Movement errors and transferability part 1 – Don’t be a rusty hinge

Movement errors and transferability part 1 - Don't be a rusty hinge

Of all the movement errors happening in the gym, the hip hinge has to be at the start of the list. Not just because it's common, but because it's probably the most basic, fundamental movement pattern that we express as human beings, even more so than walking. Before we can walk we have to be able to get on and off the bed, the toilet, the couch, the car, the office desk, the floor. A hip hinge is simply the ability to fold forward at the hip.

We all share this basic ability to flex and extend our hips, unfortunately some people do it better than others, and some people don't know how to at all.

Hinging from the hip doesn't just mean being able to open and close your hips, but it means being able to do it without your spine shifting from a neutral position. It's called a hip hinge, not a spinal hinge (yes, trying to maintain that excessive curve in your lower back is voilating the neutral spine principle). A change in spinal position during motion is the recurring phenomenon that pokes it's head through the gym door every day.

The Issue

Say you go to the gym 4x per week. Four hours of super strict concious posturally correct exercise. That's awesome, but there's still 164 hours left in the week. One hundred and sixty four hours of the week where you're probably not being conscious about your postures and positions. We spend the biggest chunk of our lives practicing how to be sub-optimal pieces of machinery.

Practice without consciousness is just repetition, repetition alone doesn't denote progress.


For a lot of people, they've lost the ability to know where certain parts of their body are relative to other parts. I can yell at you to keep your back straight when you deadlift, squat, or even stand, but trying to verbally cue you to a better outcome won't change a thing because you've lost the proprioception required to do so. The neural pathways between your software (brain) and your hardware (body) are lost somewhere down the back of the couch.

What could you do about it

1) Stop slouching you fool

Sit up straight, sit on the floor, stand, squat, kneel. Be concious and avoid being trapt in one position.

2) Reclaim some proprioception

Get a tennis ball or something similar and roll on it on the ground. Give your brain some feedback as to where different segments of your spine actually are.

3) Use a physical cue

Practice hip hinging with a broomstick running the length of your back. The broom's connection with your head, shoulders, and hips will help develop proprioception. If any of these areas aren't connected to the stick, you know something is up.

How to do it

1) Standing with your feet straight, squeeze your butt. Notice your pelvis posteriorly tilts slightly, brace this position with your abs. Think about squeezing in your belly to connect the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your pelvis. This is your neutral spine.

2) Initiate the movement by pushing your hamstrings backward, think about reaching back to a seat. You should feel your hamstrings come on tension. If they don't, you're either bending at the knees too much (this is a squat) or your back is rounded and you've lost your neutral spine.

* Squeezing your butt when you were standing up creates rotation in your hips (torque), this means tension and stability. When your hips go from an extended position to a flexed one it's difficult to squeeze your butt. You can still create stability from the other end of the system - your connection with the floor. Do this by screwing your feet into the ground. Left foot counter clockwise, right foot clockwise.

3) Your finish position will be dictated by your hip mobility. Your torso might be parallel with the ground or it might be pointing to the sky, it doesn't matter. This is the range of motion you can work within right now.

* Your knees will bend, but they wont translate forward. This means that there is no change in position at the ankle, the shins stay vertical. This is what makes the hip hinge different from a squat, and this is a common error people make when swinging a kettlebell.

Movement Transfer

As humans there is really only a handful of gross movement patterns that we express to complete any given task. Even though movements in the gym and in life might look quite different, chances are if you strip them back they're all one of a few basic patterns.

This is why a safe, formal setting such as a gym is a great way to learn movements before adding load, speed, fatigue (sport/life). Taking a skill that is very foreign and requires consciousness to perform in the gym and perfecting it means that when you're back in real life and you need to pick something off the floor quickly and subconsciously you will default to an optimal movement pattern.

When It comes to performing movements during a workout or sport, knowing how basic movement patterns transfer from one exercise to another simplfies the learning process. It also means that when you're blowing hard and you're pushing the bodies ability to maintain positions and postures under all kinds of load and speed you'll have a much greater chance of being efficent and safe. Also, the safest way to organise and move your body is also the most advantageous for performance, the physiology is the same.

The video below demonstrates how a simple hip hinge translates to deadlifts, kettlebell swings, burpees, rowing, and jumping, just to name a few.

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