Before we get to the hip hinge exercises, we need to decide if you need to do them, and I’m sure you want to know why you should do them.
The reason you need to hip hinge can be summed up in two words.
If you can’t hip hinge correctly, your lumbar spine (lower back) has to compensate when you bend over in your golf stance.
Hip hinge is not only important in golf, but in everyday life as well. Anytime you bend over to pick something up you should be bending from the hips and not arching your back.
Lower back flexion during the golf swing puts undo strain on the discs between your vertebrae.
Imagine your spine as a flexible rod that has several discs (vertebrae) stacked on it. When the rod is straight, the discs will spin freely. Once you bend the rod and try to spin the discs, there is more friction on the inside of the discs and gap between the discs on the outside.
I think you can see that extra force placed on the inside of the discs could force any material between the discs toward the gap.
This is what happens when you herniate a disc in your back.
Now the most common types of back injuries that occur with golfers are muscle or ligament sprain and strains. But the accumulated effect can add up to herniation or micro fractures in the vertebrae themselves.
So although the pain at the end of the round is bearable, it is possible that you could be causing a chronic condition.
This is why you need to learn how to hinge at the hip properly and do some exercises to ingrain the movement and strengthen the muscles responsible for keeping your spine aligned.
Hip Mobility Exercises is Like Putting Oil on a Rusty Hinge
If your hips feel like this hinge looks, you should do some exercises to loosen up your hips and tighten your core.
Continued wear and tear on your lower back can lead to chronic back pain and even herniated discs if you aren’t careful. Usually, when you hurt your back you can blame one movement when it let loose.
But in reality, the problem has been building for years until it finally causes you an issue.
How To Tell If You’re Hinging Properly
Hinge, don’t bend.
If you sit at a desk most of the day, or sit and watch TV in a reclined position, chances are you have poor posture.
Most people slump forward and lean on their desk or bend their shoulders over the keyboard at work. Probably you don’t sit up straight while watching your favorite TV show either.
Tilting your pelvis back and tightening your core for any length of time takes conscious effort and energy.
It is easier to lean forward at your desk or use the back of the couch for support than to sit upright and have your core tight. Your body will do what is easiest and use whatever position requires the least amount of energy.
Your body gets used staying in the hunched over position, and this pattern carries over to your golf swing.
Can You Hinge From the Hip?
Here is an easy test to see if you can hip hinge correctly.
You’ll need a 3- to 4-foot long piece of PVC pipe or dowel. A yardstick will also work if you hold it on edge.
Reach behind you, and place the piece of pipe along your spine, so it touches at a minimum your tailbone, between your shoulder blades, and the back of your head. If it touches more of your back, that is better, but not necessary.
Now, hinging at your hips lower your upper body. Your butt should slide back, and your knees shouldn’t come forward.
The pipe should remain in contact with at the tailbone, between your shoulders, and the back of your head.
If the pipe leaves your tailbone, you are bending from the waist, and if it leaves your head, you are flexing your cervical spine or bending from the waist.
Below is a short video on how to test yourself to see you have a good hip hinge. If not, it is time to do some hip hinge exercises.
The method above is a good indicator if you can hip hinge or not, but it isn’t foolproof. In a more recent article, Start Your Golf Fitness Program with the Basics – Hip Hinge Progression, another easy screen is presented that evaluates your hip mobility and hamstring flexibility.
In the video below, the first few seconds show the proper way to hinge from the hips but notice that his pelvis is in anterior tilt as there is a gap between his lower back and the dowel. Ideally, this gap should be less, as in my video above.
However, the video below explains one aspect I didn’t mention. it goes through two improper hip hinges, with a slouched back, and then the bent knee to squat error which I omitted.
Hip Hinge Exercises
Ok, so your hip hinge isn’t that good.
Don’t worry; we can get you hinging from the hips and not your waist very easily.
The first hip hinge exercise is easy.
Grab that dowel, pipe, or yardstick you used to test yourself and stand next to a wall.
Stand back toward the wall with your heels about 12-inches from the wall. Take the pipe and roll it up your thigh until you can feel it where your hips are. This should be about near the top of your pockets.
Now hinge at this point, your upper body should start folding over the pipe. If you have a tendency to squat, put something like a stability ball or a chair in front of your knees so they don’t move forward.
Once you can hinge from the hips and touch the wall with your butt, move forward a few inches.
Keep practicing this until you can’t move forward anymore without falling backward.
Add Some Weight
Now grab a gallon of water, a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it chest high. You will use the weight as a counterbalance to your butt.
Now you should be able to move farther from the wall, hinge at the hips and touch the wall with your butt.
Since you don’t have the pipe as a reminder of where to hinge, be very conscious to hinge from the hips and not the waist.
In the video below, the guy doesn’t use a pipe, but you can see how it would be useful as a point of reference on where to hinge.
The man in the video is holding the weight too high, and he is craning his neck. Try to keep the back of your head even with your spine, like the pipe is still connecting your tailbone, shoulders, and head in one plane.
The Best Way to Keep the Back Flat is to Use the Floor
Now that you have felt where you should hinge your hips, it is time to practice keeping the back flat, or straight.
To keep your back flat, you will need to activate your core.
Using resistance bands and the floor is the best way. Watch how in my video below.
This simple leg raise is one of the best hip hinge exercises. It forces you to activate your core, keep your back flat, and work the muscles that allow you to hinge at the hips.
The bands I use are Bodylastic bands. I recommend them as they are inexpensive, durable, and the attachments work great especially the doorway jam attachment.
I used them a lot when I was traveling for work. They come with a travel pouch that fits into my suitcase easily.
You can use this link to purchase them from Amazon. These bands are invaluable for any golf fitness exercise program.
Hip Hinge Exercises for the Core
As shown above, the core muscles need to be activated to maximize hip hinge.
Again, we want to use the floor to help keep the back flat, so deadbugs are an ideal hip hinge exercise.
The video below shows the basic deadbug, and you can read more about the advantages to deadbugs and see videos of the variations here: How to Strengthen the Core with Deadbugs.
Remember to keep your lower back as flat to the ground as possible. You will have to tilt your pelvis to do so, and this is another reason deadbugs are not only one of the best hip hinge exercises but an excellent golf fitness exercise as well.
Move the Hips and Not the Spine
The first movement many people make when they bend down is to flex the spine.
We want to practice moving the hips while the spine stays neutral.
The quadruped hip rocker is a good hip hinge exercise.
It is a basic mobility movement, and the video below shows you how to do the exercise correctly.
Remember to keep the spine straight by slowing rocking back as far as you can go. Tighten your core before rocking back; you will find that this will keep your spine much more stable.
Hold the lowest position for a few seconds and then slowly return to the starting position.
Be sure to stop when you feel the back starting to round. With practice, you will be able to rock back further.
Basic Hip Hinge Exercises
Those are the basics for hip hinge exercises. The exercises shown will get you started to moving better.
Improving your hip hinge will not only help your golf game, but it could save your back.
Remember never to lift like this guy. Bend at the hips and squat down to grab a hold of the item you want to lift and keep it close to your body.
Even when you pick the golf ball out of the cup, bend at the hip, and squat down with your legs. Don’t arch your back; a quick movement upward could tweak your back and lead down a road of pain.
Learn More About Hip Hinge Exercises
If you want more hip hinge exercises, be sure to read my Hip Hinge Progression post where we get back to basics.
Having a good hip hinge is essential to any golf conditioning program. The Golf Conditioning Center includes, even more, exercises that will help you hinge properly and protect your back during the golf swing.
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