Sure, you spend tons of time stretching and doing mobility drills. But if you climb, bike, or run, there’s an essential movement you’re likely missing: the hip hinge. Here’s the crux of it: When you bend forward from the hips (while maintaining a neutral spine), you’re able to engage your glutes and hamstrings, while minimizing stress on your low back.
You can target this movement through exercises such as deadlifts, hip thrusts, jumps, and squats, strengthening those posterior chain muscles. And the hinge’s benefits go beyond performance. In fact, by working on those critical muscles you’ll improve your posture, power, and stability, helping reduce the risk of low back pain and other injuries.
In the workout below, we’ll incorporate the hip hinge into your strength training exercises. These exercises require one barbell, which you can typically find at a gym. However, you can also swap out the barbell for a set of dumbbells or practice these movements with just your bodyweight. Even without weight, you’ll still build your mobility and functional range of motion.
5 Hip Hinge Exercises
Muscles targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back
How to do it: Place the barbell or weight on the floor in front of your feet. Make sure your legs are hip-width apart. With a straight back, bend your knees and shift your hips forward. When you pick up the barbell, take either an overhand grip or a mixed grip, with one hand underhand and one hand overhand. Make sure to engage your core. (Note: An easy way to do this is to tighten your abs as if you’re about to be punched in the stomach.)
Starting with the barbell at your shins, carefully and slowly, stand up. Avoid the urge to hunch or round your back. Instead, keep your back straight throughout the movement. When you stand, the barbell should hit just below your hips. Slowly lower the weight back to the ground.
Volume: Complete 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions, resting for 2 to 3 minutes between sets.
2. Hip Thrusts
Muscles targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and core
How to do it: For this exercise, you’ll need a bench or box to lean against, which you can typically find at a gym. (And, no, that leftover cardboard box won’t make the cut.) Lay the barbell across your hips. If you’re an advanced lifter, you can opt to load weight plates on either side.
Push your feet into the floor, ensuring that they’re grounded. Bend your knees and lift your hips up until they’re in line with your shoulders. When lifted, your knees, hips, and shoulders should all line up. Hold in this lifted position for a second before slowly lowering back down to the ground.
Volume: Complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, resting for 1 to 2 minutes between sets.
3. Vertical Jump
Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, and calves
How to do it: With your legs hip-width apart, sink into a squat. Engage your quads and glute muscles. Gaining power from your legs, as well as your feet, jump into the air, as high as you can. Use your arms to help propel you upward. Safely land on the ground, with your weight in your heels and your legs in a squat position.
Volume: Complete 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions, resting for 2 to 3 minutes between sets.
4. Box Jumps
What it does: Improves balance and coordination
How to do it: You’ll need a box for this exercise. If you have experience with box jumps, opt for a taller box. If you’re trying this movement out for the first time, select a shorter one. Stand facing the box with your feet about a foot apart. Bend your knees and jump onto the box. Use your arms for momentum. When you land, make sure the weight is equally distributed between your feet. Slowly stand up and dismount from the box by hopping or stepping down.
Volume: Complete 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions, resting for 1 to 2 minutes between sets.
Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core
How to do it: Start by holding the barbell across your back. (You can also choose to do this exercise without any weight.) Make sure you’re not resting the bar directly on your shoulders, but rather on the pocket of space right below your shoulder blades. Ground your feet, shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest lifted and your back straight. Sink down, putting the weight in your heels, as you bend your knees. Pause when your quads are parallel to the floor. Slowly stand up.
Volume: Complete 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, resting for 2 to 3 minutes between sets.
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