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How to do the Hip Thrust: Technique, Benefits, and Variations

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The hip thrust may be a funny-looking exercise, but the benefits it provides might cement it as an essential part of your training routine. If you want to run faster, jump higher, or improve your heavy lifts (like deadlifts or squats), or get fuller, stronger glutes, the hip thrust can be a staple of your training program.

What Are Hip Thrusts?

barbell hip thrust

The hip thrust involves lifting or thrusting a weight up with your hips in a supine position. The difference between glute bridges and hip thrusts is that your shoulders are elevated onto a bench instead of on the ground, and you usually have a weight (barbell or dumbbell) balanced on your hips.

What Muscles Does a Hip Thrust Work?

Hip thrusts primarily target the glutes and hamstrings. They also partially work the hip adductors and core. They’re considered an isolation movement because they primarily target one joint, the hip joint. This makes them a great complement to other compound exercises. So, adding this to your leg routine alongside deadlifts or squats can significantly improve your leg strength, power, and size. 

Benefits of the Hip Thrust

As mentioned above, hip thrusts are a great lower body exercise to target the glutes and hamstrings. They can improve the look of your overall physique, glute strength, and athleticism.

Improves Strength and Athleticism

If you have ever seen professional track and field athletes or powerlifters, you know that they have impressively developed glutes. Strong glutes are essential for a powerful, and therefore, aesthetic lower body. Their function is to extend and rotate the thighs at the hip joint and stabilize the pelvis.

The strongest muscle in the glutes, the gluteus maximus, is what helps pull your leg backward in movements like walking or running. Whether you’re squatting, deadlifting, running, or jumping, your glutes are involved. Glute training can be the difference between reaching the next level or falling short of your fitness goals.

Versatile Exercise

Hip thrusts are also a versatile exercise that can be heavily loaded to improve strength, focus on endurance, or performed unilaterally to improve balanced development. They can also increase mobility and performance of other exercises, especially ones that incorporate the posterior chain.

Support Healthy Posture

Hip thrusts can improve your performance inside the gym and outside the gym. One of the benefits mentioned before was the glutes function in stabilizing the pelvis. Hip thrusts can increase the strength of your glutes and hamstrings to help correct pelvic tilt that can negatively affect your posture and leave you prone to injury, especially lower back pain.

Barbell Hip Thrust Step-by-Step Instructions

 barbell hip thrust coaching cues

  1. Sit with your back touching the bench, roll or place the barbell onto the hip crease. (If this is uncomfortable, add a bar pad or wrap a towel around the bar).
  2. Bend your knees and place feet flat on the ground hip-width apart while stabilizing the weight with your hands.
  3. Lean back so that your shoulder blades are firmly on the bench and engage the core.
  4. While tucking your chin, thrust your hips and drive through your heels until your knees are 90°. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
  5. Next, lower your hips down without touching the floor, thrust your hips back up and repeat.

Common Mistakes

While the hip thrust exercise is pretty straightforward, there are common mistakes that can hinder your progress or make it very difficult or even impossible to perform:

Not Using Full Range of Motion

Use of a partial range of motion with the movement. Using a partial range of motion can mean either not allowing the hips to lower enough or relaxing on the ground between reps. Attempt to lower your hips 2-4 inches from the ground. At the top of the movement, your knees should be 90° and your body in a straight line.

Hyperextension

Hyper-extending the hips at the top of the movement. When you reach the top of the hip thrust, try not to push the hips up. You want to aim for the contraction of the glutes (or “squeeze”) when your body is parallel with the ground. If you go too high, you’ll be bending at your lower back instead of your glutes.

Foot Placement

Make sure the feet placement is shoulder-width apart. When the feet are too close or too far apart, it can lead to incorrect form, pain, or increased risk of injury. The placement of the feet can influence which muscles you engage during the exercise. Having them too close or too far apart can mean that the tension is not on the right muscles. Potentially this can lead to a sprain of the muscles or lack of proper engagement.

In addition, the feet should be close enough to the body so that the knees form a 90° angle at the top of the movement. Proper knee distance ensures that you can perform a full range of motion and fully engage the muscles in the exercise. Having the legs too far can lead to the inability to perform a set. Having them too close can lead to unnecessary strain on the lower back.

