Few exercises compare to the hip thrust when you’re on the mission of building strong and powerful glutes. In the fitness world, the hip thrust has grown in popularity due to the increased understanding of how strong glutes carry over to pretty much every aspect of life, especially performance in sport and the gym.
This article breaks down how to properly perform hip thrusts, their benefits, muscles worked, variations, and mistakes to avoid.
- How to Do the Hip Thrust
- Benefits of the Hip Thrust
- Muscles Worked by the Hip Thrust
- Who Should Do the Hip Thrust
- Hip Thrust Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
- Hip Thrust Variations
- Hip Thrust Alternatives
- Common Hip Thrust Mistakes
- Frequently Asked Questions
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.
Hip Thrust Video Guide
You can also check out our in-depth hip thrust guide for more information on the benefits, applications, and variations.
[Related: The 10 Best Glute Exercises for Strength, Size, and Muscle Activation]
The hip thrust is relatively simple to perform, but understanding how to set up and brace properly is incredibly important and two nuances that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s how to properly do the hip thrust.
Step 1 — Place Loaded Bar In Hip Crease
Sit with your back up against the edge of a bench that’s parallel to you. Now, roll a loaded barbell into the crease of your hips (you can wrap a towel or squat pad around the bar to make it more comfortable). Once the barbell is secure in the hip crease, drive your feet — which should be planted firmly on the ground so that your legs are bent — and drive your back towards the bench.
Form Tip: Your knee joints should be about 90 degrees. This will help increase stability.
Step 2 — Stabilize the Upper Back on the Bench
As you lean back into the bench, you want your shoulder blades to be on the bench and your upper body and hips in one straight line.
Form 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.
Step 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 is a lever. There should be no instability across the core when performing this movement.
Form Tip: Keep your abs tight and pinch your glutes together as you lift. Avoid arching your back.
Multiple benefits come along with regularly performing hip thrusts. Whether you’re a beginner or a weathered gym rat, the hip thrust can have multiple benefits for you.
Glute Hypertrophy, Strength, and Power
For anyone trying to improve their glute size, strength, and power, the hip thrust is an excellent exercise choice. You can load it heavily using a barbell to build more strength. You can use a lighter dumbbell and pump out a bunch of reps for more glute endurance. Or, you can do them on one leg for unilateral strength. Think of the hip thrust as a foundational compound movement — you can program it for any goal.
Easy to Scale
Another benefit of the hip thrust is that it’s easy to scale for various fitness levels. You can use implements like dumbbells and even your own bodyweight to obtain hip thrust benefits. They’re accessible to both beginners and advanced trainees and can have a place in anyone’s program.
Great for Warming Up
Outside of training adaptation benefits, the hip thrust is a fantastic movement to warm-up and cool-down. The hip thrust can be performed with one’s body weight and at lighter intensities to prime the body for optimal hip extension. You can also do them at the end of a workout as a way to really fry the glutes.
To no surprise, the hip thrust trains the glutes primarily and has some training benefits for the quads, adductors, and hamstrings as well. Check out the muscles the hip thrust works below.
The glutes are the primary mover during hip thrust, with the gluteus maximus handling most of the demands. The gluteus medius is also active and assists in hip extension and stabilizing the pelvis so that the gluteus maximus can work to extend the hips.
The hamstrings work to keep the knee fixed throughout the movement and are acting isometrically to hold the knee at roughly 90 degrees of flexion. Some lifters may get some light or even moderate hamstrings contractions as they extend the hips. However, if it becomes too much, there is a strong chance they are not extending the hips fully and/or their knees are not bent enough. You want to feel your hamstrings only a little during the movement.
The adductors are muscles of the inner groin that work isometrically to stabilize the pelvis during hip extension. If you want to increase activation of the hip adductors, you can also place a foam roller between the thighs and compress the roller isometrically as you extend the hips.
The hip thrust is a good glute-focused exercise to increase muscle growth and further hip extension abilities for more complex and compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and even jogging (to name a few).
Strength and Power Athletes
The glutes are used in nearly every lift, whether they’re actually moving the weight or bracing to keep you stabilized for another lift. Strength and power athletes alike can benefit from including hip thrusts within a program when they are looking to increase glute growth and/or support progress for the main competition lifts.
- Powerlifters: The hip thrust can be a great way to add muscle to the glutes and provide some glute strength work during times when heavy hinges from the floor (deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, or good mornings) may not be best. The hip thrust can also further enhance deadlifting and squatting performance by improving hip extension abilities.
- Strongmen and Strongwomen: Like powerlifters, the hip thrust can be a good warmup or accessory exercise to support moves like deadlifts, squats, upright carries, sled pushes, pulls, and more sport-specific exercises.
- Weightlifters: Olympic weightlifting requires high amounts of glute activation and strength. The hip thrust is a great warm-up or assistance exercise to support movements like squats and pulls, and reinforce sound hip flexion and extension for the competition lifts.
Functional Fitness Athletes
Hip thrusts can be a good exercise to integrate into warm-ups, and accessory segments as the glutes help with jumping, running, biking, rowing, and sprinting performance. Hip extension is such a critical aspect of athletics in general; therefore, making the extra effort to develop the gluteus muscles and promote healthy hip extension properly can only improve performance.
Most individuals spend too much time sitting, slouching, and not moving. Educating them on how to stabilize the spine and extend the hips using the glutes can do wonders for their lower backs. In addition to all the benefits above, the hip thrust is a great movement to educate and rebuild general populations so they can progress into more complex and compound movements and human locomotion patterns (running, jumping, sprinting, standing up properly).
