Learning how to perform hip hinge exercises correctly will radically improve your strength, performance and reduce your potential for exercise injuries.
No matter whether you are just negotiating daily life or training for a sporting event the hip hinge movement is very important.
The hip hinge exercise should be the cornerstone of all good training programs due to the huge amount of muscle activation and full body benefits they produce.
Let’s get started:
Understanding the Hip Hinge Movement
The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that is used for all deadlift based exercises.
Whenever you pick up a heavy object off of the floor you should be using the deadlift movement pattern.
The deadlift (hip hinge) movement is often mistaken for the squat movement but they are very different. The deadlift is hip dominant and the squat is more knee dominant.
In essence the deadlift involves the hips going backwards and forwards whereas the squat sits the hips back and down.
Muscles used by the hip hinge movement:
- Buttocks / Glutes (to extend the hip)
- Hamstrings (to extend the hip)
- Quads (hip flexor and knee extensor)
- Lower Back (for stabilisation of the spine)
- Core muscles (for stabilisation of hips and spine)
The deadlift movement pattern hinges the hips forwards and backwards mostly developing the extensors of the hips namely the glutes and hamstrings.
Due to the limited bend at the knee the quads are not used as heavily as when squatting so those who suffer from bad knees can find the deadlift a more comfortable alternative.
Learn more: How to fix bad knees
How to Perform the Hip Hinge
The hip hinge exercise involves pushing the hips backwards while keeping the back flat. The weight of the hips going backwards is counterbalanced with the upper body leaning forwards.
With the hands hanging down towards the floor, the lower you wish the hands to go the more you will have to push the hips backwards.
As the hips are pushed backwards the hamstrings, which are attached to the bottom of the pelvis, will be put on stretch so those with tight hamstrings may find reaching the floor with the hands challenging.
It is important that if you feel your hamstrings at full stretch that you stop because otherwise your lower back will round and threaten the integrity of your lumbar spine.
Those with tight hamstrings can raise weights up off the floor by using a platform. The way the kettlebell handle sits up off the floor is an excellent reason why kettlebells are great for hip hinge exercises.
Quick teaching points of the hip hinge movement:
- Chest up
- Weight back on the heels to load the hamstrings
- Push the hips backwards
- Core tight to maintain a neutral spine
- Drive the hips forwards and stand tall
- Squeeze glutes at the top
- Don’t overextend or lean backwards
Watch a video tutorial on the hip hinge movement below:
9 Kettlebell Hip Hinge Exercise List
Below I’ve listed a collection of kettlebell hip hinge exercises for you to practice starting with the easiest and progressing to the most challenging.
There are many more hip hinge movements including sitting and supine based movements but I find it more natural and transferable to do them when standing.
Here are the 9 kettlebell hip hinge exercises:
1 Kettlebell Good Morning
The kettlebell good morning is an excellent beginners standing hip hinge exercise.
Keep your knees just slightly bent as you push your hips backwards and hinge at the hips. Your bodyweight should be back on your heels so you feel the tension within your hamstrings.
Most importantly you should keep your back flat from the hips to the shoulders.
Personal trainers teaching this exercise to their clients can place a broomstick vertically down the spine to monitor correct alignment during the forward bend.
You should practice this exercise without a kettlebell before progressively adding weight.
The kettlebell can be held against the chest with both hands before advancing to the behind the head movement as shown in the image above.
Practice: 10 reps is a good goal.
Watch the Kettlebell Good Morning exercise below:
2 Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift
The kettlebell single arm deadlift exercise is a fundamental movement that everyone should master.
Nothing is more natural than picking up a weight from the floor, learning to use your legs and hips and NOT your lower back is the goal.
When lifting a weight from the floor it is your hip and leg extension that should do all the work with your lower back staying flat.
Bracing your core muscles while lifting is what stabilises the spine and reinforces the flat back position.
At the top of the movement squeeze your buttocks tightly together and do not lean backwards. Think about standing tall.
Keep your shoulders down to prevent overworking your trapezius muscles.
Workout: As the deadlift is our strongest movement pattern you should be able to lift some heavy kettlebells with this exercise. Practice with a lighter weight for up to 12 repetitions and then progress to heavier kettlebells for 6 reps. You can really ramp up the weight by holding a kettlebell in each hand.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift exercise below:
3 Kettlebell Row
The kettlebell row teaches you to hold the correct hip hinge position while loading the hips, hamstrings, core and back muscles.
Keep your weight back on your heels so you feel the tension in your hamstrings.
Bend the knees slightly and push the hips backwards and lean forwards from the hips.
Your back should remain flat and your core muscles braced to support your spine.
Just holding this initial bent over position will help you to better load and then unload the hips.
Adding the rowing part of the movement challenges your core control as your upper body is pulled downwards and the lower back tries to round.
Resist the downward pull on your upper body by bracing your core muscles tight.
Row the kettlebell to the hip being careful not to allow the shoulders to hunch up towards the ears. Squeeze the back muscles tight at the top before slowly lowering the kettlebell back down with control.
Workout: 8 – 10 reps is a good goal and can be repeated for a total of 3 sets. You can also row with two kettlebells, one in each hand.