Not Engaging the Core

It is crucial to avoid allowing the core muscles to go limp during the movement. A non-engaged core can cause too much tension in your lower back, because the abs are an antagonist muscle group to your lower back. To properly engage the core, take a deep breath in at the bottom position of the movement. As you begin to thrust the weight up, exhale from your stomach. This contraction should allow you to engage the front of your core and maintain a neutral spine.

Hip Thrust Variations

Dumbbell Hip Thrusts 

Dumbbell hip thrusts are great for beginners, for warming up the glutes for heavy lifts, or if you are constrained to at-home or travel exercises. The main difference between the dumbbell and barbell hip thrust is the amount of weight you’re able to load with the movement. However, it is easy to progress from the dumbbell to the barbell variation if the resistance becomes too easy.

  1. dumbbell hip thrustSit with your back touching the bench, place the dumbbell onto the hip crease. (If uncomfortable, fold a towel and put it under the dumbbell at the point of contact with the hips).
  2. Bend your knees and place feet flat on the ground hip-width apart while stabilizing the weight with your hands.
  3. Lean back so that your shoulder blades are firmly on the bench and engage the core.
  4. While tucking your chin, thrust your hips and drive through your heels until your knees are 90°. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
  5. Next, lower your hips down without touching the floor, thrust your hips back up and repeat.
  6.  

Single-Leg Hip Thrusts

The single-leg hip thrust is a more advanced version of the hip thrust that you can perform using bodyw

 

eight, dumbbells, or barbells (or any other type of weight). The benefit of this variation is that it can be more challenging with less weight and trains the lower body unilaterally for better symmetry and balance. This variation is so great, we have a whole article on it.

  1. Sit with your back touching the bench.
  2. Bend your knees and place feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Place your arms on the bench to stabilize your torso.
  3. Lean back so that your shoulder blades are firmly on the bench and engage the core.
  4. While tucking your chin, thrust your hips and drive through your heel until your knee is 90°. Keep the other leg bent and allow it to move with your torso while keeping the other foot planted. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
  5. Next, lower your hips down without touching the floor, thrust your hips back up.
  6. After completing the set and rest, perform steps 1-5 with the opposite leg.

Bodyweight Hip Thrusts 

The bodyweight hip thrust is an easier variation of hip thrusts for beginners or people who work out at home or travel without access to weights. You can still see some benefits with hypertrophy, strength, or endurance with this variation, and it can help you improve the form for when you want to add weights. bodyweight hip thrust

  1. Sit with your back touching the bench.
  2. Bend your knees and place feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Place your arms on the bench to stabilize your torso.
  3. Lean back so that your shoulder blades are firmly on the bench and engage the core.
  4. While tucking your chin, thrust your hips and drive through your heel until your knee is 90°. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
  5. Next, lower your hips down without touching the floor, thrust your hips back up and repeat.

How to Include Hip Thrusts Into Your Training Program

As a Warm-Up

Hip thrusts can be a good inclusion as a warm-up for heavier exercises. Performing a few light reps alongside goblet squats and hip rotations can translate to better activation with heavy lifts, such as deadlifts.

As an Accessory Movement

Because they’re an accessory movement, you can do more volume. If you’re trying to gain strength, do 1-3 sets of 1-8 reps with heavy weight. If you’re trying to build hypertrophy, do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps with moderate weight. Even though you can develop size and strength in any set/rep range, these are good guidelines to follow.

If you want to benefit most from hip thrusts, it is best to include them right after or as a superset with other exercises that include similar muscle groups, such as squats or deadlifts. However, if you are going to pair this exercise with significantly challenging lifts, it is helpful and safe to rest well between sets.

As a Finisher

Adding this exercise as a burn-out at the end of a leg day can help you finish strong and boost glute and hamstring gains.

The hip thrust may not make or break your routine, but if you have found yourself struggling with other heavy leg exercises or want to improve your posture, this may be the exercise you need. With all the benefits of hip thrusts, there’s no wonder why they’re such a popular exercise. Adding this exercise to your routine should at least be a consideration if you want to elevate your athletic ability, strength, and aesthetics.

About the Author

Dillon Guillory is an online fitness coach and co-owner of DG Athlete. His approach to fitness is through efficient and goal-oriented training built on science and experience. He has worked alongside world-class athletes and coaches and has distilled his knowledge to help others reach their full potential.

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