Deadlift and Hip Hinge

How To Do A Deadlift and Hip Hinge
By Alli McKeeFebruary 29, 2016

Deadlift and Hip Hinge

All deadlift and hip hinge variations are great for strengthening the musculature of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings), hips, and core. Heavier deadlifts also strengthen the muscles of the lower, mid and upper back, scapula stabilizers, upper arms, and forearms.

Equipment needed:

Depending on what type of hip hinge or deadlift is being performed, the equipment that is required might include a broomstick, band, kettlebell, dumbbells, trap bar, or barbell.

Ability level:

Beginner

Beginners should start out by mastering the hip hinge movement. This can be done with a broomstick or wooden dowel. You have two options. One is to position the broomstick so it's touching your tailbone, upper back, and head, and to perform Romanian deadlifts. The second is to hold the broomstick like you would a regular barbell, and perform Romanian deadlifts. With this variation, the broomstick should travel up and down your legs and along your body the entire time. With both of these variations, if you are hinging your hips properly, the dowel will not leave the points of contact on your body. The band pull-through is another great option for beginners who are looking to master the hip hinging movement. Finally, the kettlebell deadlift is a great option for beginner lifters who have mastered the hip hinge exercises listed above.

Intermediate

The trap bar deadlift is a great option for lifters who have an intermediate level of experience, and who have mastered some of the deadlift variations listed above for beginners. Once they are able to perform trap bar deadlifts, intermediate lifters can perform the conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift, Romanian deadlift, or stiff leg deadlift with a barbell, and should do these towards the beginning of the workout as it is important to perform these exercises when you are mentally and physically fresh. If a full body workout is being performed, any of these deadlifts for women can be paired with some type of pushing or pulling movement, but don’t pair it with any exercise that will compromise grip strength, or one that will fatigue the core muscles. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the barbell conventional deadlift.

Advanced

Women who are comfortable with the more advanced deadlift variations that I described above may choose to use these deadlift variations as well as increase their weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). These barbell deadlift variations may also be used as part of a conditioning circuit or barbell complex, but only once a high level of technical proficiency has been achieved. Lifters can also perform negative reps and really focus on the eccentric component, or can add chains/bands for additional resistance.

Benefits of Deadlifts and Hip Hinges:

There are many hip hinge and deadlift benefits. How a woman chooses to use a deadlift is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general deadlifts can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing lower body strength, primarily in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing upper body strength in the lats, traps, upper arms and forearms
  • increasing core strength in the erectors, scapula stabilizers, and the anterior core
  • building muscle, especially in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing speed and power, which will be beneficial to running, jumping, and other sports specific movements
  • increasing performance in the weight room
  • increasing athleticism and sports specific performance
  • increasing your ability to perform daily tasks
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • increasing flexibility

How to perform a Deadlift and Hip Hinge:

I am going to describe how to perform the hip hinging movement with a dowel as this fundamental movement pattern is required when you perform all deadlift variations. All of the tips below will give you the technical proficiency to perform the hip hinge movement:

  • Position a broomstick so it is running down your spine and is touching your tailbone, upper back, and head.
  • Hold onto the broomstick with one hand.
  • Set your feet so they are about hip width apart and facing straight ahead, and keep a slight bend in your knees. About a 15-20 degree angle is optimal.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach), and lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection).
  • Now push/hinge your hips backwards as far as you can (while maintaining a neutral spine and not bending at the waist or rounding the upper back).
  • If you are hinging your hips properly, the broomstick will remain in contact with your tailbone, upper back and head.
  • In terms of the hip hinge, you can pretend that a rope is attached around your hips and is pulling you backwards, or pretend that you are trying to reach back with your glutes and touch a wall that is behind you. You should feel tension in your hamstrings the entire time. It is crucial that you maintain a neutral spine at all times.
  • Once you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings, return to the starting position by driving through the mid-back of your feet (but keep your toes down) and pressing your body away from the floor, squeezing your hamstrings and glutes, and pushing your hips forward. Even if you don’t feel a stretch in your hamstrings, if you feel your spine rounding, this is a sign that you have gone too low. With this (and many exercises), lower doesn’t always mean better.
  • As you return to the starting position, lock out by squeezing your glutes, extend your knees by squeezing your quads and hamstrings, brace your core, and actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection).
  • Create tension in your upper body by squeezing your upper arms into your arm sides. You can even pretend that you are crushing something in your armpits. Also, bring your shoulder blades together and down and pretend that you are tucking each one in the opposite back pocket of your pants. This is what you will be required to do when you are performing any loaded deadlift variation.
  • Keep your chest up for the entire lift but do not over arch your back. You can pretend that you are showing the logo on your shirt to a person who is standing in front of you.
  • Keep your chin tucked and neck in neutral alignment. Many lifters make the mistake of looking up.
  • Reset, and repeat.
  • When you deadlift, wear flat shoes, or bare feet.
  • You can also hold the broomstick like you would a regular barbell, and it should travel up and down your legs and long your body the entire time. If you are hinging your hips properly, it will not leave your body.

