How and why to bend at the hip


The ‘hip bend’ or ‘hip hinge’ is a movement we perform easily when we are toddlers, but as we grow older and our spine starts to develop, most of us allow this natural flexibility to lapse. This results in us using and depending upon the spine far more than we should. What’s more, this tends to be exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and often leads to lower back pain related injuries. Retaining natural inherent flexibility would help make such injuries completely avoidable. So, it should be obvious why a ‘hip hinge’ compound movement should be mastered and included in our training routines. While this movement is to some extent involved in a squat, there are some subtle differences.

The movement explained

The actual ‘hip hinge’ is best described as being able to bend at the hips, keeping the knees soft, maintaining a neutral spine and being able to end up with your torso parallel to the ground.

Hip hinge problems?

If you are unable to complete the movement this means you will most likely have tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Take this as a reasonably serious warning and start working to correct it, if only to reduce the risk of straining your lower back. It’s worth emphasising that the hip bend is one of the primal movement patterns we as humans should be able to perform.

Once the technique has been mastered and you are able to perform the hip hinge to the extent your torso ends up parallel to the ground you will then be able to develop a repertoire of exercises to help you become stronger in the position, including:

  • the kettlebell swing
  • the deadlift
  • variations of the deadlift (e.g. sumo stance or Romanian deadlift)

These are all classic foundation exercises for any training program, with many transferrable benefits to a variety of sports as diverse as rugby and rowing.

These exercises will also promote:
  • better posture
  • building core strength
  • help the use of all muscles in unison

But remember – technique is everything. 

When performing these exercises, make sure your hips are doing the work.

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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