Learning to Hinge: Hip Hinge Exercises for Beginners

Hinging is one of the key movement patterns within resistance training. If you are looking to use resistance training to improve your health, hinging will be a crucial part of your resistance training programme. It is also one of the most challenging to learn and perform with technical precision. This means that beginners need to be very intentional about how they learn this movement for their long term success.

7 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
19/12/23
Last updated
08/01/24

Get weekly roundups of the best training tools in your inbox, every Monday.

No spam – just thoughtful training advice

In This Resource
  • What Is the Hip Hinge
  • Why Hip Hinging is Important
  • Health
  • Athletic Performance
  • Why Learning to Hip Hinge is Challenging
  • Mobility
  • Body Awareness and Coordination
  • First Steps When Learning to Hinge
  • Intentional Learning / Teaching Straight Leg vs Conventional Hinging
  • Hip Hinge Exercises for Beginners

What Is the Hip Hinge

The hinge is a movement category within resistance training that is used to strengthen primarily the posterior chain. It is named after a hinge joint, as the movement of the hinge resembles exactly that of a hinge joint. The hinge is a movement category, meaning there are many exercises that can be used to hinge, have a look through our hinge movement library if you’re interested in an extensive hinge exercise list .

Why Hip Hinging is Important

Health

Being able to hinge correctly, will allow you to perform a wide variety of exercises within the hinge movement category. This will enable you to build strength and muscle mass, especially as hinging is one of the most important movement categories for creating full body strength adaptations through the deadlift. If you’re not aware of all the health benefits of resistance training, have a read through our editorial piece on why resistance training is medicine .

Athletic Performance

The hip hinge is a crucial piece in successfully training for athletic performance. It will allow you to build a strong posterior chain, which will allow you to eventually build to a powerful posterior chain through learning the olympic lifts. The hinge movement is, along with the squat, the movement that will allow you to improve your full body strength, which will enable you to improve your athletic performance.

Why Learning to Hip Hinge is Challenging

We often talk about how functional resistance training is. However, although resistance training is extremely beneficial for day to day life, that doesn’t mean that the movements show up in day to day life. We live in a society where almost no movement is required, so hinging throughout your day is likely never to happen unless you already know the skill and apply it.

This makes hinging hard to do properly, the hinge requires a slight bend in the knees and the hips, then lowering the chest towards the floor whilst keeping the lower back arched and the hips high. This doesn’t feel natural, especially if its your first time doing the exercise.

Mobility

Often times the hinge can be very challenging to learn due to mobility restrictions. When we lack mobility in the hips, hamstrings and lower back moving through the hinge pattern can be very challenging and makes the range of motion available very small. The best thing to do is to perform it as much as possible with good technique and then stop, rather than lengthening the movement through using poor technique.

Body Awareness and Coordination

It is very rare that we need to be precisely aware of the small movements we perform with the hips. Using an anterior pelvic tilt is crucial to performing the hinge with good technique. Performing this movement is very challenging for a lot of beginners. Practicing the anterior pelvic tilt in a warm up can be a great way to learn to understand correct hip positioning for the hinge. This can be done using a cat camel , where we perform both the anterior pelvic tilt and poterior pelvic tilt.

First Steps When Learning to Hinge

The first step when learning to hinge (once the posterior pelvic tilt has been explained) is to use an exercise like a wall touch to practice the hinge using just your bodyweight. The wall touch is brilliant because it will allow you to use an external cue to guide your movement. Remember we need to maintain back positioning throughout the movement.

Once the wall touch has been mastered, then we can move onto the other exercises in this list, which are usually very light weight, bilateral hinge variations. Try and avoid unilateral hinging until you have developed the bilateral hinge point to a good skill level.

Intentional Learning / Teaching Straight Leg vs Conventional Hinging

Hinging consists of many different exercises, this includes the straight leg deadlift and conventional deadlift variations. These are very similar yet very different and need to be differentiated from the beginning of the learning process. The key difference between them is that in the straight leg deadlift, when the weight passes the knees, the knees do not bend any further. In the conventional deadlift, when the weight passes the knees, the knees bend and the hips travel downward towards the floor. In this list I provide a mixture of both straight leg and conventional variations, both of them are excellent for beginners as long as the difference between the two is explained from the beginning.

Hip Hinge Exercises for Beginners

The wall touch is the most entry level of the exercises in this list and can be a great way to test out the hinge movement pattern and see if your able to perform it with good technique. It really depends on you or your clients abilities if this is part of either the warm up or part of the workout, I have used it in both with my clients.

The Sumo KB Deadlift is a great way to work around mobility barriers, through widening the stance the mobility restrictions will be slightly less of an issue. This means that the emphasis can be on technique and learning, making the exercise perfect for beginners.

The seated good morning can be done with or without weights. This exercise done without weights is very much like the wall touch. Some individual will find it easier others more challenging. In one respect it doesn’t require the knees to be involved which helps some individuals, in another respect it requires all the movement to be initiated from the hips which can be very complicated for others.

The KB deadlift is one of the best ways for beginners to take their first steps in the conventional deadlift. I highly advice mastering the KB deadlift hinge variation before touching any barbell variations. For a beginner, a great deal of strength can be gained through the KB deadlift even whilst technique is still being mastered.

The wide stance kettlebell straight leg deadlift uses a similar position to the KB sumo deadlift however it is just the straight leg alternative. It has exactly the same benefits, helping work around any movement restrictions and understand the movement pattern.

If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein

Signature

Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

Programme learns from your past workouts, training experience and available equipment to create your optimal workout plan that adapts to your progress.