Master the Hip Hinge To Protect and Strengthen Your Lower Back

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Learning how to hinge from the hips is the difference between putting lifting stresses in your lower body and your lower back.


The lower trunk contains some of the largest and most powerful muscles of the body. It is designed to handle large loads. The problem is that we don't typically leverage these strong muscles properly and we end up kicking into our lower back muscles instead which are much smaller and less powerful by comparison. (Not to mention that it leads to pain and injury).


So if you can learn to hinge at the hips and control your glutes properly, you not only minimize your lower back injury risk but you strengthen your lumbar spine and make it more durable in the long run.


Priority #1 - Learn how to create a neutral spine


Having a neutral spine simply means that you're maintaining a position that goes along with the spine's natural curves.


The cervical and lumbar spines are naturally lordotic (arched) while the thoracic spine is naturally kyphotic (rounded).


Here are three drills you can use to practice holding and bracing from a neutral spine position.


Dowel hip hinge


Having a dowel for feedback allows you to tell whether you're actually maintaining a neutral spine when it otherwise might be hard to tell.


It can be done in a kneeling (easier) or standing (harder) position based on your skill level.

Cat-Cow


To understand what a neutral spine is you need to explore your spine's range of motion. This pose, originating from yoga, puts your spine through flexion and extension. A neutral spine is the in-between of flexion and extension and learning what these ranges feel like makes it easier to lock into that correct position. Make sure you know what each motion feels like.


Priority #2 - Learn how to use your glutes


As I mentioned before, leveraging your large powerful leg muscles is key to protecting your lower back. And your glutes are the largest most powerful muscle in your body.


A few of my favourite glute activation exercises (in order of progression) are:


Hip extensions (can be progressed with banded resistance)


Glute bridges (can be progressed with weights or single leg variations)

Box Squats (can be progressed with load and box height)