“The hip hinge is the most powerful movement a human can do. It’s the apex movement of an apex hunter!” -Dan John
We focus a lot on hip hinge movements in our training programs. It is one of the most fundamental exercises we can learn to do properly with the squat coming up only slightly behind.
Unfortunately, western civilization has adapted to a lifestyle that makes these basic movements almost foreign to us. The sedentary lifestyles of sitting at a desk all day hunched over electronic devices, paying little attention to our poor posture. Sitting for hours in cars or on the couch. These things affect our basic movements by causing muscles to shorten and get tight causing issues with mobility and flexibility.
In our efforts to help improve movement we incorporate hip hinge and squat variation in pretty much every workout. Yet, there are many issues brought to our attention as a result.
When I first started working out, I never heard of a kettlebell, or swings or hip-hinge. I learned all the vanity exercises, curls and chest press, squats and deadlifts. I think that a lot of young people start here and develop bad habits like I did.
SWING VS SQUAT
Here are some things to keep in mind with the swing/hip-hinge:
A swing is NOT a squat.
A Swing is a pull or hip-hinge, it is in the same category as a deadlift, whether with a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell.
The difference is; in a squat, the knees and the hips flex to a similar degree on the way down. In a pull (hip-hinge) the hips do most of the flexion, knee flex very little.
In both pulls and squats the spine stays neutral (flat).
To master the swing, we must first master the hip-hinge.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Toes pointed slightly outward, less than 45 degrees. Tip: elevate your toes and the balls of your feet, this helps prevent your knees from slipping forward.
Open your chest and place the inside edge of your hands on the crease of the hips, just above the thigh. Shift your weight onto your heels and “chop” into your hip with your hands to push the pelvis back. You should be able to feel the muscles in the hip contracting as you hinge.
Focus on folding at the hips. Your ankles and knees will naturally flex a little, but not to the point of losing the stretch through the hamstrings.
Toes should track with the knees.
Push your tail (butt) back not down, as far as you can. Keep your eyes on the horizon.
Keep you back flat as you hinge back as far as you can.
Return to the upright position by contracting your glutes – Think squeezing a quarter.
Practice this until the hinge becomes crisp and automatic. Then progress it by removing the elevation from your toes.
A few things to keep in mind that may be contributing to you feeling the swings in your lower back:
You are bending too low – The kettlebell should not pass below your knees.
You are squatting into your swings – Swings are not a squat.
Too much knee movement – Hinge movements involve minimal knee movement.
You are rounding your back – Back should remain neutral through the range of motion.
You are hyperextending your back at the top of the swing – the kettlebell should not come above your shoulders.
If you are feeling swings, or other hinge movements in your lower back, there is an issue with form. Practice these tips to help correct the issues.
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The Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge: A Fundamental Guide to Training for Strength and Power by Dan John
Kettlebell Simple & Sinister by Pavel