NPR recently did a story on how the art of the hip hinge has been lost on Americans and is probably why so many of us suffer from back pain.
The hip hinge, if you are not familiar, is a movement that involves bending at only the hips (not the waist) and requires the muscles on the back of your hips and legs (specifically, the glutes and hamstrings) to do the work.
In countries where squatting and bending happen regularly as part of daily life, people tend to bend more like a “table top”, maintaining the positioning of their spine as they fold forward.
The hip hinge requires that your core muscles do the work of supporting your spine, rather than folding at your spine and letting the smaller muscles of your low back bear the weight of your heavy head and upper body.
Will learning proper spinal bracing and core stabilization help with back pain? Sure.
But is it the only thing you need to do for the rest of time? Not at all!
Most people have never learned to hip hinge, which is why I make a point to teach it to all of my students, both in person and inside Structurally Sound Online. Without the hip hinge, we tend to allow our entire spine to bend, making it look more like a cashew.
My hip hinge background began only 7 years ago when I started lifting weights. Without the hip hinge, lifting things (including your grocery bag!) can become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Our spines are made to move, but moving too often into that rounded shape, and then adding external weight to it, like your groceries, can absolutely lead to back pain and stiffness.
Here’s where the NPR story got it wrong – the hip hinge is great and an essential skill to learn, but that doesn’t mean you should only hip hinge from now until eternity.
Deciding to move only with your spine perfectly braced in neutral for the rest of time will make you better at that ONE movement. But it also means that your spine will become less flexible in every other direction of movement. “Use it or lose it” – the spine (and all of its disks, ligaments, and soft tissues) will continue to become less resilient as you use them less.
So should you learn to hip hinge? Yes, absolutely. And you can do so in my video below.
But should you also learn to move your spine in flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation? Also, YES.
Writing off one movement as bad or “never do again” only sets your body up to be less resilient to the weird positions we sometimes find ourselves in (like trying to crawl over someone at the movies to get the best seat in Black Panther). And being resilient means you (and your tissues) are strong, flexible and elastic.
Your spine should be strong in ALL directions – not just the hip hinge.
Move your body in all the ways it was designed to do and you will set yourself up for moving better in the long run. Movement begets more movement!
Are you a hip hinger or spine bender? And knowing what you know now, are you going to change? Let me know in the comments below!
Are you tired of your neck aching after crunches and core work makes your eyes roll HARD? Join me for my upcoming free online masterclass, Why Crunches are not the Best Way to Build Core Strength. Learn more and save your spot by clicking here!