As the name suggests, Theme Overview pages are designed to give you a summary of the coaching themes that are being coached within this Exercise Category Theme. This page is also designed to signpost you to more detail on these coaching topics.
To follow the progressions described here in the Exercise Encyclopedia hit the Filter button and then select Hinge
You can find and follow the Hinge progressions through the Exercise Encyclopedia by using the filter function to select the Hinge as Exercise Category and then choose from one of Deadlift, Nordic, Glute-Ham and Thrust sub-categories and go from there.
I have split the Hinge Exercise Category into 4 Sub-Categories which are Deadlifting, Glute-Ham, Thrusting and Nordic. While every sub-category shares common principles of hip hinging, exercise progression targets the hamstrings and posterior chain in a sufficiently different way as to require special consideration within our programming.
This page will provide an overview of the various coaching strategies that these exercise progressions allow us to coach.
THE HINGE-CORRECTIVE THEME
The image below is a summary of the Corrective Theme of the Hinge Exercise Category (for the entire Hinge Category visual go here. The 4 Sub-Categories are detailed at the top (Deadlift, Nordic, Glute-Ham and Thrust) and underneath those headings are the associated variations. This may seem an over the top classification to some, but for me it provides an entire map of the terrain for very intentional posterior chain exercise selection enabling me to make very intentional and highly specific exercise selections.
SUMMARY OF THE PURPOSE OF THE CORRECTIVE THEME
The Corrective Theme is the initial phase of a 4-part movement hierarchy.
The Corrective Theme contains exercises and exercise progressions ladders which promote good movement quality first. Here we expose range of motion defecits & poor co-ordination that will derail progression & transfer of training. Exercises in the Corrective Theme stimulate reflexive stabilisation in optimal postures at priority joints with dynamic control that will scale to support more complex exercise variations.
[To read more about how Coaching Themes are used to improve communication go here]
CLASSIFYING SOMEONE AS A CORRECTIVE LEVEL HIP HINGER
In my coaching, I will return to the Corrective Theme in 3 different scenarios:
- Experienced athlete with poor movement
- Rehabilitating athletes
- Beginner athletes.
For experienced athletes: these are the exercises that I use every day to re-establish desirable movement patterns in experienced athletes whose techniques might have drifted. The assumption here is that by introducing my theoretically more optimal stabilisation strategy I can reach higher levels of sports performance and lower risk of injury in the future. An investment for the athlete.
Example: You begin training a seasoned athlete who’s already loading Romanian Deadlift, Nordic, Sumo Deadlift or Hip Thrust exercises. From experience there’s 3 undesirable habits that creep in:
a) they have something resembling braced lumbar neutral but often over-extend at the most hip-flexed position, searching for a hamstring stretch. Lumbo-pelvic control is lost, the spine is changing shape under dynamic load.
b) don’t finish the repetition with full hip extension (what I call True Hip Extension) and thus miss the opportunity to engrain full triple extension mechanics which carry over into performance and injury prevention. Anterior trunk anti-extensors have been overridden by the lumbar extensors trying to assist in hip extension.
c) they shoulders get dragged into depression-with the scapula abducted around the rib cage. Powerlifters might get drawn into these positions under near maximal loads, but that’s not conducive to shoulder health and performance in our system. Here we miss an opportunity to centre the humeral head and stabilise the shoulder girdle on top of a stiffened lumbar spine.
I may not go all the way back to Level 1 with these athletes but I will need to regress to more highly constrained exercises (to teach the stabilisation mechanics that I want- e.g., a Good Morning at Level 3) and reduce load to manageable level also. These athletes often quickly return to pre-intervention loads quite quickly (1 week or so) with more desirable movements since they already possess the strength.
For rehabs: These are the exercises that after injury we revisit to restore optimal movement patterning through the repair site before progressing.
Depending on the injury, athletes will often have adopted an adaptive posture or dynamic postures around a painful injury site. Once cleared to begin exercise we can use progressions across this training system from the Corrective Theme to reintroduce reactive stabilisation strategies, under very controllable and easily progressed loads.
Example: In the Hinge Sub Category this could be a cricket bowler returning from a lumbar stress fracture. Having had periods of complete shutdown and then activities of normal daily life we can anticipate regression of lumbar pelvic control and strength to that of someone who sits at a desk all day or vegetates on a sofa when they return to training.
Hip Hinging represents an important part of this athlete’s long term rehabilitation to enable them to generate and distribute load effectively through the trunk once again. The Hinge Category provides multiple logical pathways forwards which are all rooted in a theoretical optimal stabilisation strategy for the spine.
