Hinge-Focused Lower

Hinge-Focused Lower

Training Notes

A: Attach the band from the bottom of the apparatus and loop over your shoulders. This will overload the lockout and force the glutes to contract harder. Try to perform the concentric powerfully and control the eccentric. The pause in contraction should be brief just to fully extend hips/shorten glutes.

B: Take the bar out of a rack to save energy. Leave a few reps in the tank on these but establish a baseline for load and intensity. Try to maintain power through the concentric.

C: Note the tempo. Use your upper body for stability/balance but avoid "pulling" yourself up. Force your lower body to do the actual lifting. The box height should be high enough to prevent the back foot from touching the ground at the bottom of the rep and keep the set continuous. Try to get as much ROM as you can get on these.

D: Execute for glute bias. Use a normal stance here but "sit back" into your hips more and limit knee flexion. The pause should be just above parallel. Go heavy on these and keep the tension in your glutes the best you can even with high intensity.

E1: Note the tempo. Control the eccentric and pause in contraction. Try to cramp those hamstrings up. Keep your shoulders back against the pad and avoid leaning forward to cheat as you near failure. Rest 60 sec before E2.

E2: Start conservative in load until you get these down. The hinge should be short as to keep tension in the glutes. Trying to force the ROM will recruit the hamstrings and erectors more than we want and create more injury risk. Take small, choppy steps and control the pace. Make sure to NOT rotate your torso.

F: Use load that would be about your 20 rep max. Get to 50 total reps in as few sets as possible. When you have to stop, rest for 20 sec then continue. Keep the tension in the glutes and don't allow the erectors to take over as you fatigue.


Goals of this session

By the nature of being hinge dominant, we're going to be prioritizing the posterior (glutes and hams, specifically) aspect of the legs while minimizing quads as much as we can. The key here is to manage the risk to the low back that excessive hinging produces. This is done through use of specific variations and rep schemes.


Warm-up recommendations

-5-10 minutes of steady state cardio such as incline walking, elliptical, or recumbent biking

-Soft tissue manipulation in the form of 3-5 min of light foam rolling the low back, mid-back, quads, and calves. More specific work can be done using a small lacrosse ball (or something similar) and working through bound up tissue in the glutes and hip external rotators.

-Specific mobility with alternating birddogs, X-band walks, and cat-cows.


Common exercise modifications

Banded 45º Hyperextensions- 45º Hyperextensions, Cable Pull-throughs, Banded Good Mornings

Barbell RDLs- Conventional Deadlifts, Block Pulls, Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Hovering Deficit Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Rack Pulls

Assisted High Step-Ups- Single Leg Press, FFE Split Squats, FFE Skater Squats, Glute Pressdowns (on Assisted Pull-Up), Machine Glute Kickbacks, Bulgarian Split Squats

Glute Focused Belt Squats- Glute Focused V-Squats, Glute Focused Smith Squats, Wide Stance Box Squats, Glute Focused Reverse Hack Squats, Glute Focused Barbell Squats

Seated Leg Curls- Lying Leg Curls, Kneeling Leg Curls, Standing Leg Curls, Seated Band Leg Curls, Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

Walking DB RDLs- Single Leg Braced DB RDLs, B Stance DB RDLs, Bulgarian DB RDLs, Alternating Step-Back DB RDLs

Reverse Hyperextensions- Swiss Ball Reverse Hyperextensions, Single Leg Reverse Hyperextensions, Banded Reverse Hyperextensions, Feet Elevated Glute Bridges


Common program modifications

Advanced trainees- Take the last set of A to failure. Perform B with a top set of 4-6 @8RPE and down set of 8-12 @9RPE. Take each set of C to 1RIR. Perform D as a top set of 4-6 and a down set of 1xRest Pause with ~80% of top set weight. Add a set to E1 and E2 and take E1 to technical failure. 

Intermediate trainees- Change E2 to B Stance DB RDLs

Beginner trainees- Change A to banded good mornings. Shift B to DB RDLs and rep range to 10-12 (4RIR). C should be FFE Split Squats with bw and 3030 tempo taken to 2RIR each. Increase rep range on D to 8-10 and 3RIR. Remove E2 entirely. F should be performed as 2x2RIR with just bw and full rest.

Male trainees- Longer rest between sets and more feeders before working sets on B and D. A can be adjusted in order to get more quad volume in if desired. Volume may need to be decreased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (stronger trainees may need less working sets).

Female trainees- Shorter rest between working sets and less feeders/warmup sets will generally be needed. A and/or D can be subbed out in favor of hip abduction work OR hip extension work if desired. Volume may need to be increased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (better conditioned trainees may need more working sets).


Common injury modifications:

Low Back- Knowing that this is a hinge focused day, it will be pretty challenging to work around any significant low back issues. The best we can do is alleviate risk through exercise selection modification. This could look like switching barbell to DBs for the RDLs and performing the walking RDLs stationary either with a B stance or single leg. Reverse hypers may actually help with low back problems but I would recommend scaling back on the intensity and load in favor of more control. If the pain/discomfort is persistent, it is highly advised to not perform this day as programmed.

