Informed Shorts: Is 'Hip Hinge' Really a Fundamental Movement?

In recent years ‘hinge’ has found its way into the list of fundamental athletic movements among coaches, practitioners, and authors. With this first offering to introduce the new ‘informed short’ feature we cast a critical eye on the topic.

Hinge movement characterises an action that is common to a number of the major joints in the human body. In the context of fundamental movements, ‘hinge’ generally refers to a hinge action at the hips. Accordingly, with the growing convention of viewing ‘hinge’ as a fundamental movement we increasingly see coaches and practitioners emphasising isolated hip hinge exercises in their programming.

But does a hinge action at the hips really constitute a fundamental athletic movement? In general, and as described in a previous Informed Blog post on athleticism, fundamental movements typically describes actions that appear in some in the majority of sports, such as squat, lunge, balance, jump/land, throw/catch, push/pull, locomotion, and twist/rotate. @@Are we sure ‘hinge’ really merits inclusion in the list and the status that ‘fundamental’ affords?@@

@@During athletic activities movement at the major lower limb joints rarely occurs in isolation@@. For instance, when squatting, lifting, or jumping, hinging at the hips occurs simultaneously with flexion/extension at the knee and generally the ankle too. The same is true of the variations of the ‘athletic stance’ we see in various sports.

Likewise, when we consider unilateral (single-leg) activities, such as lunging or stepping up or down, a hinge action at the hip may occur with or without flexing the trunk, but there will be concurrent flexion/extension at the knee, and perhaps at the ankle depending on the movement.

In fact, the only actions that exclusively involve a hip hinge (without flexion/extension at the remaining lower limb joints) is a forward fold in a bilateral stance, or an ‘arabesque’ in single-leg stance. Neither of these movements can reasonably be considered fundamental athletic movements.

So, perhaps it is time to reconsider this recent trend, and drop ‘hinge’ from our list of fundamental athletic movements, bringing our focus back to multi-joint lifts and exercises in various planes and axes when programming athletes’ physical and athletic preparation.

For more on a variety of topics related to coaching and athletic preparation see the Books section of the website.

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