Charlie Weingroff: The Hip Hinge from the Neuromuscular Perspective
Charlie Weingroff elaborates on the importance of the hip hinge from the neuromuscular perspective . . . and why he thinks you should be able to touch your toes before you deadlift.
From the neuromuscular perspective, I’m going to suggest it’s a pretty good idea to be able to touch your toes in a certain way before we regularly execute deadlifts and swings.
Am I saying you have to be able to touch your toes to be able to pull successfully and safely? Maybe for the long term, but I don’t think individual executions require anything special. It depends on what your goals are. Is it a competition, or is this long-term training?
I think you should be able to touch your toes before you deadlift. I’m not saying you can’t physically deadlift and look good doing it if you cannot touch your toes, but I am saying this is a worthwhile chase. Here’s why: The muscles we use from a hard-style or high-tension technique, which is the correct way to pull, are the ones we can create tension in with our brains.
We need those.
If I am using enough weight on the bar or the bell is heavy enough, those muscles start to do the right thing whether you tell them to do it or not. We’ll generate tension through our limbs, which will further potentiate tension through our spine.
We’re talking about the obliques, the rectus abdominis—not the transverse abdominis—and the multifidus, the pelvic floor, the diaphragm. These are muscles you are capable of contracting volitionally, but what do those muscles have to do with pulling big wheels?
What you see in people who are built like me is this little roundness we see in strong and fast people.
The first time I was in the Giants’ locker room—when these guys take their shoulder pads off, they don’t all look like TO. Sometimes they look soft. Sometimes they look round. But they are great sprinters.
Leroy Burrell, who came after Carl Lewis, looked kind of round. This roundness with a six-pack, the sixpack is obviously the high threshold muscles we need for high exhibitions of force, but what about the muscles that live underneath, the ones that make us look almost soft sometimes—the multifidus, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, diaphragm?
When you are able to touch your toes, you demonstrate mobility through the spinal segments with a posterior shift of your hips. We’re looking for mobility everywhere. Biomechanics looks for mobility in key places as per the joint-by-joint approach. I need mobility in one spot; I need control in the next segment. I need mobility. I need control.
From a neuromuscular perspective, I think you need mobility everywhere. When you have mobility, the brain recognizes through the specialized nerve endings that live very close to the joints. Mechanoreceptors, proprioceptors or whatever terminology works, they’re everywhere in the body, but they live closest to the joints, and the joints are what gives the body feedback to have reflexive contraction.
Deadlifts and swings are forward patterns. When you can touch your toes in this forward pattern, we are now going to determine if you can get into a bad position. When your brain knows your joints are capable of getting into a bad position, it shoots this up-regulation of these small muscles that do not create movement, but they strangulate the spine. Not only do we see that in the strongest and fastest people in the world, it is sensible from what we see in people who move well and have good injury status.
I’m not talking about anyone with pain. I’m not talking about pulling in your belly button. I’m talking about these muscles that perhaps we’ll call “tonic” versus muscles we’ll call “phasic.” By being able to touch your toes, your brain recognizes that the spine has good mobility. That recognition is because we need 54 degrees of flexion. That’s normal range of motion in the lumbar spine for flexion.
I think there are certain ways to get it and there are certain ways that will not get it. If you can’t do something and you continue to try, it probably won’t happen. We may be able to show you how to get that toe touch if the joints are able to change quickly, because just like the hip, if it’s a capsular restriction and stiffness, it may not happen quickly, but it can happen.
From a neuromuscular perspective, this is why we need those muscles to be online. The brain will deliver reflexive stability when it knows it has to.
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