For beginners: This is the toolbox of exercises that I use to ensure the foundational principles of coordination are in place in inexperienced athletes. Most exercises in the Corrective Theme can be progressively loaded to some extent and used to create adaptive responses to strength training which is why I use them over what we would traditionally consider corrective exercises (low load, high volume repetitive ‘patterning drills’).
COACHING THEMES IN THE HINGE-CORRECTIVE
The Corrective Theme for Hinge-Deadlift is perhaps one of the most important exercise progressions of this training system. I believe that Saggital Plane Lumbo-Pelvic Control is the most foundational athletic skill that we can teach our athletes owing to its importance in both shoulder and hip function. As such this progression is the foundation of this entire training philosophy.
Below is a list of foundational movement competency themes which the Hinge-Corrective Theme layers one-by-one. By the end of the Hinge-Corrective Theme progressions you will have taught and levels 1-6 and combined them all together.
The Corrective Theme teaches:
- Hips must go back to counterbalance the shoulders hinging forwards.
- Saggital-plane lumbo-pelvic control under dynamic, functionally relevant and highly trainable movementsLumbar spine posture is unchanged during the Hinge motion.
- Weight is distributed through the mid-foot with the big toe & heel gripping the floor to anchor the hip.
- Each hinge starts and finishes with True Hip Extension.
- Eyes gaze toward the floor to avoid excessive cervical extension.
For context, these are the other Hinging skills that are taught later in this movement hierarchy (Fundamental, Challenge or Mastery phases).
- Centering of the humeral head under distraction loads (i.e., an active, stable shoulder using the stable lumbar spine as a platform (e.g, Romanian Deadlift- Fundamentals Theme)
- Triple extension of hips, knees and ankles in hinging motion (e.g., Deadlift– Challenge Theme)
- Controlling transverse plane demands during single leg hip hinging (e.g., Arabesque with DB-Challeng Theme)
- High speed hip hinging (e.g., Kettlebell Swings- Fundamentals Theme)
OK, so let’s cover each of these movement themes 1-by-1.
1. Hips must go back to counterbalance the shoulders hinging forwards.
Characteristic of all hinging motions in standing is the counterbalancing of the shoulders hinging forwards with the hips going back to maintain centre of mass over the mid-foot. Kneeling Hip Hinging is a task which forces an athlete to do this lest they faceplate.
Ultimately (in every standing exercise I can think of) we want the resultant centre of mass of body and bar to be balanced through the mid-foot, weight slightly towards the heel. Becoming balanced on the mid-foot (toward the heel) with an active arch, is a generalist ability that has relevance to agile, multidirectional sports movements. It allows the athlete to manipulate centre of pressure through the foot. and is a move away from the “weight through the heels” type coaching cue.
The early Level 1 and Level 2 step of the Nordic progression help to teach this concept by having the athlete experiment with how much counterbalancing is required.
You can read about the Kneeling Hip Hinge (level 1) here.
If you want to see the coaching card for a Kneeling Hip Hinge click here.
2. Saggital-plane lumbo-pelvic control under dynamic, functionally relevant and highly scalable movements
The Exercise Encyclopedia in its entirity is a skill-development system intertwined within a heavy strength training programme for athletic development. I consider the ability to control the lumbo-pelvic region so fundamental to human performance that every single Exercise Category in the system is designed to challenge some sort of hip and trunk coordination in addition to the local demands involved in that exercise pattern since that is how the body functions in sporting movements.
Perhaps the most fundamental lumbo-pelvic skill progression in this entire system is the ability to control lumbo-pelvic neutral in the saggital plane and the capacity to brace in that position against a range of external and internal demands on the posture. The Hinge Corrective Theme is my arena to teach this essential movement skill with subsequent Themes and progressions designed to challenge it under various conditions. Progressions in the Corrective Theme allow the athlete to experience an effective braced lumbar neutral position and allow me to develop a common language between us before seamlessly scaling into more demanding exercises.
I use a Kneeling Good Morning (level 2) to teach braced lumbo-pelvic neutral under dynamic hip hinging conditions. You can read about that here.
I use a Good Morning (level 3) to challenge the same skill in standing, a critical requirement for making exercises more functionally relevant to sporting movement. You can read about that exercises here.
3. Lumbar spine posture is unchanged during the Hinge motion.
There’s 3 reasons I have for promoting a stiffened and unchanging spinal posture during the hip hinge.
