Are you looking to start a golf fitness or as I’d rather say a golf conditioning program?
If so, then you need to start with the basics and the first basic you need to tackle is the hip hinge progression.
Why do you need to master the hip hinge? I’m not going to get into the specifics here, but knowing the reasons are important. For a discussion, you can view this hip hinge article.
The hip hinge is a basic human movement used to protect our back when bending over, squatting, and lifting heavy objects. Poor hip hinging mechanics decreases our athletic ability when running, jumping, and playing almost all sports including golf.
Continuing to play sports, exercising, or even doing everyday activities with poor hip hinging mechanics only strengthens dysfunctional joint & muscle patterns as well as motor skills that can lead to chronic pain or injury.
I can’t count how many times a day I see people bending over from the waist to pick something up. Eventually, bending from the waist instead of the hip is going to lead to back pain. We’ve all went to pick up something, even if it’s light, and received that sharp pain in the lower back. With improper mechanics, it doesn’t take much to hurt ourselves.
For these reasons, mastering the hip hinging progression is important to everyone, regardless if they’re looking to improve athletic conditioning or carrying the groceries into the house from the car.
Can You Hinge From the Hip?
That is a question we all should ask ourselves.
Luckily, there is a simple screen to test your hip mechanics.
It’s called the Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR), and it’s one of the universal mobility screens used by physical therapists and fitness professions to test hip mobility and hamstring flexibility. Without hip mobility and hamstring flexibility, a good hip hinge is impossible.
In fact, according to Gray Cook, one of the leading mobility experts, and creator of the most commonly used testing methodologies called the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), a person failing the ASLR should first correct the limitations causing the failure before working to correct any other mobility or flexibility issue.
It doesn’t get more basic than that.
You Don’t Want Basic?
Because of social media, we’ve never had as much access to to the training that professional sports athletes endure. We see them, or their trainers, or people working at those training centers perform all kinds of fancy exercises, ranging from dynamic functional movements to swinging Indian clubs around like no one’s business.
Those are the exercises we want to do! We want to be like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and all of the others that aren’t shy to show how they train.
Social media is doing us an injustice, however.
We see what they’re doing now.
What we don’t see is all of the work they did when they started with their trainer.
We don’t see the basics. Most likely, three or four times a year, all of those professionals go through a screening process to make sure they haven’t regressed during the year. We’ll never see the exercises they use to regain their mobility and flexibility.
That makes for boring Social Media.
We Need to Start Basic
We need to start with the basics and master those before we do advanced exercises.
So let’s get started.
Below is the Active Straight Leg Raise Screen.
All you need to do is lay down near the edge of a wall and follow the instructions.
Watch the video, then try the screen and let’s see how you do!
Simple Screening Test, Right?
Simple as simple can be.
But as you saw, my right leg couldn’t get to the edge of the wall. This means I have some work to do, the limitations causing my poor hip mechanics need to be corrected first.
The question most often asked is what does laying on the floor and raising my leg have to do with hip hinge?
Good question, because they don’t seem to be the same movement. However, in order to do a hip hinge hamstring flexibility and hip mobility are the main contributors to the movement.
With the ASLR, a shorten hamstring will limit the vertical movement of the leg and poor hip mobility will either cause the hip to stop short of vertical or cause the pelvis to posteriorly tilt, raising the back off the floor.
That is why the ASLR is a good indicator of your ability to hip hinge properly.
How did you do?
If you could get both legs at least to 80-degrees, you’re golden!
If not, it’s time to add a hip hinge progression to your golf conditioning program.
Hip Hinge Progression
The hip hinge progression is presented below.
The progression includes three sub-progressions or matrices of exercises plus at least three other exercises. Many more exercises can be added. If you want to see other exercises, you can join the Golf Conditioning Center and use the cross-references in the index to find many other exercises that will work.
But for now, let’s stick with those shown below.
First Hip Hinge Progression Set
We need to start the hip hinge progression by doing some foam rolling followed by stretching the hamstring.
The foam rolling videos are in another article. Click the image below to visit the article and see the videos. Then come back and do the hamstring progression immediately afterward.
The above Foam Rolling Matrix and Hamstring Progression Exercises presented below are the first two sets of exercises to perform if you can’t get your leg near vertical (80- to 90-degrees) in the ASLR.
How do you know you’re ready to move on to the next exercise set?
