Hip-Hinge Mechanism: a Necessity
What is the Hip- Hinge Mechanism? It is a term used to describe how your trunk (spine) and hip joints should work together. Similar to a door hinge, the hip joint acts as the joint axis, allowing the thighs and trunk to flex and extend toward and away from each other.
One side of the hinge is the trunk, with a spine that should ideally stay aligned throughout the range of motion when bending forward. The other side of the hinge are the thigh bones. Our hip joint is ball and socket joint which allows for a high range of motion potential. This means we have a lot of available room to turn and twist the head of the thigh bone, allowing us to turn our legs in and out, as well as flex and extend at the thighs. All of this motion allows us to squat in all different positions, perform kicks to many different directions, and several more awesome movements.
When we rely on the small little bits of range of motion offered between the joints of the spine, from the muscles and connective tissues that connect each vertebra to the next, we are missing out on the exponential potential available from the broad range of motion of the hip joint itself as well as the powerful muscles that surround and control the hip. Making the small muscles do more work instead of the big hip muscles doing the work, our back is in a position for injury. The injury can slowly build over time and seem to happen over night, or while performing a familiar movement but our small muscles can no longer bear the load it was not designed for.
How to Learn the Hip Hinge Mechanism
Grab a broom stick or a dowel! Holding it to your back, keep these 3 key points touching the dowel while you bend forward:
1. Back of the head (the part that sticks out the most)
2. Middle of the shoulder blades, (the part that sticks out the most)
3. Flat part of the sacrum, before the buttock cheeks separate.
Maintaining a little space between your ribs and sacrum is how your spine actually prefers to be. Use this space for your hand to hold the dowel to your back. Keeping the 3 discussed points and only those points touching the dowel, bend forward from the hips, pushing your hips back a little. You may not be able to bend very far, or even past the point depicted. THAT IS 100% NORMAL. We are unable to tell what optimal spinal alignment is on our own without any guidance. You may be surprised how tight your hamstrings feel.
Practicing bending forward and standing all the way back up so that the dowel is completely vertical will help you learn how to use your back and hips together properly, decreasing your risk of injury and any excessive stress acting on your back and hips. So grab a dowel and bend over! Give your back a break!