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  • Writer's pictureLaura Flynn Endres

Daring to Disagree... with an Orthopedic Surgeon! And How to Hip Hinge

Ok, so not with a specific surgeon, but with a booklet given to my client by her orthopedic surgeon after her back surgery...

Here's the story.

This photo is from a booklet given to my client from her orthopedic surgeon's office. She's had it a while, and thought to show me when we were talking about exercises she could do on her own during an upcoming trip.

As I thumbed through the booklet, I was like "yes, yes, yes, uh huh, nice, good, I do most of these with clients, yes, yes, yes" to almost every page - until this one!

woman demonstrates several ways to pick things up safely

It was on the very last page of the booklet.

And as I looked at it, I thought... "no no no NO. Just... no."

Here's Why:

Let's divide this page into two parts. Here's the first one - where you're instructed to do the deepest squat possible (known as "ass to grass" in workout circles), grab the box, and then stand up with it.

photo showing a woman squatting down to pick up a heavy box

The problem? The deep AF squat. That should be all I need to point out.

Getting that deep, with that degree of knee flexion, is not possible - and risky - for most people.

And then you're supposed to lift a heavy box while you press back up? GTF out of here.

That's not happening. (MAYBE after we train for it... maybe.)

Let's move on to their second option, shall we?

woman demonstrating how to pick up something heavy

The problem with the second option... pressing up out of a half-kneeling position? Again, hard hard HARD.

Most people can only do that when they have their hands free, and sometimes only when they lean on their coffee table or couch for help.

Add a heavy box to both hands as they stand up?

Yeah no. (<--- that's "Midwest" speak for NO.)

Not to mention this move requires balance too. This is a disaster waiting to happen.


Now, the move they say "NO!" to?

woman demonstrating how NOT to bend over to pick up something heavy


It's called a hip hinge. And it's a fundamental movement pattern.

Now, the woman is not doing a proper, safe hip hinge in that diagram, this is true.

But the hip hinge is a movement we do all the time, and because it's how people actually pick things up most of the time, WE NEED TO TRAIN TO DO IT.

I'm sorry I keep yelling.



You've seen or heard of deadlifts, right? The exercise that has you bend forward at the hips, grab a heavy-ass barbell, and stand up with it? It's one of "the big 3" in the exercise world!

And for a reason.

That's how we usually pick things up. So again, LET'S TRAIN TO GET STRONGER in that pattern, and let's also work on proper form to do it safely.

I assess my clients' hinge pattern in our first ever session together, and I quickly get a sense for whether or not the movement comes naturally to them.

It's one of those movements where people either naturally do it well, or they struggle to put the pieces together. It's actually a very technical lift.

And it's one of my non-negotiables. I'm going to work with clients until their hinge pattern is strong and smooth as butter.

Once they've mastered the hip hinge pattern and they know how to lift safely, I know they are less likely to strain their backs when they move rocks in their yard or haul a full basket of laundry or pick up their dog.



The hip hinge was a struggle for my client Richard at first. But after weeks of practice, his hip hinge is flawless!

See for yourself!

I have several principles I abide by in my training style, and the main one is safety.

Safety while they're exercising with me, safety while they're moving about in their daily lives, and safety in proper exercise assignment and progression.



Want to learn how to do the hip hinge? Start with this video, where you use a broomstick for feedback!

To begin, you want the broomstick touching three points on your back:

  • Back of your head

  • Between your shoulder blades

  • Your tailbone, or your bum

Hold the stick with one hand above your head, and one hand placed in the small of your back.

Now, when you hinge forward, your goal is to bend at the hips, bend your knees slightly, and keep the stick touching all three points as you hinge down AND come back up.

You WILL bend your knees a bit, but that's secondary. It's a hip movement first, and you bend the knees a bit to keep a long neutral spine - meaning with the stick touching all three points.

Notice which part of your body the stick leaves first. Usually it's your tail or head. Notice how you have to adjust to keep it from happening.

Aim for a smooth movement on the way down and on the way up!

Also, one final cue - when you're coming up out of the hinge, instead of "pulling" with your back to stand, instead, squeeze your butt (snort), and push your hips forward. Keep your spine long the whole time. Stand tall with perfect posture at the top!

Once you have the movement down pat, hinge forward with a dumbbell in your hands, like my client Richard demonstrated!

Start light and work your way up.

If you have more questions on this, or any exercise, message me! I reply to every question!

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