Cueing The Hinge: "Look Over The Cliff"
Don't you hate when you are cueing someone and just can’t get them in the right position? I know I do. So over the years I have compiled quite a few external cues to help my athletes with various movements. Hands down one of the most difficult movements to cue is the hinge. Athletes are constantly ending up in poor positions; it almost hurts to look at sometimes!
Before we get into this “magic” cue, let’s talk about what cues are not always so great to use for the hinge. Of course, every athlete is different and will respond in their own unique way to every cue you throw at them. That’s why it is important to have multiple cues in your toolbox to be an effective coach.
Cues that may not always work too well…
Don’t get me wrong, of course we want their hips to go back, but sometimes this causes a faulty hinge pattern. Oftentimes when you tell someone to push their hips back, they don’t allow their hips to actually hinge. Instead they do more of a squat and fall too deep into their heels. Which brings me to my next cue...
“Weight in heels”
This may be my least favorite cue. This also goes for squats and many other lower body movements. I understand that we don’t want the person putting too much pressure into their toes, but I find myself cueing people to shift more weight into their toes than their heels. Why? Stability. If the weight is shifted too far towards the heels, not only will you possibly lose balance, but your strength will be compromised. Don’t believe me? Try putting your weight into your heels and jump. I bet you won’t be able to jump very high.
This cue is tad more specific and while it is probably used correctly, it can cause unwanted issues. Sometimes you may have someone perform a hinge and their spine may begin to flex. Instincts tell you to say, “Keep your chest up.” Not wrong, but in order for them to get their chest up, they have to extend their spine to do so. This motion done repeatedly can cause a lot of fatigue in the lower back and may result in injury. It’s always important to teach someone how to find a neutral spine. This can be done by doing a simple cat camel exercise.
Okay, now for the cue I find to be effective with almost everyone…
“Look over the cliff”
Many times when an athlete adds resistance to the hinge, they are afraid to use their lower back. So they actually end up keeping their chest up which limits the hinge motion. In reality, we want the person to allow their chest to get parallel to the floor.
So I say, “Look over the cliff. It gets you to lean the chest forward and pull your hips back so you don’t fall off the cliff. Coupled with this cue you want to see…
Feet hip width
Weight in center of feet
When a hinge is done properly the person should feel their hamstring eccentrically load with no stress in the lower back. Always ask the person where they are feeling the movement for feedback!
So the next time when you are struggling to get your athlete into the correct hinge position, give this cue a try! I hope it helps lead to better hinges and less lower back injuries for you all!