In part one and two of this series, I took you through the beginning progressions of how I like to train the hip hinge. As a refresher, we know that the hinge at the hips is maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend, and is arguably the most important concept to master in the family of fundamental human movements.
Yes, the squat, the push, the pull, the loaded carry, and intelligent core drills are huge parts of a good strength and conditioning program, but the hip hinge seems to have the largest benefit to one’s athleticism, physique, and health. When learned and applied appropriately, it opens windows to become stronger/more powerful, and infinitely more capable to do awesome stuff.
Below we continue on to the barbell. I only begin using the bar with students who have shown adequate proficiency with the beginner and intermediate phases of the hip hinge, and have built appropriate strength & work capacity to handle the loading/reps.
Below are some of my favorite moves for those who are ready for this type of work.
I have to thank my good friend Ben Bruno for popularizing the versatility of landmine exercise variations. There is no question that you can get a super legit full body training session with just a corner, a bar, and a plate or two. There’s not a muscle group you can’t target with this simple set up. (<–check this shit out)
Anyways, here is a great way to load up the weight without putting too much demand on the intricate technique of the conventional and sumo deadlift variations which you will see below. The landmine deadlift, when elevated, is a great way to learn this pattern if you have some mobility restrictions holding you back from moving some weight around properly.
For setup, position the bar right between your feet, and hinge back just as you would to get the kettlebell or dumbbell from the floor. Refer back to part one and two if you missed how to perform those movements.
Here, you’ll want either interlock you fingers, or have the dominant hand scooped underneath with your other hand overlapping. This is an excellent exercise to load up heavy without the repercussions of stress from heavy conventional/sumo/trap bar deadlifts.
When you’ve gained the appropriate mobility and strength in the elevated landmine deadlift, its time to move on to the floor. As with any of the deadlift and hinge variations, I insist on going barefoot or picking up a pair of minimalist shoes like the New Balance minimus, Nike free, or Chuck Taylor’s. Those shoes will get rid of heel support that will target too much quad, and we want hamstring and glutes to be the big players in the hinge. Again, this is a great variation to load up heavy, even for relative newbies. Check out Kate Upton, who is being trained by my friend Ben Bruno. She kills the landmine deadlift here. Below is just me doing them (super boring lol).
This exercise is fantastic for two reasons. First it will really hammer home how to hinge the hips back properly from the floor and from the standing position. Second, if you’re legs, more specifically your hamstrings, aren’t shaking and burning by the end of a set, you’re probably doing them wrong. After a set of 10 with just 25lbs, I was able to feel a solid burn in the posterior chain. Pick the bar up like a landmine deadlift, then come halfway down with a more pronounced hinge (even less knee bend). Basically this is 1 and a half reps, which means more posterior chain work. That’s never a bad thing.
The sumo deadlift can be awesome for those of us who are either tall, or lack proper hip mobility to get into a locked in conventional stance. If you are comfortable and proficient with both, then I suggest developing and hammering both from time to time. The sumo variation is more stressful on the hips, but can be an awesome exercise for developing posterior chain strength due to the ability to hold a neutral spine under load much easier than the conventional deadlift. I insisit on using this variation before the conventional deadlift due to the demand that the narrow stance puts on form. If you’re advanced in both already, be sure to use both for your programming (not necessarily at the same time).
Here is the most advanced deadlift variation. Due to the narrow stance, you don’t have the luxury of hip external rotation to drop you into an easy setup. You’ll be forced to get super tight in the upper spine to achieve enough stiffness for a strong and safe pull. Of course we can elevate this movement just like any of the other deadlift variations, but it will still be the most challenging on the ankle, hip, and upper back mobility – much more so than the sumo, landmine or trap bar variations. Give this a shot if you feel strong and mobile enough to drop into an appropriate position, and keep it for the reps and load you need to make progress.
In my opinion, the single leg barbell RDL is the most challenging hinge patten out there. Of course a heavy conventional or sumo pull is tough, and so are heavy single leg hip thrusts which are hip hinges in their own right, but the balance, focus, stability, and mobility required to do just one set with the bar is astounding. I give this to only my most advanced clients because it is just that damn hard. If you lose stiffness at all in the lats and upper body, you’ll roll forward and put your lumbar spine at risk. It requires an obvious proficiency at the hinge, but also the ability to balance on one leg and remain stable on it for an entire set. If you need to, you can reset your stance by tapping down your foot in between reps. Start with your feet a little more narrow than shoulder width, and really reach back with the leg going back. The top of your foot should be the path that the bar tracks to on the eccentric portion of the movement. I also like to make sure I reset my shoulders back and strive hard to keep them there for the entire rep.
The hip hinge is something I encourage just about everyone to learn, as its positive carryover to real life is exponential. In case you missed my last blog, here was an excerpt from it, and legendary strength coach, Dan John’s kind words on about the article.
It’s no secret that everyone should learn how to do a variation of the hip hinge and deadlift. It’s clear that there are just too many positives to ignore, however, you need to be sure you progress it properly to achieve maximum results while staying and remaining healthy.
If you have any further questions on the subject, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment and we will be happy to answer.
Until then, happy deadlifting!