Watch the Kettlebell Row exercise below:
4 Kettlebell Clean
The kettlebell clean is a more advanced standing hip hinge exercise that requires a powerful hip drive in order to lift the kettlebell up to the chest.
The clean is performed in the same way as the single arm kettlebell deadlift except the hips are quickly snapped forwards which in turn pops the kettlebell upwards.
Although you may think it is the arm that pulls the kettlebell up to the chest it is in fact the hips that provide all the power, the arm is simply used to guide the kettlebell.
The kettlebell should rise up vertically and not be swung up in an arc.
As the kettlebell approaches chest height the arm is wrapped around the kettlebell to prevent the kettlebell from banging the wrist.
As with all these hip hinge exercises the buttocks and legs are what do all the heavy lifting with the core muscles being used to stabilise the back and spine.
Workout: Work towards 60 seconds of kettlebell cleans on each side. Can you manage 30 reps in 60 seconds?
Discover more: Stop banging your wrists and clean like a pro
Watch the Kettlebell Clean exercise below:
5 Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is the ultimate full body dynamic hip hinge exercise.
You will strengthen your legs, buttocks, hips, core, back, and arms as well as pushing your cardiovascular system with the kettlebell swing.
As with all hip hinge movements the hips are driven backwards and forwards squeezing the buttocks at full hip extension and resisting the temptation to lean backwards.
The core muscles are braced tightly to stabilise the spine and bodyweight is kept on the heels and mid-foot.
Workout: Begin with the two hand swing and aim for 10 sets of 10 reps before progressing to the single arm swing.
Discover more: 4 steps to master the kettlebell swing for beginners
Watch the Kettlebell Swing exercise below:
6 Kettlebell High Pulls
The kettlebell high pulls exercise uses the same hip hinge movement as the kettlebell swing except at the top of the swing the kettlebell is pulled in towards the body.
Pull the kettlebell back towards the body by keeping the arm horizontal and the wrist tight.
Care should be taken so that the kettlebell does not flop over and hit you in the face when you first start practicing this exercise.
The kettlebell high pull is a fast and dynamic exercise so it raises the heart rate very quickly.
Workout: Work up to 30 seconds on each side.
Learn more: How to master the kettlebell high pull exercise
Watch the Kettlebell High Pulls exercise below:
7 Kettlebell Snatch
The kettlebell snatch is a powerful hip hinge exercise that requires explosive hips in order to perform the exercise effectively.
Just as with the kettlebell swing and high pulls exercise the hips are aggressively thrust forwards in order to pop the kettlebell upwards.
Beginners make the mistake of trying to swing the kettlebell upwards in an arc when it should be pulled upwards close to the body, similar to the kettlebell clean.
At the top of the movement punch your hand through the handle to prevent it from banging your wrist.
To return the ketlebell to the bottom position throw the kettlebell out over the back of the hand and absorb the weight with your hips on the way down.
Workout: Use small sets of 5 – 10 reps before changing hands. How many snatches can you perform in 10 minutes? Goal is 200.
Learn more: Ultimate guide to the kettlebell snatch exercise
Watch the Kettlebell Snatch exercise below:
8 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg kettlebell deadlift is an excellent introduction into the single leg hip hinge movement.
As with all hip hinge movements the lower back and upper back remain flat due to a bracing of the core muscles.
Using a single leg hip hinge movement enables you to sort out any imbalances that you may have between right and left sides of the body.
The single leg deadlift exercise conditions the cross body sling system that connect the hip to the opposite shoulder.
Those who play lots of sports or require powerful rotational strength will heavily benefit from practicing this exercise.
Workout: Begin by practicing the movement without a kettlebell and reaching forwards with both hands to touch a wall. Your goal is to form a straight line from heel to shoulder.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift exercise below:
9 Kettlebell Single Leg Clean
The single leg kettlebell clean is a more advanced single leg hip hinge exercise.
All beginners should first master the kettlebell clean and the single leg kettlebell deadlift before attempting this exercise.
Once you have perfected these prerequisite exercises then the single leg kettlebell clean should naturally fall into place.
Keep your chest up and core braced throughout the movement as you drive your hips forwards to pop up the kettlebell.
Again this single leg exercise is excellent for sports and for balancing out the left and right sides of the body.
Workout: Keep reps low between 5 – 8 before switching sides.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Clean exercise below:
If you are not using hip hinge exercises within your workout program then you are seriously missing out.
The hip hinge is the movement used when performing all deadlift based exercises.
Mastering the hip hinge will produce strong and powerful hips that are not only functional in daily life but also very important for sports.
You can perform a hip hinge workout by using any of the above exercises starting at the beginning with the easiest and progressing to the more advanced.
Best of luck.
You should hinge your hips when performing any type of deadlift movement. Keeping your back flat and core braced push your hips backwards loading your hamstrings and heels. Next drive your hips forwards and squeeze your Glutes. Don’t overextend your lower back.
The hip hinge involves pushing the hips backwards while keeping the back flat. The weight of the hips going backwards is counterbalanced with the upper body leaning forwards.
It’s basically a modified deadlift. Position your feet a little wider than shoulder width, push your hips backwards and allow your hands to drop towards the floor. Grab the kettlebell and stand by driving your hips forwards and squeezing your buttocks.
Have you tried any of these kettlebell hip hinge exercises? Let me know below….