Move well and often: Oil your hinge for improved everything.
To begin I would like to make a statement. Of all the multitudes of complexity and variety of movement you can imagine the human body can actually only really do seven things.
Push, pull, rotate, prevent rotation, bend at the knee, hinge at the hips and stay still while bearing a load.
This is a disgustingly clumsy oversimplification of a massively complex system but its the best I've got and honestly pretty close to the mark. If Hippocrates can boil all human health, disease and medical conditions down into four things (hot, cold, wet and dry) then I can swing seven for moving.
Then more they are practiced the better they get and in the same way the longer one is ignored the rustier it will become. Imagine how you feel trying to stand up and walk off a plane after a 14 hour flight. Now imagine how it would feel after years of avoiding a given movment.
With that said I will change the subject without explanation.
Over my time as a personal trainer I have realized I have an odd position in the market. I realized I am an unfitness expert.
Rather than the usual super personal trainer origin story, the cliche natural athlete who uses their gifts to drag peoples fitness up to their level with boundless energy and enthusiasm, I have a slightly different take. After ten years as a modestly passable professional chef my body was a wreck. Slumped forwards and slightly twisted from hours spend at a chopping board. Seriously overweight and metabolically ruined from long term sleep deprivation and a diet of pasta, chips and red bull.
My training style is built from the other end of the fitness spectrum. It is how I have learned to put myself back together. The gory details will be spewed forth in good time but for this article we will focus on just one of those fundamental movements, the Hinge.
And with that back to the point and a demonstration.
Stand with your back near a wall and push your fingers into your hip crease. Your bum will either hit the wall or not. Keep adjusting the position until you can juuust touch the wall at full stretch. If you were to squat you would move slightly forward away from the wall. Don't do this. Now make sure you haven't hunched the spine. Keep it flat or slightly arched. That was a hip hinge.
This should be where you are at the back end of a broad jump, conventional deadlift or kettlebell swing. As this is practiced it will get deeper and you will be able to get the hips further back. I always focus on movements not muscles but it is a clear hamstring stretch and the glutes are heavily involved in pushing you back to standing.
For most people the most frequently used movement is a poorly performed knee bend. It is repeated and held and repeated again with the use of chairs and seats. Usually a hunched position is held as the hips tighten and the lower back relaxes.
It uses the muscles on the front of the body and in time they become totally over tightened and over active. If this happens every other human movement will suffer and ultimately knee and back health as well as posture will decline.
Practicing and training a strong and deep hip hinge with high frequency and volume is required to start rebalancing the hips and body. One possible way is the use of the kettlebell swing as it will gradually remind the body how to use its back end to generate power and coordinate with the other muscles. This is the best way I know to balance out the hunched office dwellers and students with no right to be getting lower back pain at twenty.
Oh yeah... I nearly forgot. Nothing on earth is better to burn fat and build conditioning. But that's another article.
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