly because they can’t understand how to separate movement in the spine from movement in the hips. If that’s the case for you, try these drills to teach spinal awareness; send your butt in the right direction.

1 Cat-camel drill

The cat-camel drill, as taught by Dr. Andreo Spina and his Functional Range Conditioning system, is your starting point.

The key of the drill is to move each spinal segment separately, creating a strong connection between your brain and the peripheral nerves that create spatial awareness. It’s the most effective technique I use to teach the difference between the spine and hips.

Any trainee, regardless of how advanced they are, can benefit from the cat-camel drill.

Cat-Camel Drill
Watch The Video – 00:26

2 Kneeling hip hinge with PVC

After building basic spine and hip awareness, it’s time to begin building the hinge from the ground up with the kneeling hip hinge. Kneeling reduces the amount of moving parts, allowing for an increased focus on torso rigidity and hip movement. The PVC pipe teaches what a neutral spine feels like and how to maintain it.

Kneeling Hip Hinge
Watch The Video – 00:31

3 Standing hip hinge with PVC

Once you’ve got the floor version down, take the kneeling hip hinge to your feet. The wall gives you a marker to hit and measures progress. When you master driving the hips back, step away from the wall and do it in free space. When you master the hip hinge in free space, remove the PVC and maintain a neutral spine.

Standing Hip Hinge
Watch The Video – 00:25

4 Belly swing

Now it’s time to add tension. This exercise comes from legendary strength and track coach Dan John, who calls it the “Bulgarian goat belly swing,” a noble name for an honorable exercise.

You can perform it with a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, or weight plate. Start by taking a deep belly breath, and follow that by bracing your abdominals tightly. When you’re tight, pull the weight firmly into your braced abs. The result is a strong upper back and lat contraction teeming with deadlift power. Then push the hips back like in the butt-to-wall.

Belly Swing
Watch The Video – 00:18

Hip Hinge Programming

All lifters, from steadfast iron devotees to people newly baptized by barbells, can benefit from remedial hinge work. An advanced lifter might not need the same proportion of drill work, but they ignore it at their peril.

This basic template will help you formulate proper hinge form and will get you moving in the right direction with solid back tension, grace, and power. Weight room vets can do well by using this as part of a warm-up or as an off-day recovery method. Newbies should use this in the place of deadlift training until their hinge is strong and confident.

Just remember: Happy hinge, happy deadlift, and happy back.

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About The Author

Todd Bumgardner works as a strength and conditioning coach and manual therapist at Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden, Connecticut.

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How To Hip Hinge For Ultimate Performance!

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Training Methods, Warm up, Weight loss, Weight TrainingComments Off on How To Hip Hinge For Ultimate Performance!


A New Image: Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo Tackles Fitness

In February 2013, NFL linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had the best send-off a professional football player could hope for. After recording a career-high 43 tackles during the regular season, he helped the Baltimore Ravens culminate their “season of destiny” by defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Afterward, without a contract and 37 years old, he seemed to see the writing on the wall.

“For a guy in my field, I’ve done everything you can do in the NFL,” Ayanbadejo told USA Today after the Super Bowl. “There’s no need to cry for me.”

Always one of the strongest and best conditioned athletes in the NFL, Ayanbadejo has since transitioned seamlessly from the gridiron to the gym. He has become heavily involved in Orangetheory Fitness, a high-intensity training style that mixes resistance training with rowing and sprinting, and has opened several franchises in California. A long-time proponent of strategic supplementation for athletes, Ayanbadejo also now works with Image Sports.

Always one of the strongest and best conditioned athletes in the NFL, Ayanbadejo has since transitioned seamlessly from the gridiron to the gym.

In an interview with Bodybuilding.com, Ayanbadejo discussed the methods he uses to keep developing his body and those people he trains.

Q What is your general philosophy on training right now?

Right now when I work out I am mostly about functionality and fitness. I do a lot of sprinting, pull-ups, jump squats, and things that keep me functional and athletic. I also want to look good, so I do a lot of bodybuilding basics.

That is why my physique is different than a lot of guys in the NFL. A lot of them are training just for maintenance, recovery, and functionality; I do all those things, but then I also do the bodybuilder movements as well.

How has training for football players in particular evolved since your early days?

There is a lot more functional training involved than there used to be. They used to have football players do ballet because we didn’t have enough advanced movements. We weren’t evolved enough in our strength and conditioning programs to teach agility and techniques that would make you more flexible or agile.

Now we have those movements. We also incorporate Pilates, yoga, and drills that mimic ballet to help your feet, agility, and stability. That’s the main difference.

“When I work out I am mostly about functionality and fitness. I do a lot of sprinting, pull-ups, jump squats, and things that keep me functional and athletic.”

How should athletes train differently in their early careers opposed to someone who has been at it for 20 years?

