12 Hip Hinge Exercises To Maximize Lower Body Gains

The importance of the hip hinge motion is huge for both workouts and everyday life.

Hip hinge exercises are necessary for lower body gains but also overall strength. If you don't know the proper form of hip hinge or limited hip mobility prevents you from doing it, we will help you.

In this guide, we will introduce the 12 best hip hinge exercises to incorporate into your routine and address the main benefits of those exercises.

You will notice that the following exercises differ significantly in the way they are performed and the muscles they activate, but the hip hinge is an essential movement in all of them.

1. Squat

Target: Gluteus muscles, quadriceps, adductors, abductors, hip flexors, hamstrings

A squat is a basic movement that we need in life. It is an excellent example of compound movement because almost the entire body is involved.

Squat as an exercise is an indispensable part of every workout routine whether you are a beginner, a professional athlete, or a weightlifter.

Many variations emphasize more quadriceps, adductors, or some other muscle. You can certainly be sure that you will activate all the lower body muscles by doing any of the variations.

Variations are useful to further strengthen a specific muscle and improve performance or to work around an injury.

See Related - Dumbbell Squat Vs Barbell Squat

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand and keep your core tight.
  2. 2
    Start the hip hinge, and push your butt backward.
  3. 3
    As your torso starts to lean forward, maintain balance.
  4. 4
    Get down as far as you're comfortable. You don't have to worry about your knees going over your toes; it's a myth that this can lead to an injury.
  5. 5
    Begin standing up from your knees and let your hips complete the movement.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: The length of the femur and the angle at which the femoral head enters the hip affect forward lean and how deep you squat. So it is impossible for everyone to squat the same way, and you don't have to try to do it exactly the same as your trainer or gym buddy.
Woman Doing Bodyweight Squat

2. Kettlebell Hip Hinge Drill

Target: Gluteus muscles, hamstrings, lower back muscles

The kettlebell swing is a very popular exercise, especially as part of CrossFit, but many people perform it wrong.

To master the correct form and make this exercise useful while at the same time reducing the possibility of injury, you need a drill.

This drill will help you understand and learn both the hip hinge and kettlebell swing safely. 

If you start a kettlebell swing without prior practice, you risk serious injury because you will not be able to control the ballistic movement of the kettlebell.

However, you need the kettlebell for this drill, but you will hold it steady against your body.

See Also - What Size Kettlebell Do I Need?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Grab a kettlebell and hold it tight.
  2. 2
    Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  3. 3
    You should place the kettlebell on your stomach to ensure that the glute muscles and lower back are under tension.
  4. 4
    Bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight.
  5. 5
    Start to move your hips back but don't forget that the movement should be different from the squat. You should feel the tension in your hamstrings.
  6. 6
    Repeat.
Kettlebell Hip Hinge Drill

3. Kettlebell Twisting Hip Hinge

Target: Core, abductors, hip flexor muscles, quadriceps

This is another exercise that will strengthen your posterior chain and improve core stability without having to worry about ballistic movement.

It is more demanding than the kettlebell hip hinge drill because there is a body rotation, which increases the effort to which the core is exposed.

A twisting hip hinge is useful not only because you will strengthen the muscles but also because of the mental part.

As you do it, you will gain a better understanding of how your body functions in unusual positions.

See Related - How Many Kettlebells Do I Need?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    The starting position is almost the same as for the drill, so grab a kettlebell, hold it tight and stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. 2
    Hold the kettlebell higher, on your chest instead of your stomach.
  3. 3
    As you hinge, pull your shoulders back and bring one hip back first.
  4. 4
    If you decide that the right hip goes back first, then the right leg will straighten, and a slight bend of the left knee joint will be noticeable.
  5. 5
    Do not relax the core and return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Try to keep a neutral spine position. Twisting and rounding at the same time can be dangerous.
Kettlebell Twisting Hip Hinge With Onnit Kettlebell

4. Good Mornings

Target: Gluteus muscles, hamstrings, lower back muscles, hamstrings, erector spinae, adductors

The good morning exercise with a barbell is one of the best for targeting the posterior chain and is recommended for intermediate and advanced gym-goers. 

The bodyweight version of good mornings is suitable for beginners but not as effective.

Good mornings have many similarities with the Romanian deadlift, but there are also differences. If you want to learn basic hip hinge movement and have problems with grip strength, then good mornings are a better option.

