Of all the movements I teach my clients, the hardest ones to teach are the ones we do the most: Bending over and squatting. Whether it's for deadlifts, bent over rows, or just bending down to pick up weights, the human body does it's best to bypass all that is good and holy in our spines and we end up rounding the back, dropping the shoulders and putting unnecessary stress on the spine.
If you watch a small child do this movement, you will see it done with perfect form: Bend the knees, take the hips straight down instead of out (like we do) and naturally protecting the back while using the hips, glutes and thighs as prime movers. However, as we get older, we grow taller and that floor is so very far away and doesn't it feel easier to bend over without squatting? Maybe it does, until your back sends an urgent message in the form of chronic pain.
That's one reason I like using the Hip Hinge for teaching the proper way to bend over. The idea is to position a stick (a lightly weighted bar, broomstick, hockey stick, etc.) on your back to make sure you're doing the three most important things when bending over: Hinging at the hips, keeping the back straight and keeping the shoulders back. Use this movement pattern anytime you're bending over, whether it's to do an exercise or in daily life. Your back? Will thank you.
Do it right: Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and take your bar, holding it behind your back with one hand just behind your head and the other at the small of your back. The stick should be in contact with your head, between the shoulders and your tailbone. Shift the weight to your heels and push your hips back as you hinge forward at the hips, bending the knees slightly, until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Keep the stick in contact with all 3 points during the movement. Contract the glutes to stand up, again keeping the stick in contact with your head, shoulders and tailbone the entire time. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.