Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The One Movement to Save Your Body: The Hip Hinge

What is the first reason that comes to mind when people say the can't squat or deadlift? My guess is that the next words coming out of their mouths are going to have to do with their knees or their lower back. Given the way many people move I can see where they are getting this objection and while I believe the lifts themselves are fine for most people, the way most people do them is not. The most obvious problem stems from not sending the butt back at all. When they squat you see the knees go shooting past the toes and the but going straight down the the ground. When they deadlift they round their lower back either because they can't get their hips low or back enough. Both of these lifting positions put undue pressure on their knees or lower back and lead to the pains that scare people from the lifts. One small change can dramatically improve a persons lifting position and I have seen people improve with just 10 minutes of practice.

The solution is to practice the hip hinge. Many gym goers find the movement confusing and unnatural which is why it needs to be practiced, once they get a hang of it though they find that their lifts feel far more comfortable and the pressure has moved from their knees or back to their legs. The hip hinge is essentially involves keeping your feet planted, sending your hips and butt backwards while maintaining a straight back. The best way I have found to learn or teach the hinge is to stand a few inches from a wall, send the hips until the butt touches the wall. If you are able to touch move a few inches further away and try again, If you cant touch or your lower back arches move closer until you are able to touch. While doing this drill it can help to keep the hands touching the legs, the don’t need to stay in one place and should slide down the leg but this will increase the stretch in the hamstrings and give you better feedback from the movement.

Once you feel comfortable with the hip hinge it is time to try and transfer that feeling to other exercises. The most basic of which is the Romanian deadlift, don’t let the name fool you as it is essentially a hip hinge while holding weight. If you perform the lift and you feel your hamstrings working and your lower back staying tight then you are well on your way. If you can perform Romanian deadlifts then you should be able to squat and deadlift with significantly safer and more effective form. While the movements are not completely the same (and there are many more cues for those lifts) sitting back into the heels and allowing for movement at the hips are some of the best changes lifters can make for those exercises.

Next blog post will cover the 5 of the best habits to develop as a gym goer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome to the Blog

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Ioan and I am a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) working at Equinox, a high end gym chain here in New York City. I was inspired to start this blog because I tend to hear the same questions and see the same things when it comes to training and I wanted to do my part to try and help. There are also elements to training that I feel are both interesting and completely ignored by a large number of gym goers (such as the hip hinge, one of the first posts I have planned).

As a trainer, my philosophy tends towards that of a strength builder. Almost all of your goals would be easier to achieve if you were stronger. Fat loss is easier when you have the strength to move decent weight throughout a circuit and strength training helps maintain muscle while dieting. If you are looking to get bigger it couldn’t hurt to be able to work with bigger weights. Many areas of potential injury can be kept safe by strengthening the appropriate muscle groups. Strength in itself is a worthy goal and you will find your physique and performance improve if you give it the attention it deserves. This is not to say that you can't get bigger or lose weight without getting stronger (I'm sure you all know people who have) but it can never hurt and could be the missing link in your training.

Expect to see my first fitness post tomorrow and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or topics you want to see covered.