A hip hinge is simply the flexion and extension of the hip joint, the articulation between the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis. The movement can occur when the pelvis moves on a fixed femur, for example a dead lift pattern. The movement can also occur when the femur moves on a fixed pelvis, for example a scissor exercise for the abdominals, when you are lying supine.
It’s really important to teach clients to be able to differentiate between a hip hinge and using other joints to compensate, often the lumbar spine. We do this in many Pilates exercises without really thinking about it. A great learning tool is to go through your repertoire and see how many exercises you can spot that teach hip dissociation. (the movement of the femur within the acetabulum, while maintaining a chosen spine shape.)
Gym settings aside, a hip hinge is also used in everyday functional activities.
Sitting down and standing up
We use a hip hinge more than you may think.
See, this is where the beauty of educating your clients really comes into play. They will take what they learn from you and start to integrate it into their everyday lives. They will develop positive movement patterns, begin to move optimally and be preventing injuries in the long run.
In order to teach clients the hip hinge, here are a few tips :
1. A pole or broom handle placed along the length of the spine. Maintaining a neutral spine, have the client hinge at the hips only with a slight bend in the knee and maintain the points of contact of the pole. Harder than it sounds.
2. The same pole or their fingers can be brought around to the groin crease. Holding the pole horizontally this time, have the client fold or hide the pole with their hip crease. On the way back up to standing they Should have a sense of growing tall and pulling up a pair of trousers rather than thrusting the pelvis forward.
3. To maintain fascial integrity through the deep longitudinal line, have the client hold a light ball on their head. Cue them to reach the crown of the head into the ball. I give a cobra image, a slight lengthening of the back of the neck. Maintain this feeling as they hinge at the hips and then return to the start position. They should feel a deep sensation and link through the entire posterior chain.
These exercises work well for any level at anytime, I will often use them as a warm up. Sometimes I use all three exercises, sometimes I just throw one or two in. I would save number 3 until your client has master 1 and 2.
With all this being said, it is important to realize that hip hinging isn't something we can or should do in isolation all day, everyday. It has also been found in many studies that there is a certain degree of lumbar flexion in all hip hinging or deadlifting patterns. In actual fact, in some instances the spine has been found to be stronger in flexion that kept in a neutral range.