Zero to One: Unhinging the Deadlift

3 ways to approach the hinge for beginners.

In strength training, the hinge is a “secret” weapon. It helps you build strong hamstrings and allows us to access the power of your butt. It’s a secret because, to most gym goers, it’s not a movement that’s easily learned. It’s much less trouble to sit on a machine and push or pull a bar or handle.

A strong hinge will give you a stronger body, but it's not easy to learn. Here are 3 drills you can use to get started!

Hip Bridge

The hip bridge seems silly until you try it. You’ll feel things in your core and glutes that you’ve never felt before. Here are the finer points:

    1) Start on your back, with your knees bent and feet close to your butt. 

    2) Grab a yoga block, pad or foam roll and place it between your knees. 

    3) Take a deep breath, crush the pad, and push your feet through the floor raising your hips towards the ceiling. 

    4) When you run out of breath, lower yourself down. 

    5) Reset. Deep breath. Go again.

    This is a great movement for those with back pain or limited mobility. Be mindful that the goal is not to get your hips as high as you can. Instead, the focus is just on syncing your breath, pushing your feet down into the floor and squeezing your butt. You don’t want any extension from the lower back.

Butt to Wall

    Hinging comes easier to some people if they have a target. Reaching your butt to a wall gives you the chance to explore the movement and feel tension build in your hamstrings and butt. Adding a mini-band below the knees adds a whole other layer to this drill and makes things that much more “fun.” 

    1) Start with your heal against the wall.

    2) Place your other foot in front of your first foot. This determines your starting distance.

    3) With your feet hip width apart, and toes slightly turned out, slightly bend your knees and reach your butt back. Reach back, not down!

    4) When you tap the wall, push your feet through the floor to stand back up.

    5) Take a small step away from the wall and repeat. Continue until it’s difficult to reach the target, and that’s where you’ll live while you experience this drill.

    Remember, your butt is going back for the wall, not down. If your butt goes down like a squat, you won’t hit the target. The knees bend a little bit, but make sure you reach back, not down. Your knees should be below your hips, and your hips should be below your shoulders.

Kettlebell Bottom Iso

    Once you feel comfortable loading tension in your hamstrings and butt, a bottom iso might be the final step before you pick a bell up. This drill reinforces the “butt to wall” motion, then teaches the upper body tensions that’s also needed to perform the deadlift. 

    1) Start with your feet hip width apart and toes turned out slightly.

    2) Guide your butt back, just like the previous drill, and let your arms hang to find the handle.

    3) While maintaining your lower body tension, grip the handle and push your shoulders away from your ears to engage your lats.

    4) Next, keeping lower and upper body tension, breath. Take slow breaths through your nose and try to get the breath deep into your hips. 

    5) Repeat 5 breaths, then release your grip and push your feet through the floor to stand.

    You may feel slightly light headed after a set, so be careful as you stand up. Just like the butt to wall drill, look in the mirror or have someone watch you to make sure your knees are below your hips and your hips are below your shoulders. 

   The hinge one of the first movement patterns to deteriorate as we age, so maintaining it might mean a higher quality of life as we get older. If ANYTHING feels pinchy, painful or weird, consult a movement professional. You might be doing everything right, accept your body has a restriction that limits your ability to move. A foam roll to the quad or breathing drill might clear you right up! 

Learn the Hinge!

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