MVMT Physical Therapy

Oil That Rusty Hinge – Basic Movement Patterns

In our last two blog posts, we broke down the big movement patterns of the upper body, Pull and Push. We now are looking at the major patterns of the lower body, starting with the “hinge”. The hinge is a hip-dominant pattern and one of the most powerful movements the human body can use to move loads. Let’s get into it!

Why Should I Be Able To Hinge?

The hinge movement is important for persons of all ages and all abilities. The term hinge is used to describe the hip position seen in the images above. The same movement pattern is used to sit up from a chair, to move furniture, or even just pick up your bag from the floor! Specific exercises are often classified as hinges for muscle training purposes, but the movement is a lifelong movement necessity.

Breaking Down the Hinge

The power of the hinge comes from maintaining a stable spine while the hips and knees move to generate force. It requires an efficient core contraction and strong glutes and hamstrings. From the upright position, the hips will flex and move back while the spine stays straight and chest moves forward towards the knees (think of a formal bow). The knees will need to bend slightly since the hips have moved backwards, to accommodate for the weight shift. The amount of hip flexion and knee flexion will vary according to the depth of the movement, but the stiffness/stability of the spine is the same. To come out of the hinge position, the knees and hips will extend at the same rate as the chest returns to upright, maintaining a neutral spine.

It is important that hinges are trained from both starting positions – upright and hinged forward. You need to know how to get into and out of a hinge properly.

Dysfunctional Hinge Consequences

A primary component of the hinge is the ability to maintain a stable, stiff spine. Dysfunctional movement disregards the difference between low back flexion and hip flexion. Another common dysfunction is the inability to simultaneously straighten the body by bringing the hips and chest up at the same rate.

One of the biggest complaints seen with poor hinge patterns is low back pain. According to the National Institute of Health, low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and opioid prescription in the United States. Furthermore, the first recommendation offered by the NIH to maintain a healthy back is regular exercise to keep muscles strong and flexible. Training the hinge is one way to strengthen the back and teach the mechanics needed for daily activities, such as standing up from a chair and lifting objects from the ground.

Starting Hinge Exercises

Tall Kneeling Hip Hinge

The tall kneeling position makes it easier to train the hip and trunk movement of the hinge without having to worry about what’s happening at the feet and knees. A dowel can be used to help maintain a stable spine by giving some tactile feedback (a broom works great too).

Begin in tall kneeling with hips extended and spine upright, as pictured above. Keep the trunk neutral (no bending forward or arching back) by maintaining spinal contact against the dowel, with your abdominals engaged and eyes looking forward. When ready, push your hips back as your chest moves forward. Only go as far as you can maintain good alignment, pause at the bottom of the movement, and then return to upright by extending the hips. Start with 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions to begin learning this movement.

Movement focus: Hip extension control with trunk stability
Muscle contraction: Eccentric-to concentric
Major muscles: Trunk stabilizers, cervical stabilizers, glutes, hamstrings

Standing Hip Hinge (with or without Dumbbells)

After mastering the tall kneeling position, it’s time to bring the hinge into standing. Start with your bodyweight in the exercise, and then add weight after mastering the technique.

Begin in standing position, as pictured above, and engage your abdominals. Just as in the tall kneeling hip hinge, push your hips back as your trunk moves forward while keeping a straight line from your head to your tailbone. Only go as far as you can keep the spine from rounding, pause at the bottom of the movement, and then return to upright by bringing your chest upright and hips forward. For bodyweight training, start with 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions and gradually increase sets and reps. For weight training, adjust the set/rep scheme based upon your goals for strength, power, or endurance.

Movement focus: Hip extension control with trunk stability
Muscle contraction: Eccentric-to concentric
Major muscles: Trunk stabilizers, cervical stabilizers, glutes, hamstrings

Kettlebell Deadlift

The deadlift is a classic exercise which brings together trunk stability and lower body strength into a complete exercise. The exercise begins in the bottom position of the hinge and then transitions to standing at the end of the movement. Keep this exercise scaled to your ability and increase the kettlebell weight over time as your strength progresses.

Begin in the bottom position of the hinge, and grasp the kettlebell as pictured above. Engage the abdominals and push your feet into the floor to create tension on the kettlebell. Keeping the spine stiff, stand up to upright by straightening the hips and bringing up the trunk at the same time. Pause at the top of the exercise before lowering the weight back to the ground. This is the same movement as your standing hip hinge. Start with 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for this movement. If at any point you cannot keep the back stable, end that set.

Focus: Hip extension with trunk and shoulder stability
Muscle contraction: Concentric-to-eccentric
Major muscles: Trunk stabilizers, cervical stabilizers, glutes, hamstrings, shoulder rotator cuff, finger flexors (grip)

Try Out The Hinge

The Hinge movement is just one of the major patterns of the lower body, but arguably one of the most important patterns. Other lower extremity patterns include the squat, the lunge, hops, and jumps. Hinges and squats should be in every balanced lower body strength program. Next week we will look at what constitutes a squat and how to get started. Oil that rusty hinge and stay strong!

If you’ve got questions about an injury or would like to move better, simply call us at (646) 430-5717, or email us at We’re here to answer your questions and help you return to your active life!

Alex Siegrist, SPT


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