Hips- Though most of our work is going to be bilateral and in a conventional stance, we still have to plan for the possibility that the step-ups, belt squats or walking RDLs could potentially cause some issues with deeper knee flexion. In this case, we want to start out by ensuring our anterior structures (hip flexors, psoas, etc) are up to the task. Kneeling hip flexor stretches (make them dynamic) and 90/90 stretches are a good way to open this area up, and then adding in psoas releases (with a soft ball preferably) will take a ton of pressure off the hip. If these don't offer any relief, try to purposefully limit the hip flexion and ROM that you're getting while performing your reps of the main movements. Changing the step ups completely to a FFE split squat or single leg press might also be a good idea just to get some additional control. 

Knees- Both movements that could be irritants (step ups and belt squats) are very easy to modify if it comes to that, but we should always start with deliberate biking as a warmup followed by release of the quads (foam rolling) and knee extension work (band TKEs, light leg extensions, etc). The goal is really just to get blood into the knees and then see how they will hold up under more load. If they're still bothersome, try to limit the degree of knee flexion in the main movements and make them more glute/hip biased. If this still doesn't work, move to split squats and box squats, respectively.


Additional notes:

Clearly, this is a pretty complex training day.

Outside of just using variation for the sake of variation, there are some subtleties within the specifics that shine a light on 1) why we would want to distribute our volume among multiple different movement types and 2) how our selected movements actually allow for increased stimulation with decreased fatigue generation and injury risk.

Let's dive in!

When programming any type of loaded hinge pattern, we have to think about how that specific exercise...done in that specific way...in that specific sequence...with that specific rep scheme and intensity prescription will affect the system and the potential R/R (risk versus reward) of these factors. Notably, we have FIVE movements here that I will classify as "hinge" movements: Banded 45º Hypers, Barbell RDLs, Belt Squats (despite the name), Walking DB RDLs, and Reverse Hypers. Each of these has their own morphology that is important to understand in order to see the interplay within the session. If you can understand these nuances, you can be a better coach and/or client.

Banded 45º Hypers- Though the intent is labeled as "Mind-muscle connection" it could have just as easily been metabolic stress or overload. This is one of those movements that forms to your desires. We placed it first in the session to get the glutes firing hard without overly taxing the low back. The band helps with each of these goals though it's also not necessary especially if it's causing more harm than good (some people like to hyperextend into the band). We want to prime our systems for what is to come rather than create serious fatigue here.

Barbell RDLs- This is the meat-and-potatoes. We want to go hard and heavy while also doing what we can to protect our low back from excessive stress. The shortened ROM and the starting position (taking the bar from the rack) will aid in maximizing glute stimulation while minimizing risk as much as is possible with heavy hinges.

Belt Squats- Is this a hinge or a squat? Good question! It's technically both due to how we're going to be performing it. With the execution being glute-focused, that means we're going to be sitting back into our hips and limiting knee flexion. To an untrained eye, the pattern should resemble that of a hinge just with a different load placement. Yes, the quads are going to take some tension but in totality, we're still training very similar functions that we just did with the RDLs. The massive advantage here is the complete removal of axial loading. Placing this in the middle of the session and after the heaviest movement, gives the low back a much-needed reprieve while also adding some compression-reducing traction that might create a compounded positive effect for some.

Walking DB RDLs- So this variation is advanced. And even saying that might not do it enough justice. Any time you add dynamism into a loaded hinge, you're creating instability and potential vectors for something bad to happen. I just mentioned R/R but this doesn't seem to fit within that guideline, right? Yes and no...The goal here is NOT necessarily to go as heavy as you can for the given rep range (despite the intent being overload). What we want is to force our body to react to changing conditions; done properly and this will create intrinsic overload. The key here is to take it slow and focus on perfect reps. It really should look more like an alternating B stance DB RDL with a proper pace. I would never recommend this to anyone who lacked proprioception or the trunk stability to withstand these forces, but for those who can do it safely, you'll be shocked as to how much stronger, more stable, and even durable your low back and hips are after a month or two.

Reverse Hypers- Similar to the walking RDLs, we have another layer being added to a lasagna of complexity. But now we're doing something we haven't seen up to this point in the session...We have our upper body fixed while our lower body moves through space. Thinking about it further, this is the exact opposite of basically every normal body function that we're used to and perform on a daily basis. And that's EXACTLY what makes it so valuable/unique to us! Doing the same thing day-in-and-day-out creates patterns of wear that eventually devolve into real injuries. Most people with long-standing gym experience know this first hand, and the most common culprit is the low back. It's just natural that eventually something would break after so much volume of picking things up, no matter how heavy or intense. As with most other problems that arise in the course of training, the solution can be found in doing more of the opposite. Always straining your pecs? Train your mid back harder. Anterior knee pain? Try strengthening your hamstrings and stretching your calves. Pain in your low back with hinging? Try reverse hypers.

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