4 Drills to Clean Up a Hinge Pattern

Drills are an awesome and totally underutilized tool within most exercise programs. It's not hard to fall into the mindset of always needing to get stronger within a movement rather than just getting better at it through practice. This is CRUCIAL for people just beginning their strength training program as their initial gains are all based off of just learning how to do things, and thus can be expedited through the extra practice.

Hearing the term, "drill" also changes the mindset of the client. When you address a simple movement as an exercise, often times the client will be more aggressive in execution as they try to, "feel the burn" or fight you to let them go heavier. But when introducing a drill, it's often understood that the purpose is to learn the finer points of the movements and focus on technique. It then becomes immensely easier to progress the movement, blow through the noob gains or even clean up technique in more advanced lifters.

I personally find that the general population has the hardest time getting down their hinge pattern. This is most likely attuned to picking up things the wrong way on a daily basis combined with the whole factor of glute amnesia. It's for this reason that I've started using hinge drill variations in almost everyone's programs to help with their deadlift without having to worry about fatiguing the movement. I find that it helps with clients of all levels and experience.

The following are some of the most common drills you'll see us use at SAPT in the order of less to more advanced. Keep in mind that for people starting off, they are best paired with glute activation drills to help build stability in the posterior chain during the pattern.

Knees Against Bench Dowel Rod Hinge Drill


This drill is awesome for all levels of lifters. To perform it, set up with your knees about an inch or two(everyone will be different) from a bench and hold a dowel rod against the back of your head, thoracic spine, and sacrum. Once set, push your hips back as you allow your knees to touch the bench. Go as far back as you can without letting you knees come off the bench or letting the dowel rod come off your head, point on your t-spine or sacrum. Come back out of the hinge and do not let your knees leave the bench until you are almost to lockout. Keep your feet relaxed and planted the entire time. Ideally one hand will be in the space of your lordotic curve to help give better feedback of if your back starts to round. If the knees come off the bench, you've sacrificed hip extension for knee extension. If the dowel rod leaves you, then you've lost your neutral spine. ONLY GO AS FAR AS YOU CAN WHILE MEETING THESE REQUIREMENTS.

This drill has become a staple for beginners at SAPT and I have found it to reinforce a correct hinge pattern faster than any other corrective. As previously stated, I often like to combine it with floor-based glute activation exercises to help give the client more posterior chain stability and allow them to hinge further back. Also, for more quad-dominant individuals, I will abuse this exercise during their rest periods. It's not uncommon for you to see 10 sets of 10 to be performed throughout the session.

This is an(especially) appropriate drill for anyone who has the following issues:

  • Locks out knees before hips
  • Has trouble keeping a neutral spine
  • Has a poopy ASLR and is not yet ready for deadlifts(especially when combined with the next on the list)
  • Poor posterior weight shift ability

Band Resisted Quadruped Rock


This drill looks odd at first(especially when performed by Waldo), but it can be pretty powerful when used correctly. Due to the knees being unable to translate during the movement, it shifts the entire focus to the hip extension and using the hips as drivers for propulsion. It's also one of the easiest movements to coach considering it's built off of a developmental pattern.

You can use several different types of harness, I chose this one for the video as it's the most popular among gyms. Just make sure for this types that the chain goes through your legs rather than behind. With it set up as shown, it'll give fairly personal feedback for when the pelvis starts  to tuck or if spinal flexion starts to appear(especially for guys).

To perform, start as shown in quadruped position with a band hooked to your harness. Keep a tall posture and imagine you're pushing the ground behind you as you rock forward. The rock back. Done. due to it's simplicity and easiness, I like to program sets of 10-20.

This is an(especially) appropriate drill for anyone who has the following issues:

  • Locks out knees before hips
  • Loads the back rather than the hips
  • Has a poopy ASLR and is unready for deadlifts(especially when combined with the previous drill)
  • Poor body awareness
  • Has lower-leg dysfunction that is affecting traditional hinge movements

Band-Resisted Hinge ISO


This drill is a little more advanced than the previous ones. We tend to introduce this to individuals who have already been exposed to kettlebell deadlifts, but may be having some trouble with them. Or we may just want a tension exercise and to get the glutes more involved. The reasons can span on since it's been found to be such an effective movement for progressing deadlifts.

Due to your body reflexively tightening your posterior chain to protect you from falling back, you'll be hard pressed to find an exercise that causes a more effective glute contraction. Because of that, the uses for this drill are vast. But what it also does: teaches correct load/tension in the bottom of a deadlift, reinforces position, gives an opportunity to teach proper bracing mechanics, gives a safe variation for introducing isometric work into deadlifting.

To perform this, you need to have already established competency in the first drill. If someone has trouble keeping a neutral spine or cannot physically get into a proper hinge position, this IS NOT for them. To set up attach band or cable from the ground a few feet behind you, to your hip crease. With a kettlebell either in deadlift position OR a bit in front of you, grab on to it and set your back as if you're about to lift. Then hinge back into the band. It will try to pull you further back, causing your glutes to automatically turn on to prevent you from falling. Between the added weight of the bell and the tension you've created, you will feel your strong and stable position. You will know a client has reached the appropriate spot once their shoulder are over their feet.

Again, I want to reiterate that the bell can be in front of you rather than in deadlift position. Most people starting off will need it to be in front and that's ok. I've yet to see a correlation between the position of the bell for this drill and poor carryover to deadlifting. The main component is the main position of the hips and torso. You can even see my toes start to elevate, meaning that I probably should've had it a little further in front.

This can be tricky to coach, but it's been extremely effective. Just make sure that: the arms are long, the back is flat, the shoulders end up over the feet in a hinge position and the client stays tight. I like to use the cue, "attach yourself to the bell then pry your hips into position so that the band can't move you." I also make them hold a brace in this position to help prep them for once they lift heavy.

This drill is appropriate for anyone who has the following issues:

  • Poor set up
  • Looses tension on initiating the pull
  • Has trouble loading the hips
  • Poor bracing

Band Resisted KB Deadlift


This drill is just a dynamic variation of the previous one. I find that many clients will have a great first rep, then will get, "quaddy" when lowering the weight, putting them in poor position at the bottom and killing the smooth transition to the next rep. This drill helps to keep them honest and remind them to load the hips through both portions of the lift.

You'll notice that I start the movement from the top and allow the band to assist in pulling me into position. This is because some people may have trouble finding the initial pull position at the bottom with the band constantly pulling them back(the same reason why I said some people will want the KB in front of them for the ISO). Starting from the top diminishes that issue so long as the 5lb plate is there. to guide them where to put the bell. The band helps to establish a RNT(reflexive neuromuscular training) effect which will keep the glutes involved through the entirety of the lift.

This drill is appropriate for anyone who has the following issues:

  • sagital knee translation during lift
  • poor eccentric phase
  • hamstring dominance