The hip hinge is an exercise that strengthens the glutes and helps keep a healthy spine. It helps your body develop a motor pattern that activates abdominal and hip muscles, and minimizes compressive forces on the spine, during lifting and bending activities as well as during athletic activities such as skiing and weight lifting.
The hip hinge is basically what it sounds like: a movement that requires hinging at the hips, rather than at other joints of the body. Often, we bend at the spine because it is easier and requires less muscle activation. However, this increases the compressive loads in the spine, which can result in back injury, including disc bulges and herniations. A hip hinge incorporates a neutral spine and activates the glutes, as the torso moves forward and then returns to an upright position. The knees are either straight or with a slight bend, but not in a squatting position.
The hip hinge can be a difficult movement to learn, and it is helpful to use external cues to facilitate correct performance. One way to learn how to perform this movement correctly is to use a ski pole. Hold the ski pole behind your back and maintain contact with the back of the head, the upper back, and the tailbone. Now perform the exercise; the contact of the ski pole will ensure that you maintain a neutral spine and truly hinge at the hips.
This is an important exercise if you have a job where you lift throughout the day, to strengthen the muscles of your core and back that help you lift safely. If you are interested in performing deadlifts or kettle bell works out, this is an especially important exercise before you progress with weights.
A way to progress the hip hinge is to add weight during either phase. An example is shown below. Do not continue this exercise if it causes back pain; see you physical therapist if this is the case and you would like tips on your technique or a more appropriate exercise for you.