I want to see a stiffened lumbar spine that doesn’t change shape during the hip hinge. I assume that the lumbar spine shape selected by the athlete under high constraints hip hinging (Good Mornings) is their strongest posture. As a coach I want to see if they can prioritise and defend that position against both flexion and extension temptations and under what external loads that posture holds up.
a) it’s the least complex motion towards true hip extension. We need a pelvis posture that allows gluteus maximus to fully extend the hip i.e., a mid-range position toward a posterior tilt. Whatever lumbo-pelvic posture gives us the most direct journey to True Hip Extension that’s is what I want them to maintain throughout the lift.
b) the second, we think it is spinal motion under load rather than any particularly flexed or extended spinal posture which remains static under load that is is likely the risk factor for injury during heavy lifting.
There’s a huge amount of debate in this area which some of the strongest people in the world demonstrating deadlifting techniques under varying degrees of lumbar flexion. I’m less interested in this as I am in how the lumbar spine supports shoulder/ hip function and transmission of energy through the trunk in complex sports skills.
c) Control of Braced Lumbo Pelvic Neutral is a skill amongst many spinal skills demonstrated in this movement system. I’m using Hinging as an excuse to see if you can demonstrate that skill under a variety of demands. I use other Exercise Categories to test and train your ability to perform other skills (e.g., braced lumbar extension, rotation with the anterior oblique sling, flexion, dissociation to name a few).
Here is a lovely demonstration of an athlete using their spine in a whipping extension-flexion motion as part of an overhead action. I believe braced neutral provides active isometric tension from which this whipping action can be generated.
At the point where Federer begins to create propulsive ground reaction forces through the lower body the lumbar spine is in a relative ‘neutral’ position. My assumption is that propulsion of the lower body is combined with some braced lumbar extension to pre-load a plyometric SSC of the rectus abdominis in particular. Follow through we’ll see lumbar flexion to help in spreading energy across the posterior chain to decelerate the body.
4. Weight is distributed through the mid-foot with the big toe & heel gripping the floor to anchor the hip.
As a result of Themes 1, 2 and 3 occurring simultaneously, weight should be distributed through the mid-foot. Once the athlete is in standing (e.g., by Good Morning onwards at Level 3 in the Deadlift Sub-Category) we can use the feet + the path of the bar to give tell-tale signs of what’s going on with the lift.
Too much weight on the heels, the toes come off the ground and the foot ceases to be an anchor for developing stability at the hip. Too little counterbalance and you’ll notice the bar drifts ahead of the feet when viewed from the side.
In short, grip the floor with big toe and heel to form an arch at the heel via tibial and femoral external rotation driven from the hip.
If you want to see the coaching card for the Good Morning, click here
5. Each hinge starts and finishes with True Hip Extension
The last few degrees of hip extension at the terminal phases of the concentric phase are under relatively much lower loads in the Deadlift and Nordic sub-categories. Most athletes assume that the work is done by that point but I believe that coaching terminal hip extension is really important if we consider the performance and injury prevention implications.
a) Injury prevention implication: excessive lumbar extension is common in athletic populations where the lumbar spine accommodates poor function from above at the shoulder or below at the hip, knee and ankle. This lumbar extension, previously described as the lower cross syndrome may or may not be symptomatic or painful.
Another contentious topic fraught with debate, my stance is that we should train athletes towards a less extended and more mid-range posture. In my experience, this is somewhat of an aspirational target as we’re often battling against 20+ hrs of training and 20+ years of motor learning but I believe it is my role as a coach to train my athletes towards (theoretical) positions where greater local and global stability patterns to emerge.
b) Performance Implication: If we’re happy with the assumption that full hip extension and full triple extension is a foundational athletic quality, then we need to coach and train this subtle coordination strategy as it in my experience it is not a movement that athletes practice intuitively in their training.
Second to that, most of our seated and sedentary life outside of the gym and training field actually blocks us from full hip extension (hypertonic anterior hip, stiffened hip joint, inhibited gluteus maximus, weak rectus abdominals). Much has been written about the lower cross syndrome and while the terms tight and strong/ weak and long might do little to solve the issue it’s a relevant concept.
6. Eyes gaze toward the floor to avoid excessive cervical extension.
A common deadlifting cue is to look up as you complete the lift. The idea being that the cervical extension will kick off a more global extension of the spine and avoid excessive spinal flexion. I prefer to coach a Hinge posture whereby a neutral head position with chin tucked is sustained throughout the lift.