It’s been a minute (OK, six years), since Olympian Nastia Liukin officially retired from the sport of gymnastics. But that doesn’t mean the 28-year-old gold medalist has quit being an athlete entirely.
Thanks to an Instagram Story posted yesterday by celebrity trainer Joe Holder, we know Liukin is still putting in hard work—perhaps not at the gymnastics center, but most definitely in the gym.
In the Story, Liukin demos a badass-looking move that Holder, a Nike coach who has also worked with Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, Georgia Fowler, Romee Strijd, and Maria Borges, dubs “hinge pull-throughs.”
Essentially, it’s a hip-hinge movement, like a deadlift, though instead of pulling weight straight up as you would in a deadlift, you pull the weight (in this case, on a mini sled) up and forward, like in a kettlebell swing. After pulling the weight through, Liukin takes a few steps forward to reset her stance, and then repeats the move, slowly traveling across the gym floor as she goes.
Here’s a look at the move:
And another look at the top of the movement:
The main muscles working in this movement are the core, hips, and glutes, says Holder.
“Nastia has a bit of a hyperextension pattern, so we work a bit on getting to a neutral pelvis position,” Holder tells SELF of the purpose and benefits of the pull-throughs. “This works on that in a dynamic motion.”
In other words, this move can help people who tend to over-arch their backs during exercise (a common mistake that can lead to injury), by encouraging them to keep their pelvis in a neutral position.
Hip-hinging movements in general are important for a number of reasons.
It's a common tendency to try to keep your upper body straight when you do a lower-body exercise, but you actually have to have a slight torso lean to set your hips back effectively and target your glutes and hamstrings, exercise physiologist Joel Seedman, Ph.D., owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, Georgia, previously told SELF. This slight forward tilt of the torso is known as the “hip hinge” and as mentioned, it’s part of proper form in many lower-body moves, like deadlifts and kettlebell swings.
The hip hinge helps put the spine in the proper positioning and engage the correct muscles that should be the main drivers in lower-body moves. With this particular move, that means the hips, glutes, and core. When you engage the right muscles, you avoid straining the ones that aren't meant to take on the brunt of the work.
“Many people have an excessive curve in [their] lower back which can result in weaker glutes, tighter hips, and weaker abs,” explains Holder. “Having a quality hinge pattern can help fix all of this as part of [an overall fitness] program.” These sled pull-throughs can help strengthen these spots and put the spine in a safe, comfortable position.
Here’s how to do the move:
- If you’re new to this move, start with a resistance band or a cable machine (versus the prowler or mini sled, like Liukin uses), recommends Holder. If using a resistance band, loop it around a sturdy base.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and grab the handles between your legs with both hands. Move forward until there is significant tension in the band.
- Your arms should be nearly straight, but not locked. Keep a soft bend in your knees. Slightly tilt your torso forward by bending at your hips and pushing your butt back a couple of inches. Your back should be flat, your shoulder blades retracted (don't let the resistance pull them forward and make you hunch). This is the starting position.
- Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your butt as you lift your torso up. As you lift, pull the resistance band or cable up and through in a forceful, yet controlled, manner. The movement should be initiated primarily by your hips, not your arms.
- Hold the resistance for a moment at the top of the movement and then lower your body (and the band) back down to return to starting position. This is 1 rep.
- Do 10 reps. Rest, and repeat for 2 additional sets of 10 reps each.
When performing the reps, “think of this as a hinge, not a squat,” says Holder. Keeping your back straight and flat as you drive your hips forward is key—think about bending and extending from the hips, not your back. Also, the direction of your arm movement matters. The pulling motion should be similar to that of a kettlebell swing, says Holder, which means the resistance band should go both up and out in front of you (rather than just in one direction or another).
When you lower back down to starting position, maintain some tension in the band/cable—don't let it go totally slack. At the top of the movement, try to have as much tension in the band/cable as possible. Keep your feet pressed fully into the ground throughout the movement. This will help stabilize you and ensure you're activating your glutes throughout, Holder says.