strength training

Mastering the Hip Hinge

The hip hinge is a key basic athletic movement that must be mastered to perform many strength training exercises in the weight-room. Squat, deadlift, push press, and Olympic lift variations are all highly reliant on this fundamental ability, plus, a rock-solid hip hinge has numerous benefits to whatever sport you play. The hip hinge is the basis of the fundamental athletic position. Building strength and endurance of the back, glute, hamstring, quad, and calf muscles involved in hip hinging will make you powerful in many elements of your game.

What is the hip hinge?

The hip hinge is the movement of pushing the hips back, maintaining a neutral spine and no more than a slight bend of the knees, balancing bodyweight between forefoot and heel. This is the power position and is a part of almost every sport–NFL combine athletes hit this position when testing their vertical jump, baseball players prepare for a ground ball in this position, sports like football, basketball, lacrosse, and soccer play defense from this position, volleyball players bump from a hip hinge, tennis players serve return from the hinge, Olympic lifters hang clean from this position, and finally, this is the deadlift position. The hip hinge is the point of optimal strength of the main muscles of the lower body: calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.


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Mastering the Hip Hinge

The hip hinge is a key basic athletic movement that must be mastered to perform many strength training exercises in the weight-room. Squat, deadlift, push press, and Olympic lift variations are all highly reliant on this fundamental ability, plus, a rock-solid hip hinge has numerous benefits to whatever sport you play. The hip hinge is the basis of the fundamental athletic position. Building strength and endurance of the back, glute, hamstring, quad, and calf muscles involved in hip hinging will make you powerful in many elements of your game.

What is the hip hinge?

The hip hinge is the movement of pushing the hips back, maintaining a neutral spine and no more than a slight bend of the knees, balancing bodyweight between forefoot and heel. This is the power position and is a part of almost every sport–NFL combine athletes hit this position when testing their vertical jump, baseball players prepare for a ground ball in this position, sports like football, basketball, lacrosse, and soccer play defense from this position, volleyball players bump from a hip hinge, tennis players serve return from the hinge, Olympic lifters hang clean from this position, and finally, this is the deadlift position. The hip hinge is the point of optimal strength of the main muscles of the lower body: calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.


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5 Tips for New Coaches

I have enjoyed connecting the dots on my young coaching career. A few of these dots are:

  • Dad buys me a used bench and concrete weights at age 12-13. We have to keep a training log for karate promotions, so I begin journaling my training as my middle school best friend and I do endless variations of bench press and arms exercises. I get bit by “the iron bug” and build the early habit of the training log.
  • Despite no real experience, knowledge, or accomplishments, I become “the guy” in high school writing training programs for himself and anyone who wants one. I latch on to my high school strength and conditioning class teacher and coach. He supervises my senior project after I change interests from sociology/criminal justice to “undecided,” and I do my presentation on strength training for rowing.
  • I play club lacrosse in college and become the de facto team strength and conditioning coach, organizing weight-room and agility and conditioning sessions.
  • I work with a few rowers at my student job and run into them in the weight-room during a lacrosse session. They jump in and I start working with a few of them individually. I decide to major in kinesiology because I enjoy sports and training.
  • Because I’m in the weight-room so much, actual coaches and athletes start assuming I know what I’m doing. The undergrad kinesiology program is backed up, so thanks to one of these connections, I fulfill my year-long internship requirement with the varsity track and field team before I actually begin coursework.
  • I’m giving advice and coaching to 5-6 rowers at this point, and a few of them become team captains/cabinet members. They talk to their coach about strength training and I officially become the team strength coach.
  • I overhear my former lacrosse teammate and then-roommate talking on the phone with the head coach of a new lacrosse program he’s coaching, lamenting their struggles to find a JV assistant coach. I sign my coaching contract the next week.
  • I have a job at a local gym after I graduate. I work it for a while and things don’t work out, so I take a desk job. I have a lot of time, so I start a website so that my high school lacrosse players and college rowers can find technique videos and training resources.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve said things to athletes that I’ve regretted, missed plenty of opportunities, skipped on readings that I should’ve read in school, called plays that didn’t work out, and done some dumb things in the weight-room. I’ve learned a lot from these, and I know I’ll make more and learn from those too.