You have to build your foundation. When I first started training I was doing the Olympic movements. I was doing power cleans, squats, bench presses, all in order to be bigger, faster, and stronger as a player. Those are movements that you need as a kid. You need to get deep into your squats, you need to get deep into your bench, you need to do cleans and jerks and all those exercises which build power and explosion.

Once you have that foundation you aren’t going to need to do those things as much and your maintenance has to change. I don’t really do Olympic movements anymore; I still do deadlifts and squats, but I’m not doing power cleans or snatches.

These movements are really hard on the body to do for a long period of time. There’s definitely ways to work on longevity.

Brendon Ayanbedejo:
Watch The Video – 00:54

What tips do you have for improving speed? How important is it in your programming? Are your recommendations different when going from athletes to other people who are physique-oriented?

For speed: You have to teach form, power, and explosion. There are so many different things that you can do. If you want someone to be more aesthetic versus performance-based, then obviously you don’t have to have someone do all those movements, though a lot of those movements do build nice, full muscles.

Look at a sprinter, whether male or a female. Their bodies can compete with those of natural bodybuilders; they look amazing. It’s one thing to look good and perform, and another to just look good and be aesthetic, but either is equally respectable.

What’s a fundamental lesson you learned about training?

“If someone who has struggled their whole life gets into training, they get to sweating, they get to moving, and all of a sudden their life comes together.”

I think one of the most important things is to never be discouraged. The first time you do something, naturally it’s going to be hard. I remember the first time I did Bulgarian squats. I was like, “Man I’m just terrible at these.” I remember the next day I was tremendously sore.

I saw other guys doing so much more weight than me. As you challenge your body with something that is very tough it gradually becomes a little bit easier.

That’s true in life as well. The weight room has been the place where I’ve learned that; it changes people’s lives. If someone who has struggled their whole life gets into training, they get to sweating, they get to moving, and all of a sudden their life comes together.

They drop 30, 40, 50 pounds, and then they’re doing better at work, and they’re excelling socially and economically.

It’s all because a state of mind develops when you do something you’ve never done before. All of a sudden, it explodes in your entire life and that’s amazing. That’s what I love about training.

You were a consistent, healthy player for nearly all your NFL career. How have you fended off injuries over the years?

Time is our biggest enemy and our greatest ally. When you going from age 27 to 37 in professional football, time is working against you, with your hormones, biological clock, and injuries determining how long you can actually play at a high level. It’s not too long, but one thing I was able to do is use great supplementation throughout my whole career.

It’s come a long way to help athletes play longer and stay at a high level. You see that happening now. You see guys playing a lot longer than they were before. The best thing you can do to fend off injuries is to train. Your muscles, your joints, your ligaments—that’s your armor.

The best thing you can do after you train is to put the proper supplements into your body , the proper nutrition that keeps that armor from rusting, from cracking, from breaking, and to keep those joints lubricated. Keep your muscles flexible, keep them healthy, and put the right things in there.

What is your nutritional philosophy?

I have a few basic rules. I try to eat naturally. I don’t want to eat any partially hydrogenated oils. I definitely keep away from saturated fats, I keep away from all the preservatives, and I think that is the easiest way that you can check your diet.

“The best thing you can do after you train is to put the proper supplements into your body.”

I don’t prevent myself from enjoying a nice meal, though. I try to do it the right way, eating as naturally as I can, straight from farm to table, eating fresh foods. I will enjoy everything that’s out there; it’s part of life. I know a lot of these competitors out there, they love to eat, and they have it all on Instagram. If I’m following Jay Cutler, he’s definitely going to have a cheat meal on there, and it’s going to be funny. If it’s a brownie, oh it’s a protein brownie or something.

Me? I’m just going to go get a brownie. It doesn’t have to be a protein brownie, but it does have to be a natural brownie.

What are your current training objectives and plans for the future?

After being in the mindset of “bigger, faster, stronger,” it’s hard to go to a gym and only lift 225, because I want to lift as much as I can. At 37 years old I’m trying to get out of that mindset. I don’t have to be 230 pounds anymore. I want to be 205 pounds, but I want to be the nastiest 205 that you’ve ever seen.

My objective is to be smaller and more compact, but to have better cardiovascular fitness. I want to be able to perform in long distance events. I’ll do a phase of performance-based training, a phase of bodybuilding (but not heavy), and then I’ll go into a power block and do some heavy lifting.

I’m always running something where one muscle is resting and the other is working, so when I go into my power blocks, I have to slow down.

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About The Author

Matt is the Training and Nutrition Specialist for Bodybuilding.com. He has studied Exercise Science and is a competitive strength athlete.

Read More: 

A New Image: Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo Tackles Fitness

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Warm up, Weight lossComments Off on A New Image: Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo Tackles Fitness

Paige Hathaway

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