Forward lean with shoulder flexion (Hip hinge)

Forward lean with shoulder flexion (Hip hinge)

forward lean with lumbar spine neutral

Level:  Beginner, Intermediate 

Standing, forward lean is basically a hip hinge exercise. A great gluteal and  core strengthener that is also very functional. We perform a lot of our activities of daily living in a ‘forward lean’ or ‘hip hinge’ position eg leaning over a sink to spit out your toothpaste, chopping vegetables at the kitchen bench, bending to pick something up off the floor. A squat and deadlift rely on the same fundamental movement pattern. Often we bend only from the lumbar spine, which is okay, but it is inefficient and can cause pain for many people. If we learn how to turn on our deep muscle groups, the stabiliser muscles, like transverse abdominus and our glutes, then we can move more efficiently, avoid injury and maintain our posture for extended periods. Generally, when we bend forwards the first 30° of movement should be from the hip joint. In this forward lean or hip hinge exercise, we simplify the movement and maintain the 30° forward flexion position at the hips.  The exerciser can then focus on activating the glutes on the forward leg, to hold the pelvis position, whilst they maintain a neutral spinal position.  The deep back, neck and tummy muscles are therefore maintaining trunk and head alignment. Using a roller in the hands adds a little complexity. The exerciser can then progress to squats and deadlifts understanding how to flex and extend at the hips whilst maintaining a neutral spine.

Set up:

  • in standing, feet hip width apart,
  • knees “soft” (ie, not fully extended or locked, but not bent)
  • deep tummy muscles contracted at a low level,
  • the roller held horizontally with hands on both ends so that at rest, it is in contact with your thighs,
  • arms relaxed by your sides with a slight contraction in the shoulder blade muscles,


  1. take a slightly larger than normal step forward with the right foot, maintaining the middle of your right kneecap in line with your 2nd right toe, and ensure that as you look down,  your right knee stays in behind your right toes
  2. keep weight into the right heel throughout,
  3. the heel on the left foot should be lifted and weight kept into the ball of this foot,
  4. bend forward from your hips only, by about 30°, flex your right knee just a little more,
  5. in this position, if you looked down, your right shoulder should be over the middle of the right thigh and mid right foot,
  6. chin should be gently tucked and eyes looking toward the floor
  7. maintain this forward lean position as you slowly raise arms to shoulder height and then lower,
  8. repeat shoulder flexion up to 15 times then swap legs and repeat.
forward lean with a roller


  • maintain a neutral lumbar spine throughout exercise,
  • maintain slight shoulder blade contractions and deep tummy contraction throughout the exercise,
  • aim for an imaginary straight line running diagonally through ear,  shoulder and hip (and knee and ankle), when in the forward lean position- in fact perform your exercise side on to a mirror to assess your alignment
  • maintain weight into the heel of the forward foot to improve buttock contraction,
  • remember to breathe normally throughout.
  • there should be no back pain or fatigue.

Make it Harder:

  • raise the roller above the head without overusing neck muscles,
  • take a larger step forward,
  • add in trunk rotation to the right and left when in forward lean by moving roller horizontally to the right then back to the midline then to the left,
  • tilt further forward and so that the rear leg lifts off the floor and it becomes a “crane ” exercise
  • try “drinking bird
forward lean with high arms drinking bird