How The Simpsons Taught Me To Hip Hinge.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people who haven’t watched - or, perhaps more unfathomably, dislike - classical Simpsons episodes, are a class of people not knowing.

As for myself? I consider it a moral duty to uphold the shining, golden medallions of entertainment, set forth by seasons 1-13.

Hell, it’s even had an influence in how I train myself, and how I cue clients into movement. And I’m about to tell you how.

In The Simpsons episode King-Size Homer, our favourite, bumbling cartoon protagonist Homer embarks upon a ‘bulk cycle’ of sorts - but instead of having aesthetic goals, his main objective is becoming too physically resigned to partake in the Nuclear Power Plant’s exercise regime for its employees.

Soon after, Homer starts living the entrepreneurial dream, and works from home.

Of course, the life of a lackadaisical, button-pressing safety inspector can be tiring - so Homer instils a little help from his newfound buddy, a drinking bird, to press “Y” on his keyboard to keep things ticking over for a while.

Of course, this doesn’t go to plan - but what does run smoothly is the bird’s flawless attention to detail in the way it hip hinges.

It’s Hip to Be Aware

When coaching a movement pattern like the hip hinge - which can appear alien to sedentary clients, at first glance - it’s important to give them a form of visual feedback so they have a vague idea as to what the hell is going on with their body.

That’s not to say the drinking bird is the perfect analogy for performing a hip hinge or Romanian deadlift - you still want the weight driving through your feet, rather than pushing the centre of gravity over your toes or out right in front of you. Nevertheless, the image hits a nice little trifecta of cues which many people find troublesome to perform correctly.

Hips drawing back? Tick.

Nice, flat back? Tick.

Avoiding too much movement going into the knees? Tick, tick, tick.

Becoming Unhinged?

To hinge (the movement pattern - not the dating app ) is an undeniably important part of muscular development, sports specific training, and preventing imbalances or injury.

For starters, newbies or office workers are liable to suffer from tighter hip flexors, weaker glute muscles, and dominant quads from longer hours sitting. Invariably, this can throw the body off kilter - with anterior pelvic tilt, often leading to lower back pain. Strengthening the hip hinging muscles of the posterior chain (glute muscles, hamstrings, etc.) can restore balance to the lower body and help prevent pain and injury from occurring, making it a fundamental part of your programming.

But what for the well-trained? To a bodybuilder looking for bigger quads, the movement seems facile and blasé; a powerlifter may express scepticism at anything other than bench, squat, or deadlift. In reality, the hinge can help any kind of athlete - especially if their sport prioritises quad use over hamstring involvement.

If you’re a bird, then I’m a bird. And I’ll probably hip hinge better.

As mentioned - the drinking bird isn’t the panacea for your hip hingeing woes. But it might help you connect the dots and see what part of your body needs to move where; seeing if your knees are going too far forward, or if the movement is too back dominant. Plus, whoever thinks that a drinking bird isn’t plain, ol’ gosh-darned adorable, is somebody you do not need in your life from the get-go.

hip hinge article gif.gif
  1.  First, let’s get you used to bringing your hips back - rather than knees forward. Stand a few inches away from a wall. Try and have a slight bend in the knees, and then push your butt back until it touches the wall. you may find that you tend to squat, or bend your back too far to reach this point. A good idea to help prevent this happening is to place a bench just a few inches away from your knees - so if they brush against it, you know you’ve gone too far forward with them.

  2. Birdy got back. A flat back. So let’s help you get there. Using a mobility stick or pipe - even a broom if you’re old school - you can hold it against the three points of contact necessary to reproduce the movement pattern of the hinge - head, between the shoulder blades, and top of the butt. Instruct them to perform the same motion–knees slightly bent, push the hips back, while maintaining all three points of contact.

  3. Now when programming, be sure to incorporate a mixture of heavier movements for strength, and lighter ones for hypertrophy. If your focus is to improve your hingeing (and glute strength in general) and reduce your quad dominance, it might be wise to ensure your ratio of hip to knee centric exercises are 2:1 at the very least - if your glute muscles are weak, odds are, you need more hingeing in your life at any rate.

Success hinges upon consistency - and, potentially, a little extra help.

Homer loved that little drinking bird of his - but, no doubt if he tried employing the hinge movement pattern to his everyday training, he may not have much success.

At his weight, there are conditions at play here - mobility issues, movement restrictions - and yes, perhaps even confidence.

Sometimes, as coaches we are limited in the resources we can give our clients - or even when training ourselves. Sure, external cues are great at facilitating a learning environment for somebody; but sometimes there are variables out of our control, and we must come to accept this - Marcus Aurelius style.

If there’s something greater at play than simply needed a drinking bird for hinge inspiration, it’s a wise move for us to refer out - to physiotherapists, doctors, or even counsellors - rather than draw all of our knowledge from a beloved 90’s cartoon. Oh, and science and physics and shit like that.