Hip Thrust Exercise Guide

Looking for glute gains? Here's the all-in-one hip thrust guide you've been missing!

Glute training exercises can be used to increase glute activation, improve hip extension performance, and enhance overall glute hypertrophy (size). Strength, power, and fitness athletes rely heavily on the glutes for explosive and straighten based movements, in addition to aiding in proper posture and movement patterning during demanding workouts and events.

In this hip thrust exercise guide, we’ll cover multiple topics including:

  • Hip Thrust Form and Technique
  • Benefits of the Hip Thrust
  • Muscles Worked by the Hip Thrust
  • Who Should Do the Hip Thrust?
  • Hip Thrust Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
  • Hip Thrust Variations and Alternatives
  • and more…

How to Perform the Hip Thrust: Step-By-Step Guide

1.
Place the loaded bar in the hip crease.

Start by placing the barbell in the hip crease, making sure to adjust yourself if need to get comfortable. You can add a pad or mat in the hip crease to minimize any painful pressing of the barbell into the pelvis/hip flexors.

Once you have assumed a flexed hip position, secure the barbell in the hip crease so that your back is flat and flexed, with the feet pushing downwards into the heels, with bent knees.

Coach’s Tip: Your knee joints should be about 90 degrees. This will help increase stability.

2.
Stabilize the upper back on the bench.

Place your upper back onto the bench, so that your body is perpendicular to the bench angle.

The shoulderblades should be pushing into the bench, with the head and upper back on the bench, or slightly behind the bench.

Coach’s Tip: At the top of the hip thrust, you should be able to lift your hips upwards so that the torso is parallel to the floor. If you feel like you cannot, you may also need to readjust your positioning on the bench/upper back.

3.
Press through the heels and lift the hips.

Once you are set, pull the belly tight and keep the back flat. Often, lifters will arch the lower back and miss-load the hips at the bottom of the position.

Lock your torso in so that the hips move up and down almost as if your torso as a crowbar/level. There should be no instability across the core when performing this movement.

Coach’s Tip: Keep your abs tight and pinch you glutes together as you lift. Avoid arching your back.

4 Benefits of the Hip Thrust

Below are three (4) benefits of the hip thrust that strength, power, and fitness athletes can benefit from.

1. Improved Glute Function

The hip thrust is one of a few exercise that can be used to increase glute activation and reinforce engagement. The ability to add load, increase time under tension, and utilize the movement across most fitness levels makes it a great glute activation exercises.

2. Glute Hypertrophy and Strength

Once the glutes have been properly trained how to activate (using a wide array of excise and techniques), the hip thrust can be used to load the glutes directly and reinforce forceful and more explosive hip extensions.

3. Proper Hip Extension Mechanics

The hip thrust can be used to reinforce proper hip extension mechanics and glute strength once underlying issues have been addressed (such as hip mobility or other movement limitations). The glute bridge (listed below) can also be a good rudimentary glute strengthening exercise to then progress into a more complex movement like the loaded hip thrust.

4. Potentially Decrease Knee and Lower Back Pain

While there are are a wide array of ailments that can cause knee and lower back pain, weak and inactive glutes will surely negatively impact movement patterning and alignment/posture during daily life and fitness activities. Increasing glute activation and strength can help to reinforce proper hip extension and assist the other large muscle group of the lower body to maximize movement and performance.

Muscles Worked – Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a bilateral or unilateral lower body exercise that can be done to specifically target the:

  • Gluteals
  • Hamstrings

Who Should Perform Hip Thrust?

The hip thrust can be used as a movement primer, corrective strengthening exercise, and/or accessory exercise to build glute and hip extension strength and hypertrophy. Nearly all levels of lifters and athletes can benefit from the inclusion of this exercise within training programs.

Strength and Power Athletes

Strength and power athletes can benefit from the hip thrust as they increase strength, hypertrophy, and engagement of the glutes (a powerful hip extension muscle).

  • Powerlifters and Strongman Athletes: Powerlifters can use the hip thrust to increase muscle hypertrophy of the glutes and aid in lockout strength and performance in the deadlift and squat. Additionally, this is a good exercise to use to increase glute hypertrophy and engagement without needing to add additional spinal loading.
  • Olympic Weightlifters: Hip thrusts, while not specific to Olympic weightlifting, can be used as a general fitness/accessory training exercise to build glute hypertrophy and reinforce proper hip extension.

General and Functional Fitness

The hip thrust can be used to increase glute firing, strength, and muscle hypertrophy. This could be used to increase muscle size, reinforce proper hip extension mechanics, or be a viable alternative to lower body and glute training exercises (that may demand more spinal loading).

Hip Thrust Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations

Below are three (3) primary training goals and programming recommendations when programming hip thrusts into training programs.

Glute Activation/Corrective Movement – Reps and Sets

Below are recommendations on how to program hip thrusts to develop greater muscle activation and reinforce proper glute engagement and hip extension.

  • 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions
  • The hip thrust can be done using tempos, isometric holds, and controlled repetition rates to enhance an individual’s understanding of what proper glute firing and spinal stability are (not hyperextending) during hip extension.

Strength – Reps and Sets

Below are recommendations on how to program hip thrusts to develop glute and lower body strength.

  • 4-6 sets of 3-8 repetitions
  • The hip thrust can be loaded often with high amounts of weight, making it a good alternative for strength based glute training while minimizing loading onto the spine (as opposed to the deadlift, etc).

Hypertrophy – Reps and Sets

Below are recommendations on how to program and train for glute hypertrophy using the hip thrust.

  • 5-10 sets of 8-15 repetitions
  • Train the hip raise with a maximal voluntary muscle contraction at the top (squeeze the glutes HARD) at the top to further enhance muscle contractions.

Hip Thrust Variations

Below are three (3) hip thrust variations that can be done to improve strength, size, and overall muscle growth of the glutes.

1. Single Leg Hip Thrust

The single leg hip thrust can be done to increase loading demands and performance unilaterally. To do this, simply perform the movement by lifting one leg up off the floor, focusing on driving the grounded foot through the floor to lift the hips (while resisting hip rotation).

2. Tempo Hip Thrust

The tempo hip thrust can be done with or without loading, and entails a lifter to perform a repetition on a set cadence. Often, this will mean a controlled eccentric (lowering) or isometric contraction at the top of the movement (maximal voluntary contractions). This can be done to increase time under tension and muscle growth.

3. Deficit Hip Thrust

The deficit hip thrust can be done to increase the range of motion and further increase glute demands. To do this, simply place your feet on a slightly higher plate or box than normally (as opposed to the floor).

Hip Thrust Alternatives

Below are three (3) hip thrust alternatives that can be done to vary programming, challenge lifters, and more.

1. Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is very similar to the hip thrust, however tends to have a smaller range of motion as the lifter performs this exercise by lying on the floor. This exercise can be helpful for beginners of those learning unilateral movements as the loading is less. Additionally, this can be done for pauses and glute bridge “planks” to challenge muscles isometrically.

2. Dimel Deadlift

The dimel deadlift is essentially a partial range of motion deadlift/Romanian deadlift, that focuses specifically on the lockout (hip extension) aspect of the deadlift. This is done to target the glutes and can often be used with high amounts of loading and trained in high volumes.

3. Reverse Hypers

The reverse hyperextension can be a good alternative to the hip thrust as it engages many of the same muscle groups and minimizes spinal loading. This exerics can also be done with loads, at tempos, and can  be used to isolate the glutes and hamstrings.

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Featured Image: Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

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