What are functional exercises, you ask? Well, these are exercises that mimic movements you do in your daily life. They work to improve strength, balance, and coordination as well as joint range of motion and overall quality of life. Functional exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, which means they use more than one joint and take more energy to perform. These exercises use free weights, like dumbbells and kettlebells, or bodyweight instead of exercise machines that work one specific joint or group of muscles.
The hip hinge is by far my favorite exercise. Probably because it is the most functional exercise you can do or maybe because it’s a booty builder. Most people think squats make a booty; secrets out, this is the better choice for it. Either way, the hip hinge works to reduce the risk of injury when picking things up. How often do you bend over to pick up something? If you have small children, I’m sure you’re doing this almost constantly. From picking up your child to cleaning up after them. Have you ever heard someone say to lift with your legs instead of your back? The hip hinge teaches this and targets your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles, lower back, and core muscles.
Examples of hip hinge exercises: kettlebell swings; all deadlift variations; good mornings; hip thrusts; bent over rows. Bent over rows are also in another functional exercise family that I’ll talk about in a future month.
Here’s how to properly perform a hip hinge.
Grab your broom. Yes, I said broom. Put it behind your back and hold one end of the broom handle at the back of your head (around the neck area) and the other end around the small of your back (near your butt). Straighten your back until you feel the broomstick along the length of your spine. Bend forward at the waist, keeping contact between the stick, the base of your head, and the small of your back. Try not to round your lower back, and your shoulders should not round forward. You will know you’re rounding your lower back if the stick breaks contact with your upper back. In other words, poke that booty out like someone is back there; ya feel me.
To come back up, push your feet through the floor. Literally think you are pushing your top half away from the floor by driving your feet right through the floor under you.
That’s a hip hinge. The hip hinge works your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, core, and lower back.
If you’re someone who becomes audible when you bend over to pick things up, think about those grunts and groans, then this is an exercise you should add to your repertoire.