3 Fixes for the Hip Hinge

*Note from Sarah: Please welcome Jeromie Preas, the newest part of our team here at Everyday Paleo and one of our awesome trainers/moderators over at Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness! Jeromie first blogged for us back in October and now he’s here to stay with monthly contributions that will, in Jeromie’s words, help you “Move Often and Move Smart!”

3 Fixes for the Hip Hinge

I know it was posted in October, but I hope you’ve been working on a proper hip hinge. As a trainer, I wanted to address three common things I like to “fix” with clients. I say “fix” because there’s a trend in the fitness industry that there are “right” and “wrong” ways to move. I disagree. I would say there’s more optimal and less optimal. In order to understand the first critique, I want to introduce you to the righting reflex.

The righting reflex is the way your body corrects itself when it’s taken out of its normal upright position. When you lead with the head, the rest of the body follows; this is why a cat always lands on its feet. When it comes to hip hinging, the natural inclination is to initiate the movement with the head up looking forward. This is your righting reflex at work. It can be very effective when you’re lifting maximal loads, but when you’re training submaximal loads, you’re training in a position of increased cervical extension. This leads me to my first fix.

1. Keeping a neutral head position

When you’re in the start position of your deadlift, which position do you think is more optimal at keeping your neck in a position of minimal strain?

Head Position 1

If you chose “A” you are correct.
The way I like to explain my correction to clients is how would you finish the deadlift?

Head Position 2

If you chose “A”, you are correct.
You should be able to see how starting in the first position “B”, and keeping all things stable and rigid, would mean you would finish in the second position “B”. That’s quite far fetched because of the righting reflex, but exaggerations make for great teaching tools. I use the cue “tuck your chin” when the client is in the starting position. You could also have them pretend they’re trying to hold a tennis ball or an apple against their neck using their chin. Because facial drivers can help, looking up (without moving your head) and pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth can help you feel like your head is up, without actually having your head up. This will help clients start the movement the same way they finish. Speaking of finishing positions, this leads me to my second fix.

2. Finishing your hinge with hip extension

This should seem obvious: if you’re doing a hip hinge, standing up and finishing the movement would equate to hip extension. Except our bodies are the greatest compensators. For example, in both of these deadlifts, the lovely model Nicole has stood all the way up. Can you tell which one she finished with her hips and which one she compensated by using her lumbar spine?

Hip vs. Lumbar Extension

If you answered that “A” is hip extension, you are correct.
Both deadlifts appear as though she stood all the way up, but one used hip extension and the other used her lower back to compensate. Notice how her ribs flare up in photo “B”, as well. Kinda hard to get an ab workout when you force one of its attachments way up like that. And yes, you should be getting an “ab workout” every time you life heavy because your core should be braced to keep your middle stable when you lift. As awkward as it sounds, as you’re standing up from your hinge, pretend you have a dollar bill between your cheeks and you don’t want to drop it. You’ll be able to stand up and extend your hips without as much extension coming from your low back. For the third fix, I’d like to discuss standing up.

3. Utilizing the posterior chain in the hip hinge

The muscles involved in the hip hinge are primarily the large muscles of the posterior hip: the glutes and the hamstrings. In an anterior dominant society, our quads and hip flexors tend to want to take the brunt of the load, including exercises intended for muscles of the posterior chain. This is better seen with movement, so I filmed a quick video to show the difference between loading the glutes and hamstrings and loading the quads:

If you watch the bar path in the first three deadlifts off the rack, Nicole was able to keep her weight shifted back to load her glutes and hamstrings. She then stopped and changed the bar path to load the quads by shooting her knees forward as soon as the bar passed them. You want to make sure to keep your weight back so your knees stay behind the path of the bar. As I mention earlier, this doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and it’s definitely not wrong to train the anterior chain, but it’s my opinion that hip hinging exercises should be loading the backside, not the front. Save that for squats.

These are just three of the things that I look for when I am coaching the hip hinge in person and online. If you want your hinge checked out, be sure to join Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness where I critique hinging on a regular basis.

Move Often. Move Smart.


  1. Amanda says

    This post exemplifies why you are one of the Awesomest. Coaches. Ever. Details people, details. I love that you take the time to explain all the little details because I’m always thinking about them when I’m lifting and wondering about all the intricate little movements going on. Love EPLifeFit, love your coaching, love this article – keep ’em comin!

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