8 Best Hip Hinge Exercises (Develop Powerful Hamstrings)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 19, 2024
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Proper hinge technique will enable you to deadlift more loads, develop powerful hamstrings, and stay injury-free.

Although it may seem simple, hip hinging is rated as one of the top areas our gym clients want to improve.

So, my team and I have spent several weeks of research to come up with a list of the best hip hinge exercises.

Let’s get started.

Quick Summary

  • The 8 best hip hinge exercises are deadlifts, kettlebell swings, good mornings, barbell hip thrusts, glute bridges, hang power cleans, kettlebell twisting hip hinges, and cable pull-throughs.
  • Hip hinge exercises primarily activate the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae.
  • According to a study conducted by the University of Texas at Tyler, incorporating ten weeks of deadlifts and hip thrusts into your workout routine has been shown to significantly increase your vertical jump height.
  • In my personal opinion, hip hinge exercises are essential for building strength, preventing injuries, and enhancing athletic performance.

Best Hip Hinge Exercises

A woman performing hip hinge exercises

1. Deadlift

Deadlifts are well-known compound exercises among gym enthusiasts, and from personal experience, I can attest to their high effectiveness in targeting your hamstrings, glutes, back, core, and trapezius muscles.

You may experience lumbar spine pain because the deadlift works and builds your lower back muscles.

Depending on what suits you and your body, you can choose from many variations (such as Romanian or single-leg deadlifts).

How to do Romanian deadlifts (RDLs):

  1. First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bent at the knees.
  2. Hold a bar with both hands on your thighs.
  3. Lift the bar off the ground, keeping your back straight and hinging at your hips throughout the entire movement. Focus on pushing through the heels until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Hold for a brief pause before lowering it back down.

2. Good Morning

Good morning exercise has been a staple in my routine, and I can confidently say it effectively strengthens the posterior chain when performed correctly.

It can be done anywhere with minimal equipment.

How to do Good Mornings:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder-width with your toes pointing straight and your knees bent slightly to get into the starting position.
  2. Hold the bar behind your head with both hands.
  3. Hinge forward from your hips as you allow a slight bend in your knees and squeeze your glutes, keeping your back straight.
  4. Lean forward until you start to feel a stretching sensation in your hamstrings, but do not go beyond horizontal, then go back to the starting position.

3. Hang Power Clean

A woman lifting barbell in front

The hang power clean is a great full-body exercise to build your posterior chain, strengthen your lower back, and prepare you for other Olympic lifts.

The hang power clean has been an essential addition to my workouts.

How to perform hang power cleans:

  1. To get started, begin with the barbell resting in a mid-shin position while standing with hips forward, knees slightly bent, and chest open.
  2. Maintain the hips' forward posture and employ the hips to drive upward into a jump shrug action. At the same time, pull the elbows high and outside to engage your back muscles and bring the barbell up your body toward its final resting position, which should be at shoulder height. The feet should remain flat on the floor throughout this motion.
  3. Stand up to complete the rep.

4. Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip thrusts have been a personal favorite for targeting my glute muscles effectively.

Using the proper form to prevent injury is essential when performing this exercise, especially if you're choosing heavy weights.

How to do hip thrusts:

  1. Position your back against a bench with your shoulder blades near the edge and your feet planted firmly on the floor.
  2. Place a barbell across your hips and upper thighs.
  3. Next, drive through heels to lift your hips while engaging your core muscles and glutes. Keep an even weight distribution on both feet as you perform it to help protect your lower back from strain.
  4. As you reach full extension, hold for a second before slowly lowering to complete one rep.

“The barbell hip thrust is arguably the best glute-building exercise there is. The benefits don’t stop with aesthetics, either. Glute strength plays a role in many athletic movements, such as running and jumping.”

- Kyle Hunt, Fitness Coach

Related: Best Hip Thrust Machine for Growing Your Glutes

5. Kettlebell Swing

Using a kettlebell

Kettlebell swings have been a go-to exercise in my routine for efficiently working the glutes, spinal erectors, hamstrings, and upper back muscles.

How to do kettlebell swings:

  1. Hold a kettlebell about a foot in front of you with both hands.
  2. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs when keeping shoulder-width apart and bending slightly at the knees.
  3. Once the kettlebell is behind you, use your hips to thrust forward and raise it in an arc to level with your chest. The key to this movement is maintaining control of your core muscles, ensuring that momentum is created by moving the hips rather than using arm strength.

Related Articles:

6. Glute Bridge

I've incorporated weighted glute bridges into my workouts, and they have been instrumental in increasing muscular strength in my hamstrings, glutes, core, and spine.

Because this exercise focuses on unilateral rather than bilateral movements, it can help correct muscular imbalances if one side is stronger.

How to do dumbbell glute bridges:

  1. Lay on your back with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent.
  2. Place a dumbbell on top of your hip bones, grabbing it at each end to stay in place.
  3. Lift the hips off the ground as high as possible.
  4. Pause at the top before returning to the starting position.