The hamstring exercises will become much easier to do. You’ll always feel a pull in the hamstring when doing the hamstring progression because you’re always pulling back with the bands, but the movements will be smoother and have more range of motion.
Onto the Bridge
Once you feel proficient with the hamstring progression, start the bridge matrix shown below.
The Bridge Matrix contains three exercises that will not only strengthen your core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors but force them to work together instead of letting two do the work that all four should do in conjunction with the core.
You can continue to do the foam rolling and hamstring progression and add in one of these bridge exercises.
Try to do all three of the bridges and use the one that you have a bit of trouble completing. Meaning, you can do a couple great bridges but it’s hard to do 8 to 10 of them.
What is a Great Bridge?
A great bridge is where you can hold your hips parallel to the floor without any wavering as well as hold the hips and pelvis high off the floor, feeling your glutes do most of the work.
In a hip hinge, the hamstrings, glutes, quads, core, and hip flexors all need to be strong and flexible. With the bridge, we’ve moved from the hamstrings to the glutes.
Once you can do a single leg bridge, holding your hips parallel, steady, and high off the floor (with both legs) you’ve mastered the bridge matrix and one step closer to mastering the hip hinge progression.
Let’s Get to the Hip Hinge Progression
The preliminary work is now complete.
Not that you should stop the foam rolling, hamstring matrix, and the one-legged bridge. Continue to do those exercises while adding the next exercise, the Dowel Hip Hinge.
The dowel hip hinge prepares your nervous system to how a good hip hinge works. The dowel makes sure your back is in position and that you’re bending from the hips and not the waist.
The video below shows you the steps from the dowel hip hinge.
Now, Take Away the Sensory Input
Using the dowel as a sensory input tool is okay, but we can’t go through life with a piece of PVC pipe attached to our backs.
It’s time to take away the sensory input and see if we can pick up something using our hips instead of bending at the waist.
However, we still need some input to make sure we’re hinging correctly.
If we bend from the waist, there is no need for our backside to move. All of the lost elevation if you will, is caused by our back arching. But if we want to keep our back fairly straight while picking a weight up off the floor something else has to make up for elevation loss of our hands.
We can lose a lot of that height by bending at the knees, which forces our backside (ass) to move posteriorly.
The best way to make sure our ass moves backward is to step away from a wall, bend down using hip hinge and see if our ass touches the wall.
That is the Wall Butt Touch with Kettlebell in a nut shell. You don’t need to use a kettlebell as a weight, but something with a handle makes it easier instead of having to find a hand hold.
The video below shows you the steps.
Last Hip Hinge Progression Exercise
One last exercise in this progression.
Before we tackle pure strength exercises that require good hip hinging mechanics such as goblet squats and the deadlift, let’s make sure we can use the hip hinge to lower ourselves.
Box Squat with Pattern Assistance is a good intermediary exercise.
The pattern assistance, the band around the knees, assists in activating the core prior to squatting. You can use the band to start and take it away once you have done a few sets.
Holding the hands out in front of you does two things, one, the hands and arms are a counter weight as you sit back. Two, they remind you to keep your head and neck straight instead of tucking it down and looking for the bench.
The bench gives us security that we won’t fall backward. But remember, the bench isn’t there to fall onto, gently touch the bench then power up out of the squat. The bench is more of a target height, you can lower the bench, or find something else shorter, as you become more proficient with the squat.
The video below shows you the steps in the box squat with pattern assistance.
Hip Hinge Progression Summary
Advanced golf conditioning exercises should only be done after you’ve made sure you can do the basic movement patterns.
Being able to bend from the hips instead of the bending over at the waist is one of the basic movement patterns that protect the body from injury and lower back pain.
The active straight leg raise is a screen you can do to test if you can hip hinge correctly.
If the ASLR shows that you have limited hip mobility and/or hamstring flexibility the hip hinge progression presented in this article is a great set of exercises to add to your golf conditioning program.
This hip hinge progression set will help you improve your mobility and flexibility allowing you to move better both in life and on the golf course.
The best way to hit the ball farther and straighter is not to buy a new golf club, rather invest in your conditioning and fitness. Not only will your drives go farther but you will eliminate some swing characteristics that are hurting your golf game.
If you want more information about the most common swing characteristics, use the form below and I’ll e-mail you a guide.
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