The Hip Thrust Mistake Everyone Keeps Making

Last week, I posted a video of some hip thrusts on Instagram. As you can see, even with the awesome machine from Sorinex, they weren’t easy! I struggled with just 80 kilos:

If you scroll through the comments on that post, you’ll find plenty of guys delighting in the fact that I’m so weak! Now, I’m not new to social media, and I’m well aware that you can’t take anything on the Internet too seriously.

But I do think these comments show that hip thrusts in particular have become to be seen by many as a heavy movement – one you should load up with half a dozen plates and crank out a million reps, like this:

And that style isn’t wrong, per se, but it’s far different than what I’m doing. Understanding the difference is crucial if you want to learn to use your posterior chain and core appropriately in heavy squats and deadlifts.

It All Comes Down to Bracing

The big difference between those two demonstrations is bracing. Now, if you’re not familiar with bracing, you should probably start by reading this article, and watching the video here:

When I’m doing hip thrusts, I’m trying my best to keep a neutral spine position and contracted abs throughout the entire movement. This keeps my lower back out of the equation, and forces me to rely solely on my glutes. In contrast, when you look at Matt’s video, you can see how he’s got some arch in his lower back at the top position, and even how his quads flex as he performs the movement. He’s using his entire lower body, which allows him to lift much more weight. The difference is very much the same as the difference between an RKC plank and a regular one.

Why wouldn’t you want to use as much muscle and lift as much weight as possible? Well, if you’re Matt, and you’re trying to hit a PR hip thrust, obviously that’s exactly what you should do. But if your goal is to improve your squat or deadlift, it’s a different story. Chris Duffin explains exactly why that’s the case here:

Pay close attention to part around 5:40 where he shows an unloaded hip thruster. Chris explains that, if you’re bracing properly as you would on a squat or deadlift, it’s simply impossible to get full hip extension (as you saw in my demo).

Why Bother with a Hip Thrust at All?

Chris argues that because you can’t get in a position for hip thrusters that mimics the squat or deadlift, you shouldn’t even bother with the thrusters in the first place (assuming that your goal is to get stronger at the powerlifts). That part, I think, is debatable.

First, hip thrusters can be a great movement for developing a great booty! If you’re training your posterior chain with heavy weights, you’re going to build muscle, regardless of whether you are performing hip thrusters, squats, or deadlifts – and regardless of whether you’re using a style closer to Matt’s or to my own.

Second, when performed specifically as I show them, hip thrusts are an excellent isolation movement for the glutes. As Chris stated, the glutes are primarily involved in a system of hip extension, and that means it can be very difficult to find heavy movements that train the glutes in isolation. While my 80-kilo hip thrusters might not seem heavy compared to Matt’s 340-kilogram/750-pound ones, they are really heavy compared to traditional isolation exercises for the glutes like clamshells or monster walks.

Isolating the glutes (or any muscle group, really) is important when you’re struggling with technique on compound movements. By learning to use the glutes, hamstrings, and abs individually, you can more easily learn to coordinate them properly in a squat or deadlift.

A Killer Hip Thruster Routine

If you want to try hip thrusters in the style I’m using, I suggest you train them with your abs. As you’ll find, holding a braced position under a load like this requires a ton of ab strength, and you’ll maximize recovery time by doing your ab work immediately afterward.

Try this after your heavy squat or deadlift day. I bet you’ll find it challenging!

  • Hip Thrusters: 3 sets of 10-12 reps, 2 minutes between sets
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 2 sets of 20 reps, 3 minutes rest between sets
  • Landmine Twist: 3 sets of 8 reps per side, superset with
  • Standing Cable Crunch: 2 sets of 8-10 reps, pausing 1 second in the contracted position

Have your own hip thruster routine that works really well? Share it below!

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page. 

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