On the other hand, it directly loads the spine, so you should be careful.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Take a neutral stance.
  2. 2
    Choose the type of weight you will use and place it in the appropriate position. If you are using only your body weight, skip this step.
  3. 3
    While bending forward your knees, maintain a straight lower back as you hinge.
  4. 4
    Lower your upper body until you reach approximately a 90-degree angle.
  5. 5
    Return to the starting position using the hips and core muscles.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Avoid a high bar position because it can cause cervical spine injury when you lower your upper body.
Barbell Good Morning

5. Kettlebell Swing

Target: Gluteus muscles, hamstrings, lower back muscles, hamstrings, erector spinae, anterior and posterior deltoids, traps

If all the previous exercises are part of your workout routine, you are ready to perform the kettlebell swing. This is a very dynamic exercise, so it is also useful for cardiovascular health.

As you can conclude from the number of target muscles we have listed, most of your body will be involved in performing this very versatile exercise.

Make sure you have the strength and technique before trying the one-arm kettlebell swing.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    A shoulder-width stance is not suitable for this exercise, so stand wider than that.
  2. 2
    Keep your back and neck straight and your core tight.
  3. 3
    Take a kettlebell and position it around the groin area.
  4. 4
    Get into a position similar to a half-squat and then hinge to swing the kettlebell backward.
  5. 5
    Swing kettlebell upward and keep your spine straight all the time.
  6. 6
    Finish the swing either at chest height or overhead, depending on whether you want to put the shoulders under more or less stress.
  7. 7
    As the kettlebell comes down, hinge hips forward and repeat all steps or complete the exercise.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: It transfers very well to many athletic activities and is especially useful for improved performance in tennis, baseball, and similar sports.
Kettlebell Swing

6. Kettlebell Row

Target: Latissimus dorsi, biceps, traps, rhomboids, posterior deltoids

This is the first exercise on our list that focuses entirely on the upper body muscles. To execute it properly, you must know how to take a hip hinge position and hold it.

Since you will hold the hip hinge position, you will also activate core muscles and hamstrings.

Several variations can make it even more challenging. One such variation is the kettlebell plank row on a bench. As you progress, you can add variations to your routine.

Related Article - Guide To Building Muscle With Kettlebells

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand in a neutral stance.
  2. 2
    Hold a kettlebell.
  3. 3
    Your upper body should be parallel to the floor, so hinge forward to approximately a 90-degree angle and bend your knees slightly.
  4. 4
    Push your hips backward to reduce tension on your lumbar spine.
  5. 5
    Row the kettlebell. Use your core for stabilization and to prevent rounding of the lower back. The spine must remain in a neutral position. Do not let your shoulders drop.
  6. 6
    When you lower the weight, do it in a controlled manner.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you have noticeable imbalances, go with a unilateral row.
Kettlebell Row (Double)

7. Goblet Squat

Target: Glutes muscles, quadriceps, core

The goblet squat is one of the variations of this compound exercise, and as with all squats, it affects the strengthening of practically all lower body muscles.

It is a good option for those who have knee pain or often experience knee valgus when doing classic squats. 

Remember that the goblet squat should look like a full-depth squat, not just a part of the movement.

If you notice that you are not making progress, maybe your grip strength is holding you back because, during this exercise, you have to hold the weight instead of the weight resting on your back.

This exercise is a great alternative to barbell front squats as well!

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider, and your toes should point a bit outward.
  2. 2
    Choose a kettlebell or a dumbbell, and hold it firmly in both hands.
  3. 3
    Brace your core and look straight ahead.
  4. 4
    Push your hips back and initiate the squat.
  5. 5
    Keep your chest proud the whole time and shoulder blades retracted.
  6. 6
    Weight should be distributed over the middle of the foot or more towards the heels.
  7. 7
    Hold the down position for 1 to 3 seconds.
  8. 8
    Explosively return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Keep the weight close to your body and never rise on your toes.
Goblet Squat with Dumbbell

8. Banded Hip Hinge with Kettlebell Deadlift

Target: Lower back muscles, hamstrings, glutes

If the deadlift is too complex an exercise for you at the moment, then a resistance band can help you master this crucial exercise. The deadlift is essential if you want a strong posterior chain.

Wondering how exactly a resistance band will help you?