7. Kettlebell Twisting Hip Hinge

Using kettlebell for hip exercises

I've personally experienced improved hip hinge mobility with kettlebell-twisting exercises.

It targets the obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, hip flexors, erector spinae, scapular muscles, and lats.

How to do kettlebell twists:

  1. Lay down on a mat with your legs bent at the knee and hold a kettlebell in both hands at the chest.
  2. Twist from your core as far as possible without overextending, and move the kettlebell from left to right while engaging your core.
  3. Continue to alternate sides until you reach the desired number of reps.

8. Cable Pull-Through

I've found the cable pull-through to be an excellent exercise for strengthening my hip hinge motion.

It primarily targets the main drivers of your hips: glutes, lower back, and hamstrings.

How to do cable pull-throughs:

  1. Stand one foot away from the cable pulley machine.
  2. Grab the rope with a neutral grip between your legs, bend your knees slightly, and point your toes outward.
  3. Hinge your hips and pull the rope attachment forward through your legs.
  4. Pause the standing position while squeezing your glutes.

What Muscles Do Hip Hinges Work?

Performing hip exercises outdoors

Hip hinges work the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae, which are all essential for increasing strength and power.

Hip hinges also work your core muscles, reducing back pain and improving balance, based on my experience.

Understanding the biomechanics of the hip hinge is crucial for performing these exercises correctly. It involves key muscles like the glutes and hamstrings working in harmony. To prevent injuries and maximize gains, it's essential to maintain proper form throughout the movement.

1. Hamstrings

Most hip hinge exercises primarily target your hamstrings, according to Very Well Fit [1].

Romanian deadlifts, in particular, offer an effective and efficient way of challenging the hamstring muscle group (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris). 

As you move through each repetition — from standing upright to a slight forward bend with a full range of motion at every step — you'll feel the stretch and contraction necessary for proper hamstring engagement.

2. Glutes

Glute exercises using resistance band

The gluteus maximus is the most powerful muscle in the body for keeping our hips aligned when performing any activity involving lower body rotation.

While all hip hinge exercises activate the gluteal muscles to some extent, the barbell hip thrust is the most effective tool to increase your glute strength significantly.

3. Erector Spinae

The erector spinae muscle group (iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis) are crucial stabilization muscles during a hip-hinging motion.

They work together with the glutes to keep your spine in its proper position.

“If you feel back pain during any part of the hip hinge movement, stop what you’re doing and check your form. You may need to modify or decrease how far you hinge at the hips.”

- Sara Lindberg, Nutrition Editor

This powerful pair of muscles runs down both sides of your spine and must stay taut for maximum stability. Without them, you would be unable to execute this movement safely.

What Are the Benefits of the Hip Hinge Movement?

Woman stretching using resistance band

Beyond building a strong posterior chain, hip hinge exercises offer a multitude of benefits that extend into daily life.

Based on my experience, the benefits of the hip hinge movement are increased muscle mass and strength, improved vertical jump and sprint performance, and reduced low back pain.

1. Reduced Low Back Pain

Low back injuries are widespread among weightlifters due to inappropriate techniques or excessive weights [2].

One way to help prevent lower back pain is to strengthen your back.

Previous research published in PubMed indicated that eight weeks of deadlifts as a rehabilitation exercise decreased pain intensity, primarily for individuals with better lumbar spine endurance pre-training [3].

2. Increased Strength and Muscle Mass

If you want to strengthen and build muscle along your posterior chain, it is best to incorporate hip hinge exercises into your workout routine.

As mentioned above, hip hinge movements will help you add muscle to your back, hamstrings, and glutes.

The deadlift is one of the three powerlifting exercises, so it is required if you want to compete in powerlifting or weightlifting.

While deadlifts can significantly improve your lower body’s maximal strength and power, it is essential to maintain proper technique to avoid injuries [4].

3. Increased Vertical Jump

A woman jumping vertically

The vertical jump is an excellent assessment of explosive strength and power.

Research published by the University of Texas at Tyler demonstrated that ten weeks of deadlifts and hip thrusts increased vertical jump height [5].

4. Improved Sprint Performance

Sprinting performance is crucial in many sports like football, soccer, and basketball.

Researchers found that hip thrusts could help athletes improve their short- and long-term sprint times [6].

FAQs

What Are Hip Hinges Exercises?

Hip hinge exercises are a fundamental movement pattern where you bend forward with maximal motion at the hip and minimal motion at the knees. Hip hinge exercises aim to maintain a neutral spine position throughout the entire movement.

Are Hip Hinge Exercises Necessary?

Yes, hip hinge exercises are necessary to improve flexibility and strengthen core muscles and the posterior chain.


References:

  1. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-do-a-hip-hinge-4685934
  2. https://www.cureus.com/articles/36256
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25559899/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7386153/
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316868719
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31191088/
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