The Hip Hinge – What, Why, And How

What is it?

The hip hinge is arguably the most important pattern in all of athletic development.  Virtually all athletic movement is initiated from the hip in some format or another. The foundation of the hip hinge lies in the athletic stance and vice versa.  As athletes develop, every move they make – sprinting, jumping, landing – all involve motion at the hips. This is extremely important for strength and power development as well as long term health.  The hip hinge is built around what is known as the “Posterior chain”, the powerhouse muscles of athletic performance which are the glutes, hamstrings, and lumbar erectors.



The ability to lock the lumbar spine in a neutral position and create movement from the hip joint.  Stuart McGill has shown repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar spine increases the risk of disc injury (McGill S.,2007).  The glutes control the pelvis, and a lack of control can create many problems, from hamstring strains to vertebral stress fractures, and beyond.  The inability to lock the spine results in a power leak, power output is lost through a lack of stiffness.  A spine that is unstable, or “not stiff” cannot transmit force that is developed in the hips.


The RDL or Romanian deadlift is the exercise of choice for the hip hinge pattern. It is a compound movement that develops the entire posterior chain from the head to the ankles.


  1. Feet – hip width apart – like performing a vertical jump
  2. Knees slightly bent – the knee angle doesn’t change in the RDL, it remains fairly constant. Shin angle remains vertical.
  3. Neutral spine and pelvis – flexing the spine is a big injury risk, especially when loaded with weight. This goes for hyperextending the spine as well.
  4. Push the hips back – focus on shifting the hips posteriorly – weight is lowered just below knees or until limited by hamstring flexibility.
  5. Scapular retraction/ Lat tightness – lats assist in lumbar stability – teach athletes to pull the armpits into the hips will stabilize the spine and minimize shear forces.
  6. Neutral head position – head and spine stay in alignment.



PVC on Spine- maintain 3 points of contact – head, midback, and pelvis. 

Wall/ Foam Roller- 3-6 inches from wall or use 36” foam roller.  Reach back and touch the wall with posterior weight shift.

Bands – I also like to add bands around the hips to pull the athletes’ hips posteriorly and have the athlete in sock or barefoot and place a bands on the ground where the athlete has to maintain contact with the ground with 3 points of contact (big toes, little toe, heel).


Landmine RDL – path of the barbell takes the athlete into posterior shift. 

Band/ Cable Assisted – use the bands attached above shoulder height. The bands or cables assist in the countermovement of the hip hinge. 


Unloaded PVC RDL – movement patterning, PVC stays close to body.

KB/DB/Plate Loaded RDL – advance to holding weight – can also alter the height the weight is lifted from with block. 


Barbell RDL – Advance to holding a barbell – keep barbell close to body.

SL RDL – advance to single leg pattern.

Trap Bar RDL  – advance to Trap Bar – alters the hand positioning and shortens the lever arm which can reduce shearing forces.

Dumbbell RDL  – advance to Dumbells

Once this movement pattern is established it opens up many more patterns such as:

Trap Bar deadlift – does not require as much hip mobility as conventional deadlift.

Conventional deadlift – slightly less hamstring focus

Kettlebell Swing  – RDL is a fundamental component of the Kettlebell swing movement.

Common Faults

Bend over but doesn’t shift weight – hips move back only, must create spine and hip separation. Bands or Wall drill.

Knees bend on the way down – can be associated with hamstring tightness. Keep a constant knee angle.

Back rounds – Must teach the separation of the spine from the hip. Shoulders and hips go back and don’t straighten knees. PVC on Spine can assist.

Shoulder rounds – pinch shoulders and pull bar towards them, engage the lats and back musculature. Band resisted PVC RDL.



  • McGill S. Low back disorders: Evidence‐based prevention and rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2007

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