The tension that the resistance band will create around your hips will influence you to perform the movement correctly, backward instead of hip hinge movement downward. Also, the knees won't protrude.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Anchor resistance band at hip height and place it around your waist.
  2. 2
    Hold the kettlebell.
  3. 3
    Take a few steps forward to create enough space for the hip hinge.
  4. 4
    Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  5. 5
    Pay attention to the position of your torso and shoulders, and then use the tension to push your hips backward.
  6. 6
    When the kettlebell touches the ground or the flexibility of your hamstrings limits you, return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Avoid using a resistance band with the highest or lowest tension.
Banded Hip Hinge With Kettlebell Deadlift

9. Resistance Band Deadlift

Target: Lower back muscles, hamstrings, glutes

I use the resistance band deadlift with both beginner and advanced clients. Since resistance bands are available in so many different tensions, it is always possible to find the right one.

This exercise is also a great alternative to the classic barbell deadlift for an at-home workout. It is very simple to increase the difficulty by tightening the resistance band.

The tension on the muscles throughout the exercise is different when you use a barbell and when you use a resistance band, so it makes sense to do both variations in the same workout.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. 2
    Then stand on the resistance band, which must be long enough.
  3. 3
    Keep your feet in the middle and hold each end with your hands.
  4. 4
    Take the starting position for the deadlift, and do not drop the band from your hands.
  5. 5
    Stand up tall.
  6. 6
    Bend your hips to return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: When you notice that you cannot stand all the way up as the resistance increases, it is time to perform 1 to 2 reps more or to end the set.
Resistance Band Deadlift

10. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Target: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, spinal erector muscles, lower back muscles, adductors

The Romanian deadlift is different from the standard deadlift. It targets primarily the hamstrings, and the upper body muscles are less engaged in the movement. 

The legs should remain straighter than in a classic deadlift and more bent compared to a stiff-legged deadlift.

You can perform the exercise with a barbell or dumbbells. A barbell gives better stability and you can use more weight, while dumbbells are good if you want to increase your range of motion.

In general, both variants are very beneficial for your body.

If you haven’t mastered the hip hinge already, you shouldn’t implement the Romanian deadlift in your workout routine yet. Any deviation can lead to injury, especially if you use heavy weights.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    It is up to you to decide whether you are more comfortable with a shoulder-width stance or a hip-width stance.
  2. 2
    Use an overhand (palms-down) grip.
  3. 3
    Keep your spine straight while pulling your shoulders down.
  4. 4
    At the same time, brace your core.
  5. 5
    Start the hip hinge movement and simultaneously lower the weight towards the feet.
  6. 6
    Look straight ahead; otherwise, you will expose your neck to unnecessary strain.
  7. 7
    Lower the weight as far as your hamstrings allow, then explosively return to standing. This is one of the best explosive hip hinge exercises.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Squeeze your glutes as hard as possible when going up.
Barbell Romanian Deadlift

11. Single Leg Deadlift

Target: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, lower back muscles, calves, core

Imbalances are quite common, especially with those who play lots of sports like tennis and basketball, where you rely on one leg a lot more. For them and everyone else, the single-leg deadlift is the solution.

It is no exaggeration to say that this exercise strengthens the complete posterior kinetic chain.

You will notice an increase in muscle mass and strength, which will translate into improved acceleration and fewer soft tissue injuries.

Gluteal amnesia, also known as dead butt syndrome, has become more common than ever due to a sedentary lifestyle.

Without active glutes, the pelvis cannot be stable, which has far-reaching consequences on your health. Single leg deadlift is a great way to "wake up" the glutes.

Read Also - Best Dumbbell Exercises For Glutes

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand and shift the weight to one leg.
  2. 2
    Brace your core.
  3. 3
    Take a weight in both hands or if you use only one dumbbell, then take it in the opposite side hand of the leg that's working.
  4. 4
    Start the movement from the hip.
  5. 5
    The back leg will leave the ground.
  6. 6
    Move the torso forward to maintain balance.
  7. 7
    When you have lowered yourself enough, initiate the return to the starting position from the hamstrings and glutes.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you struggle with balance, try the staggered-stance deadlift first.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

12. Barbell Hip Thrust

Target: Gluteus muscles, hamstrings, lower back muscles, adductors, erector spinae, rectus femoris

Unlike all previous exercises performed from a standing position, this one is different. You will be using the floor and the edge of the bench, so it can help you work around the lower back injury.

