The hinge is a foundational movement pattern. It requires total body control as you maintain a rigid trunk while loading your posterior muscles. This means that your hips move horizontally back and forth, usually against some form of resistance. If you want a strong back, big butt, and superhuman strength… you need to be building this movement pattern.
Hinging is different from squatting in that a squat requires a change of position in the shin (lower leg) due to flexion in the ankle, squatting also has more of a vertical movement in the hips. Both movements are foundational and require similar muscles like the legs and trunk for movement, but each movement has it’s unique emphasis on strength development.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on variations of the hinge as it trains the back muscles through more movement and has carryover into bulletproofing the back and minimizing back pain. So long as the form is correct and programming is appropriate.
Unfortunately, this move is notorious for terrible technique and cringe worthy execution. Search deadlift on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of clips with slinky spines and scary PRs.
My goal is to provide you with some variations that you can execute and can reference the videos for technique. How this fits in a program is a bit more complicated as there are other factors that play a role: exercise history, goals, injury history, etc...
If questions about selecting exercise specifically for you and your goals, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work something out.
The videos below demo technique and execution for some of my favorite hinge variations. I like having variations for a bunch of several reasons:
A variation can be appropriate for one person and not another depending on exercise experience and injury history. A good movement screen can help you with this.
I get bored of doing the same thing, most people do too. Having a variety allows you to follow a program loading scheme while getting a break from the monotony. That being said, some programs require you to train a specific variation, sorry.
Smart training = proper adaptation. This means that smart variations and programming for the hinge can help build strong muscles for the back and glutes, while increasing bone density and improving the movement pattern. All of which are important for bullet proofing the back. Which tends to be notorious for being in pain.
Checkout my go to variations:
Elevated/Rack conventional stance deadlifts
The higher the starting position, the less distance the weight has to travel. This is beneficial for beginners as it teaches or shortened version of the movement. It can also be beneficial to seasoned lifters as it can allow them to lift heavier weights with good form.
Known as Romanian deadlifts, essentially like the deadlift except the count of reps begins from the top and you stop before reaching the ground. I like to aim for mid shin. Sit back into your hips and keep your knees over your ankles to maximize loading of the posterior chain muscles. RDLs tend to have a straighter leg to increase mechanical tension in the hamstrings and calves. I like to use dumbbells with this version (kettlebells work too) because you can keep the weights to your side and load the spine more directly instead of anteriorly (front), it makes it a bit more spine friendly.
Single leg Romanian deadlifts (SLRDL) are unilateral (one leg) hinge movements. These are great for training stability through the down leg and also challenging the ability to maintain a rigid trunk while being unbalanced. Similar to running and other gait pattern training. For added difficulty, using weight while doing this increases the intensity and mechanical stress on the muscles involved.
If needed, a wall or post may be used for assistance.
The goal here is to maintain a neutral spine while loading the down leg, that means no flexion, extension, or rotation throughout the movement.
Elevated/Rack hybrid stance deadlifts
A wider foot stance can take some pressure off you back, literally. The wider stance used in the hybrid variation help a lifter sit deeper into the hips and load these muscles more so then the conventional. Part of the reason is the hips tend to be a further back and allowing a more vertical spine as long as you can maintain a vertical shin. This can be a game changer for people with low back issues as you can now shift the load slightly off the back region. The wide stance also tends to shorten the distance that the bar travels to the highest position so there is less time under load as well.
Double banded glute bridges
This exercise is a progression from the regular glute bridge. Your lying on the ground which adds support to your torso, having a band around your knees and hips adds extra resistance to the move and therefore more muscular activation. These can be great for activation drills, warm up, and can also be pretty brutal for an end of the workout pump.
Need these moves dialed in more specifically for you?
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