I’ve also done a few things right that I think would help a new coach. (more…)

Summer Training: Fix Your Imbalances

If you’ve followed my blog and the block periodization method, you know that for most spring 2k rowers, the summer season general preparation block is one of your most productive training times to set up the rest of your year. The main goals of the general preparation block are:

  1. Rest, recover, and heal

  2. Build a foundation of strength and aerobic capacity

  3. Correct imbalances that result from rowing

  4. Enjoy summer and maintain your enthusiasm for the sport

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FAQ: Deadlifts for Rowing

The deadlift is a lift that has the potential to have excellent utility and carryover to rowing. I emphasize potential because many rowers perform the lift with the goal in mind of lifting the absolute most weight or reps that they can, rather than the goal of becoming a better rower. Training for rowing always comes back to this question—am I using this activity correctly to become a better rower? In many cases, lifting the absolute most that you can is NOT actually making you a better rower.

The biggest mistake I see with rowers’ deadlifts is turning the lift into a pull with the back rather than a push from the legs and hips. Performed correctly, the deadlift should look almost identical to a half-slide stroke. Rowers tend to incorrectly set up at the bottom of the lift, often turning the lift into a squat or a stiff-leg pull or failing to maintain a braced torso and neutral spine. Check out my video below from How to Deadlift then read on for more deadlift FAQs for rowing.

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FAQ: Deadlifts for Rowing

The deadlift is a lift that has the potential to have excellent utility and carryover to rowing. I emphasize potential because many rowers perform the lift with the goal in mind of lifting the absolute most weight or reps that they can, rather than the goal of becoming a better rower. Training for rowing always comes back to this question—am I using this activity correctly to become a better rower? In many cases, lifting the absolute most that you can is NOT actually making you a better rower.

The biggest mistake I see with rowers’ deadlifts is turning the lift into a pull with the back rather than a push from the legs and hips. Performed correctly, the deadlift should look almost identical to a half-slide stroke. Rowers tend to incorrectly set up at the bottom of the lift, often turning the lift into a squat or a stiff-leg pull or failing to maintain a braced torso and neutral spine. Check out my video below from How to Deadlift then read on for more deadlift FAQs for rowing.

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Summer Training Programs for Rowing

The spring season has ended, the final 2k’s raced or tested, and you’re ready to start down the road of summer training. How can you use the 12-16 weeks of summer to best set you up for the rest of the year?

First, take a break! If you rowed all the way through spring and in to the championships, you might be on Week 16 or so of spring rowing. You deserve a break, and it will benefit your training too. This is called the “Rejuvenation Phase” if you’re using a block periodized program, and programs throughout geography and time have used the 2-3 weeks following a major competitive season as a time to mentally and physically rest, destress, and heal up from hard training. You will find that your energy rebounds and you’ll be enthusiastic for the next training block, instead of dragging into it and possibly carrying over aches and pains. Use this time to pick up a neglected hobby, enjoy some non-rowing recreation, and loosen up a bit on the diet.

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Staying Summer Fit for Rowing

Originally posted as a guest post on Rowperfect UK

It’s summer time and many of us are thinking of time away from the boathouse, ergometer, and spin bike. Often, this is out of our control, such as in the case of the high school student who has a summer job that conflicts with open gym or boathouse times. Sometimes this is in our control, such as a planned vacation or conscious choice to move rowing to the backburner for a few weeks or months and focus on other activities. The competitive athlete will never want to give up an edge to their competition, so while there is no true replacement for time in the boat or on the erg, here is how to stay in as good shape as possible to make smooth the transition back to specific training.

A Rowperfect reader asked, “I’m unable to row for the next month and I can only really use the erg (and for that matter, weights) a few times a week. Other than that, what are good methods for keeping rowing fit?

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Off-Season Training for Lacrosse

While many athletes are rolling straight from spring lacrosse to summer club ball, others will have the next few months away from structured sport. Off-seasons are critical to long-term success as valuable time to lay a foundation of strength, size, speed, and athletic fundamentals. Year-round structured sports can lead to overuse injuries, burnout, and failure to maximize potential by depriving athletes of off-season training.

I’ve written many times over the last year about the value of an off-season and how to train during off-seasons to maximize success and potential. Rather than write this all again, here is the collection of off-season resources and links all in one place. A few notes: (more…)

FAQ: Squats for Rowing

baby squatThe squat is the king of lower body lifts. If you’re looking for a lift to inject power into your stroke and build a pair of thighs worth having out on race day, look no further. However, this is also a lift that can be intimidating for the beginning lifter or athlete. Familiarize yourself with the lift, how I teach it, and what cues I focus on first in my “How to Train Your Rower: The Squat” article, then check out my answers to some frequently asked questions about this awesome lift.

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