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Hip Hinges, Waist Bends and Squats
Protect your back by learning a better way to bend over.

Back Pain

When you bend over, you’re probably doing it wrong. Bending is a really a simple movement. We do it every day when getting dressed, cleaning or picking things up. The problem is few people understand the mechanics of how to bend without risking injury.

Done properly, a squat allows you to lift bigger and heavier items like boxes, without injuring your back. The disadvantage with a squat is it can be very tiring to stay in the squatted position very long. Bent legs tend to fatigue quickly.


Squats

Squats

When lifting something heavy, it’s not uncommon for someone to say, “Protect your back, lift with your legs.” The best way to do that is with a squat.

In a proper squat, the majority of the movement is happening in the knees. As you go down, your back stays in a neutral position, slightly tilting forward. Meanwhile your butt starts to stick out and your knees extend in front of your toes. If you watch someone squatting properly, you’ll notice their head remains upright and they continue to face forward.

Done properly, a squat allows you to lift bigger and heavier items like boxes, without injuring your back. The disadvantage with a squat is it can be very tiring to stay in the squatted position very long. Bent legs tend to fatigue quickly.


Waist Bending

Waist Bending

The most common way Americans get closer to the ground is by bending at the waist (your stomach). People start by moving their head and looking down at the floor. Then they tuck in their stomach, doing a little crunch. As they bend over, their spine curves into the letter "C".

Waist bending puts high stress on the spinal disks, with more pressure being applied the further over you bend. You’re much more prone to injury if you try and pick up something heavy this way, since disks aren’t designed to support a lot of weight when they’re in that curved position. 

Disks are also not designed for lots of motion. Repeatedly bending at the waist can fray disks like a worn rope, causing slipped disks and back pain.


Hip Hinge


Hip Hinges

On a hip hinge, the hips lead the motion. Your back stays flat and in alignment with your head. Your butt doesn't push back much and your knees hardly move at all. As you come down, most of the movement comes from your hips. When seen from the side, a proper hip hinge will make the back look like a table. The hips and upper legs support your body weight rather than your spine, protecting your back from injury.

This is the best movement to use when you need to grab something small from the ground AND if you need to stay bent over for longer periods of time; and here’s why. Hips are a ball and socket joint. They’re literally designed to bend, so they’re really good at it. A hip hinge engages the hamstring muscles to do most of the work.

So if hip hinges are so much better, why don’t Americans do them more? The answer is your hamstrings. Many of us sit at a desk, in a vehicle or on a couch, barely moving. Over time, hamstrings shorten and tighten from all that inactivity. It’s hard to do a proper hip hinge with tight hamstrings.

Fix it by spending a couple minutes a day practicing hip hinges. Position your feet about shoulder width apart. Tighten your stomach, slightly flex your knees and begin hinging at the hip, slowly moving your head down. Keep moving down until you feel your hamstrings pulling, then hold that position for 10-15 seconds. When you’re finished, move back up and relax for 10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

Stretching helps you three different ways. It gets you off your butt and moving, which is something you should do at least once every hour. It helps stretch your hamstrings so hinging at the hip is easier. Finally it helps remind you the proper way to bend over, so it becomes second nature when you actually need to do it.

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6/2/2018