Of course, the application of barbell hip thrust is not only to replace standing exercises when you are injured.

Few particular exercises emphasize the glutes and hamstrings as much as this one, which is why it is so popular, especially among women.

Hip flexor muscles will also greatly benefit if you include this exercise in your routine since it is hip dominant.

Electromyography tests have shown that the hip flexors are often underactive even though they are one of the most important muscle groups.[1]

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Load a barbell and place it parallel to the bench or other elevated surface.
  2. 2
    Sit on the floor.
  3. 3
    Place the barbell over your hips.
  4. 4
    Push your feet into the floor, squeeze your glutes and extend your hips.
  5. 5
    The upper back should stay in contact with the bench.
  6. 6
    Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees as you push forward.
  7. 7
    Do not hyperextend the lower back and stay in that position for a second.
  8. 8
    Lower your butt back.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Perform bodyweight exercises like single-leg glute bridge if barbell hip thrust is too demanding for you.
Hip Thrusts

Understanding The Hip Hinge Movement (How To Get It Right)

Although the whole body is active during this fundamental movement pattern, the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles are primarily activated.

Those posterior chain muscles play a key role in the health of the spine and whole body.

You perform hip hinge practically every day during essential movements such as lifting an object from the floor.

Or at least that should be the case. To avoid a herniated disc, quadratus lumborum tear, and many other injuries, you should hip hinge instead of rounding your back.

This is a mistake that many people make.

It can be an explosive movement during workouts focused on power rather than strength. But it must not be an explosive movement until you are sure that you are executing proper hip hinging.


Why Perform Hip Hinge Exercises? (Main Benefits)

There are numerous benefits of hip hinge exercise: we will single out some of the main benefits.

Prehab

In recent years we've realized that the focus should be on prehab and not rehab. Rehab means that the injury has already occurred, and prehab should prevent the injury.

The exercises we talked about can make the region around your pelvic bone bulletproof. As it is the part that connects the upper and lower body, its importance is immense.

When you have strong muscles along the spine, glutes, and hip flexors, the probability of injuring yourself during various activities is reduced.

Talk to your physical therapist for more details about prehab.

Strength and Power

Strength and power are not the same. Sometimes you just need to overcome resistance, and then you rely on strength. But when you add speed to strength, you get power.

Hip hinge exercises are suitable for training both power and strength. Different types of deadlifts are a great example of this.

That's why fitness trainers emphasize such exercises, especially in the preseason, when athletes are preparing for the efforts that await them in the coming period.

Mobility

Mobility is much more important than flexibility. While traditional stretching can be important and pleasant, there is no evidence that it reduces injury risk in the long term.[2]

Unlike flexibility which is passive, mobility is active. Mobility is based on controlled movements.

The CNS will limit unsafe movements; therefore, hip hinge mobility is key to injury prevention.

Fat Burning

During a cardio workout, you burn calories. But the moment you finish the activity, you finish burning calories.

On the contrary, when deadlifts, squats, and other compound exercises that include hip thrust movement are part of your workout, the fat-burning effect is prolonged for up to 12 hours.

That's why it's a much more effective way to lose weight.


Frequently Asked Hip Hinge Exercises Questions

How many hip hinges should I do in a session?

Two to three hip hinge-based exercises per workout are sufficient in most cases. We recommend 3 to 4 sets and 8 to 15 repetitions during the hip hinge workout.

How can you learn to hip hinge if you’re having trouble doing it correctly?

The easiest way to learn standing hip hinge is to put a rod in the middle of your back to make contact with your head, thoracic spine, and lower back, and then fold at the waist.

Is a glute bridge a hip hinge movement?

Yes, the glute bridge is also a hip hinge movement.


Conclusion

You should not feel pain in the hip joint during the hip hinge or hip extension. If that is the case, try to reduce the weight or record yourself to check if your technique is correct.

Improper form is the most common cause of pain and injuries. You should never skip beginner hip hinge exercises if you are a newbie since they will help you build muscle memory.

We hope our detailed explanations of how to perform this movement and all the exercises where the hip hinge is an integral part have helped you.

References: 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221557/
2. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/17/1058

Filip Maric

Last Updated on December 18, 2022