*puts down barbell after another successful hinge movement* You know what’s so great about deadlifts, the movement is so fundamental and applicable to a healthy life. Not only can it be a point of pride as a fitness goal, but it also helps us pick up laundry baskets from the ground. We greatly appreciate the basics of biomechanics at Primitive and want to share how it factors into the hinge movement.
You might already be wondering what biomechanics is? It’s the study of how bodies and living things are affected by different pushes and pulls to change an object's direction, speed, or shape. Mechanics helps us understand in great detail what is literally happening. Biomechanics helps us understand how we move our bodies, directs our ability to avoid injury, and how to gain the utmost benefit from a movement. When we talk about biomechanics relating to a movement such as the hinge, we’re talking about the nitty gritty on things like knee angle, how wide a stance should be, and foot placement. The result of these different directions and speeds is what moving and exercise is all about. You're welcome. Now let’s get into it!
So what is the deal with our bodies when they are hinging? A hinge, much like a door, is when your body is moving at the hips in an up and down movement. In anatomical terms, we call that a sagittal plane movement. A hinge works the lower half of your posterior chain, which includes hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. When you bend forward your hips are the biggest focus and driving force behind a successful hinge, not the knees. Let’s not forget the supporting muscles as well like packed rhomboids, your core, and maintaining a neutral spine. The reason we rely on the lower posterior chain is because of the power and stability they offer. These muscle groups help take unnecessary strain off of your lower back and knees.
Let’s go into the fundamentals of a hinge movement. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles called the: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and the semitendinosus. These three muscles work together to flex your knee, extend your hip, extend your thigh, and allow your tibia to internally rotate. There are also three gluteal muscles: the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus. These muscles help stabilize the pelvis, hip abduction (moving your leg laterally) , hip extension (pulling your leg backwards), and external rotation of the hip. When you’re hinging, you should be feeling these muscles lengthen the most.
You may be thinking, why can’t I primarily use my lower back to lift something. Have you ever tried to pick something heavy up with your lower back and your body feels a lot of strain? The center of gravity is in the hips, so pull from your hips, not your back. The muscle groups on your lower back are not meant to handle heavy weight alone. The spine and back muscles are stabilizers and act as the central support structure for the entire body. The posterior chain’s job is to support you and offer power, so lifting a heavy weight during a hinge movement should come from the place that is best equipped to handle not just the weight of the load but also your body weight.
Let’s talk about form so you have an idea of what a proper hinge movement should look like. There is a right way and a wrong way to move during a hinge.
A successful hinge is as follows:
- Stand with your feet anywhere from hip to shoulder width apart. Feet parallel with what is known as a tripod foot, that means you're actively gripping the ground with your feet creating contact points at your big toe, little toe, and heel. Screw the legs into the ground, and have a soft bend at the knees.
- This can feel awkward at first, but shift your weight to your heels
- And as we like to say at Primitive, dump that booty back. Make sure your butt is sticking out behind you.
- Keep a resolute posture, that means straight, neutral spine, rhomboids should be squeezed together, and your core must be tight. Also look forward, don't tilt your head. Have a long spine. Imagine a yard stick is behind you and it’s nice and resolute against your spine.
- Lower your upper body until it’s about parallel to the ground, you should be feeling tension and lengthening in your hamstrings and glutes.
- To come back up, use your hamstrings and glute muscles to drive your hips forward like a thrust. Keep a neutral head to hip position, no extension or flexion on the spine in any way.
Keep in mind the center of gravity is at the hips and the best place to handle added weight. If you are shifting, so that your center of gravity needs to change position, then move those hips. Be intuitive with how you are moving your feet, how you are positioning your hips, how you are positioning yourself in relation to the thing you’re trying to reach. Be in tune with your body to know when you are straining because that should be a red flag to move differently. Perhaps, you are a mover lifting something off of a truck – leverage your body to support that weight on your hips and your legs. Foot and hip position will vary based on what you’re lifting. If you’re at the gym, then set up as per the instructions above. But if you’re lifting things for work then you’ll need to adjust hip position and leverage in order to always utilize those posterior chain muscles.
Why are hip hinges so important? They help with everyday activities like running, lifting, cycling, and overall mobility. In physical therapy, patients come in with a back that’s been thrown out after they did something simple, like pick up a pencil from the floor. Incidents like these are an accumulation of all the times you hinged incorrectly. They are the years of moving like crap and having poor mobility. A hinge is important for everyday life so have intention behind what you’re doing and how you’re moving. Keeping mobility is about using those ranges. Oftentimes you may go to the gym and see someone go up in weight but their form looks like garbage. When you commit to a healthy mind and body connection, it requires movement with intention and purpose. Put away the ego when you come to the gym and take ownership of your intentions and what you want to accomplish. Better movement and form is a lifestyle, not a trend or a show.
As Shakira always says, “Hips Don’t Lie”. If that booty ain’t back and your weight isn’t on that posterior chain then you’re doing it wrong. To move correctly, keep in mind why you want this and take ownership for your body and your health. Keep the right form, keep intention behind your movement, and hinge those hips!
Blessings, Coach Adan Martinez