How to Do a Hip Hinge

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Hip hinge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Butt and hip exercise, wall hip hinge, dowel rod hip hinge, band resistance hip hinge

Targets: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, erector spinae (low back), adductors, and quadriceps muscles. The core muscles are also recruited during this exercise. 

Equipment Needed: Wooden dowel or PVC pipe

Level: Intermediate 

The hip hinge is an exercise designed to primarily target the posterior chain, otherwise known as your “backside.” The muscles that make up the posterior chain include the glutes, hamstrings, and low back. This exercise also relies on your core or abdominal muscles to assist in the movement. 

When you hinge at the hips, your spine stays neutral and the bend should occur right at your hips. If your lower back is doing the hinging or bending, this will cause pain and reduce the range of motion of the movement. 

Learning how to properly hinge at the hips is a skill. It may take you several attempts to correctly perform the hip hinge exercise.

Benefits

The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that helps you perform essential tasks such as bending over and picking things up. It’s also required in many strength training movements such as the deadlift, barbell hyperextension, straight-leg dumbbell deadlift, kettlebell swing, power clean, and more. 

Additionally, the hip hinge exercise can help strengthen your core which may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk. Stronger core muscles can also boost your fitness and athletic performance. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. 
  2. Place the dowel vertically on your back. Grasp one end with your right hand in the natural curve of your neck and the other end with your left hand in the small of your back. Make sure the dowel is touching the back of your head, your upper back, and the area where your low back meets your butt (sacrum). 
  3. Shift your weight to your heels and push your hips back towards the wall behind you while you hinge forward at the hips. To get a better idea of how to do this, think about sticking your butt out behind you. As you hinge, the dowel should not lose contact with those three points. If it does, you know you’re doing the move incorrectly.
  4. Lower your torso until it’s midway between vertical and parallel to the floor. Pause. Keep a slight bend in your knees during the downward and upward phase. 
  5. Reverse the movement by contracting your glutes and pushing your hips forward and upward to return to the starting position. 

    Common Mistakes

    Equating the Move With a Squat

    Contrary to what many people may believe, the hip hinge is not the same thing as a squat. This is a common misconception among many gym-goers, but one look at the joints involved in each exercise, and it’s easy to see how different they are. When you squat, it’s your knee joint that determines the movement pattern. But when you hinge, the movement starts at the hips first, hence the emphasis on the hips. 

    Not Engaging Your Core Muscles

    This exercise requires you to engage your core through the entire movement. If you relax these muscles, you risk dipping your hips as you hinge, which can make your lower back dip. This can cause pain in your lower back. 

    Using the Lower Back to Hinge

    A common mistake is to bend or hinge with the lower back rather than originating the movement from the hips. Using the wall as a guide can help reduce and even eliminate excessive bending at the waist. 

    Allowing the Dowel to Lose Contact With Your Body

    When the dowel loses contact with one or more of the three original setup positions on your back, it means you’re not doing the move correctly. If your head is coming off the dowel, you’re most likely flexing your neck forward. And if your losing contact with the sacrum or low back area you’re likely flexing your spine too much during the movement. When the dowel comes off your mid-back, that typically means you’re squatting at the knees rather than hingeing at the hips. 

    Modifications and Variations

    Need a Modification?

    There’s no denying that the hip hinge is a challenging movement that requires a lot of practice. If you’re not able to perform it correctly after a few tries, you may need to modify the move. 

    An easy way to make the hip hinge more user-friendly is to use the wall as a guide. To do this, stand with your back facing the wall about three inches away from it. Start hinging at the hips by touching your butt to the wall (stick your butt out to do this). Make sure to keep a neutral spine and a nice flat back. This is a short distance, so it should be fairly simple to accomplish.

    Once you can do this several times, try stepping out another inch or two and perform the same modified hip hinge. Stick with this pattern until you are completely away from the wall and able to do a full hip hinge. 

    Up for a Challenge?

    If you’ve mastered the basic hip hinge, you might be wondering how to make it more advanced. An excellent way to make this move more difficult is to use a kettlebell. Start with the kettlebell swing exercise and progress to more challenging moves using the kettlebell. 

    Finally, you can put the hip hinge into action by performing a deadlift exercise. If you’re just getting comfortable with this movement, make sure to use a weight that is on the lighter side. The focus is on the form, not the amount of weight you can lift. 

    Safety and Precautions

    If you feel back pain during any part of this movement, stop what you’re doing and check your form. You may need to modify or decrease how far you hinge at the hips. If the pain continues, discontinue the exercise and talk with your doctor or a physical therapist before trying it again. 

    The dowel is a great tool to help you maintain a neutral spine. If you’re unable to perform the hip hinge while keeping the dowel in contact with the three main points on your body, you might benefit from working with a personal trainer or physical therapist that can walk you through the steps with correct form. 

    Try It Out

    Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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