Below are three primary training goals and programming recommendations when programming the hip thrust into workouts. Note: These are general guidelines and by no means should be used as the only way to program the hip thrust.
Generally speaking, the hip thrust can be done earlier in a session if the primary emphasis is on lower body strength and/or muscle hypertrophy. However, like most training programming, muscle hypertrophy and endurance work often occur after power and strength exercises.
To Gain Muscle
The hip thrust is a great movement to specially target the glutes, as it is performed with pure hip extension. When performing other hip extension movements such as stiff-leg deadlifts and good mornings, there’s usually a great deal of hamstring recruitment (due to the fixed knees). The hip thrust is a pure
If you are looking to increase glute size and hypertrophy, start by performing three to five sets of eight to 12 reps, with a moderate to heavy weight that allows you to control the eccentric phase and hold a brief pause (contraction) when you reach full hip extension. Rest one minute between sets.
To Gain Strength
In some instances, you can use the hip thrusts to increase glute strength. (Though, they should not replace movements like deadlifts and squats.) Do three to five sets of five to eight reps with a heavy load, one that you are still able to focus on the glutes doing the heavy lifting and not rely on momentum or lower back assistance to extend the hips. Rest two minutes between sets.
To Enhance Muscle Endurance
You can increase glute endurance and muscle hypertrophy when training the glutes in a moderate to higher rep range. That said, the glutes themselves are roughly 50-50 fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, which means for the best development, you should train in a variety of rep ranges.
If you find your glutes give out on you during more endurance-based events, however, start by performing two to three sets of 15-20 reps, making sure to maintain full glute tension throughout the entity of the set. Rest one minute between sets.
The three hip thrust variations below can be great for the beginner working towards the barbell hip thrust.
Dumbbell Hip Thrust
The dumbbell hip thrust is performed the same as a barbell hip thrust. However, instead of grabbing a barbell, swap it out for a dumbbell and perform your reps and sets according to your goal (see above).
The glute bridge is slightly different from the hip thrust in how athletes will set up and perform it, but it’s similar in that it trains a strong hip extension. Essentially, it’s the same movement, except that your back is on the floor, not a bench, so your range of motion (ROM) is reduced. For this reason, the glute bridge is a great primer for working towards loaded barbell hip thrusts.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
The single-leg glute bridge is another great exercise for working towards hip thrusts and a direct progression of the glute bridge. This movement variation is also great for assessing potential imbalances between the left and right hip.
Below are three bench press variations that do not include a barbell, which can increase unilateral strength and hypertrophy or add variety to a training program.
Good mornings are a viable hip thrust alternative for individuals who do not have any concerns regarding their lower backs and are looking to maximize glute and hamstrings growth while also applying to squats and deadlifts.
Romanian deadlifts are great for adding significant size and strength to the glute muscles in place of the hip thrust. Both movements (hip thrusts and RDLs) are hip hinge movements, requiring strong glutes to extend the hips properly. This exercise may be more challenging for some lifters who may struggle with maintaining proper positioning of the back. However, with training, it can be a powerful movement for maximal glute and hamstring hypertrophy.
Banded Hip Extension
The banded hip extension, either performed on the knees or from a standing position, is a good alternative to lighter hip thrusts for glute activation. While you may not mimic the loading capacities of a heavy set of hip thrusts, you can use the banded hip extension exercises similar to the hip thrust in glute activation segments or for hypertrophy work.
Below are two hip thrust mistakes that every fitness enthusiast should be cognizant of when performing them.
Feet Too Close to the Butt
The first mistake is bringing the feet too close to the butt. Ideally, you want to create a 90-degree angle at the knee when the hips are in full extension. If the feet are too close to the butt, then the hip extension will be limited, and it will be uncomfortable on the knees.
Overly Extending the Lower Back
Another common mistake that beginners can sometimes fall victim to when performing the hip thrust is extending the lumbar in compensation for hip extension. If you find that your lower back is getting sore from hip thrusts routinely, then it might be a sign to drop the weight and work on hip extension mechanics.
When performing the hip thrust, think about keeping the rib cage down and avoid letting them flare at the top when achieving hip extension.
How much weight should you use for hip thrusts?
While we discuss the specific sets, reps, and weight recommendations above, the best answer to this question is that if you are using a weight in which you cannot feel the glutes working, then you’re going too light.
Or, if you feel yourself struggling and your form breaking down, then reduce the load you’re using.
How can you progress hip thrusts without adding more weight?
The glutes are the biggest muscle group in the body and are roughly 50/50 fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. That said, increasing the weight used is often a great way to progress glute strength and muscle hypertrophy. However, it is not the only way.
If you are limited by the amount of weight you have access to, you can also incorporate tempos, increased ranges of motion (hip flexion), and short rest periods to increase metabolite build-up and muscular fatigue. You can also play around with exercise order or pair these with more compound exercises like squats to further increase muscle breakdown.
Are hip thrusts good for people who have lower back pain?
Developing glute strength is a good place to start when looking to decrease lower back pain and stiffness. Weak glutes often lead to poor posture, excessive lumbar extension (lack of the inability to properly extend the hips), and injury when performing movements like deadlifts, squats, lunges, etc.
If you are someone who struggles with lower back pain, try performing glute bridges from the floor and holding these for 20-30 seconds at a time. As you progress, you can perform hip thrusts with bodyweight and with existential loading, making sure to use the glutes to lift the load rather than simply arching the back.
Of course, if you have pain, always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Featured image: Miguel Martinez Frias/Shutterstock