From birth, we are hardwired to perform the same movement patterns over and over again. On a day to day basis, we perform a lot of the same movements that are then replicated in the gym. Most individuals fail to realize this and then bring their faulty loading patterns into the gym where it is then exploited while the body is under load. Our goal in human movement is to become proficient. The less we move and the less we practice these loading patterns, the greater the risk of us hurting ourselves. For example, it is hard to get a client to squat week in and week out. It is boring, difficult to master and everyone skips leg day anyways…However, if it is proficiency that we are after and proficiency is predicated upon frequency, then why are we not doing these things on a weekly basis? Good question, and since muscle “confusion” is not a thing and motor learning is based on repetition, we need to practice!
Hinge, Don’t Squat!
When I get a hold of a client for the first time, we go over simple loading patterns first. This may seem silly and more times than not, the client thinks I am a lunatic but, we need to realign the individual. You do not need a doctorate in biomechanics to teach this stuff so every trainer should be instructing these simple modalities. First and foremost, a hinge is often confused with a squat. So, lets give a lay definition of the two to help differentiate:
Hip Hinge is MAXIMAL hip bending and MINIMAL knee bending
Squatting is MAXIMAL hip bending and MAXIMAL knee bending
After some time with a new client, there are notable changes in their movement patterns and pain levels. I would argue that by teaching this simple mechanic from the get-go, you will put the client in a more advantageous position to progress quickly and pain free through their main lifts. Grooving that hinge pattern lowers the learning curve and can fix a lot of things wrong with their movements outside of the gym as well. Typically, I can get most new clients to perform these mechanics effectively within a session or two. Then it is on to the harder stuff.
How To Practice?
Pictured to the right is a demonstration of a basic dowel hip hinge drill. To keep this brief, there should be three points of contact on your body: the lower back, between your shoulder blades and on the back of your head. Lastly, your chin should be tucked to prevent any faults. If at any time during your hinge, you loose contact with the dowel at the three given points or your chin comes lose then…that is a demerit.
To the left is a more aggressive variant. By using the band, the client must present a posterior weight shift to perform this correctly. The variable tension of the band forces the individual to maintain excellent posture and brace their abs as well. Make sure the band is positioned in their hip crease and everything should be ok.
Of course, once you improve your kinesthetic awareness, the bigger lifts will become much easier. If you have been taught correctly, you will be able to feel whether or not you are locked in or you are in poor posture with a given lift. When we are trying to get stronger, we want to cause an adaptation in the body. Depending on how the person is taught to load their body, individuals may see different adaptations from the same exercise. For example: a person who is healthy can deadlift 200 pounds and have an adaptation in their glutes and hamstrings while another can have more of a prominent adaptation in their back. Everything is dependent on how we load our bodies! These exercises are the most difficult thing to get people to do because they want to be “worked out”. However, if you explain the significance of these drills and include them in your warm ups, the results will speak for themselves.
Remember, goals are important. We all want a six-pack and look cut from stone. As a coach or a trainer, being flexible is important but, reinforcing basic motor functions is even more important. There is a big difference between putting your client through a circuit of garden variety exercises and teaching them applicable information. Everything that you teach and everything that you do should have a purpose. If you are throwing people through the motions, you are not only exacerbating the likelihood of injury but, you are not making them better either.