Exercise 101 – Hip Hinge Movements

Hip Hinge Exercises

Hip hinge movement patterns are the cornerstone of any exercise programme to strengthen the posterior chain and build or maintain muscle mass in the spinal extensor, gluteal and hamstring muscles.

At its simplest level, hip hinge movements are multi-joint movements that involve simultaneous motion of the ankles, knees, and hips whilst maintaining a neutral spine.

For the proper motion to occur, the exerciser needs to have the capacity to disassociate the hip from spine motion.


Suppose the ability to maintain a static neutral spine during hip hinge movements is deficient. Then the spine, particularly the lumbar spine, will undergo undesirable flexion, extension or rotation during the hip hinge movement. This undesirable spinal motion increases the risk of injury for most exercisers.

Undesirable spinal flexion increases the risk of soft tissue strains and intervertebral disc injuries when loaded. Whilst undesirable extension under load increases the risk of injury to spinal nerve roots and vertebral joint articular surfaces.

Spine Anatomy Hip Hinge

The capacity to maintain a neutral spine during hip hinge movements depends on a combination of muscular strength and flexibility of the anterior and posterior trunk muscles, hip flexor and extensor muscles and motor control. Motor control describes the ability of the nervous system to coordinate proper movement in the joints and muscles associated with a particular movement pattern.

Below is a common postural compensation, a ‘lower cross syndrome’, that many suffer from due to prolonged periods of sitting and not stretching regularly to counteract this stress to the body.

Lower Cross Pattern

To help exercisers perform hip hinge movements safely and effectively, it is suggested that they can control the pelvis and spine in the squat & lunge movement patterns and effectively perform core training movements, such as anti-flexion, anti-lateral flexion, and anti-rotation movements.

Test Yourself

Suppose you want to evaluate your functional capacity to disassociate hip and spine motion. In that case, the Bird Dog exercise is an excellent way to observe your capacity and, if needed, perform until you can master the exercise.

Before using your phone to record yourself performing the exercise, watch the video below. And then, compare your execution of the exercise to the demonstration video.

Please watch the videos below to observe how to perform hip hinge exercises and what muscles are active during the movement.

Understanding which muscles are active and what joints should or should not be moving will help you appreciate and better understand how to perform the exercises safely and effectively.

If you need help disassociating the hip from the spine motion:

  • Perform foam rolling (SMR) and stretching exercises before working out
    • SMR – thoracic spine, lumbar spine muscles, hamstrings & quadriceps
    • Stretch – hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and piriformis muscles
  • Try to feel how your hips and pelvis are moving as you hinge
  • Avoid using excessive weight, as this will increase the risk of poor movement
  • Perform slower tempo repetitions to reduce the risk of movement compensations

Hip Hinge & Core Bracing anatomy review

Hip Hinge exercise demonstrations

If you need additional support to implement the information on this webpage, I provide personal training and accountability coaching to help clients exercise correctly and achieve their health and fitness goals.