Video Transcription

So now I’m going to demonstrate some hinge variations. The hinge is one of the most difficult exercises that we teach our clients and the first thing I’m going to show you is a broomstick Romanian deadlift or broomstick RDL for short. There are a couple different ways you can do this. You can put the broomstick on your back and hold it with one hand; it should touch the top of your tailbone, your upper back and the back of your head. That’s how we know we have a neutral spine. We’re going to set up with your feet about hip width apart. Your core is going to be braced and your knees are going to be soft, which means they’re going to bend slightly on their own, but you’re not actively trying to bend them. So you’re in this position, push back into your hips, and again you want to maintain those three points of contact the whole time. Core stays nice and braced and come up and squeeze your butt at the top. Push back into your hips. You should feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings, weight should be on your heels, and come up. What you don’t want to happen is for the broomstick to come off your back, to be bending at the waist, or to be hyperextending so it comes off your upper back. So you’re here, push back into your hips and come up. Make sure you stop when your hamstrings catch, I can go farther -- so my hamstrings catch initially right about here, I can push back farther but there’s really no point you’re only increasing your risk for injury and you’re probably not getting your mobility from where you should be getting it.

There is another version of the broomstick RDL, and it just kind of depends on on which one works better for you. You’re going to hold it like a barbell and you’re going to run it down your legs. So this is helpful for people to teach them to push back into their hips, because if you just bend over it’s going to come off of your body. If you push back into your hips, it should run right along your body. So as I push back, my glutes and hamstrings are stretching, I’m loading them, I’m going to come up and squeeze. Also make sure you don’t hyperextend at the top, you want to finish with your glutes and not finish with your lower back. So you push back into your hips, come up and squeeze your butt, make sure lats are tight and chest is out. So those are the ways that we teach RDL. We also sometimes set people in front of a wall, so about six inches away they can practice pushing back and actually we tell them to touch the wall with their butt, that teaches them to push back into their hips.

If you’re going to do an RDL with a kettlebell make sure you pick up the kettlebell properly, exactly the same way you would have done it with the broomstick. It’s just going to run right down between your legs, your shoulders back, chest out, ribs down, push back to run right down between your legs, come up and squeeze, push back, come up and squeeze. Maintaining a nice neutral spine the whole time.

When it comes to a regular deadlift, or conventional barbell deadlift, we generally start people off with a kettle bell just to teach them to push back into their hips. The kettlebell deadlift - depending on your levels of mobility, we might put this on some risers, put it on some plates and lift it up a little bit. Or if you’re able to do it from the ground, we’ll have them set up feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly. They’re going to brace their core, push back into their hips and when you run out of room, you’re going to bend your knees while continuing to push back into your hips to grab the kettlebell. From there, you’re going to drive your heels through the floor and pull right into your zipper.

So I’ll demonstrate: set up with the kettlebell almost between your heels, toes turned out slightly, feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, your hands go right in your zipper. You’re going to push back, the same way you did with a broomstick RDL. At this point I’ve run out of room, so I want to squat down to get the bell but it’s really important to keep pushing back into your hips as you squat down, versus just squatting down. This is a hinge movement not a squat movement. So you’re here, push back into your hips as you bend your knees to get to the bell, continue to push back into your hips, keep everything nice and neutral, lats are tight. You’re going to pull it right into your zipper and finish with your glutes not your low back. You’re going to reverse the motion, put it back down. And that’s how we teach the kettlebell deadlift. Sometimes people put the kettle bell out in front of them and do it with their feet more together like a conventional stance. We find that gets the weight too far out in front of you, so this is generally the way we teach someone the deadlift, then we have them move to a trap bar deadlift then, if they’re prepared, to a straight bar deadlift. So that’s the broomstick RDL, kettlebell RDL, and the kettlebell deadlift.

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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at www.allimckee.com.

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