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
- Hip Thrust Sets and Reps
- Common Hip Thrust Mistakes
- Hip Thrust Variations
- Hip Thrust Alternatives
- Muscles Worked by the Hip Thrust
- Benefits of the Hip Thrust
- Who Should Do the Hip Thrust
- Frequently Asked Questions
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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 down — 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 Your Upper Back on the Bench
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.
Step 3 — Press Through Your Heels and Lift Your Hips
Once you are set, pull your belly tight and keep your 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.
Hip thrusts can help you with pretty much any glutes goal you’ve got. Want to grow those glutes? Hip thrusts. Looking to build a powerhouse of a backside to improve your deadlift lockout? Train hip thrusts in a strength-building rep range. You generally won’t max this lift out all the way, but you can still go heavy enough for strength and light enough for endurance-building.
- For Strength: Do three to five sets of five to eight reps with a heavy load.
- For Muscle Mass: Performing three to five sets of eight to 12 reps, with a moderate to heavy weight.
- For Endurance: Push through two to three sets of 15-20 reps with a moderate load.
The hip thrust is a mainstay in a lot of lifters’ programs. But that doesn’t mean everyone does it right. Make sure your hip thrust form is on point by looking out for these common training mistakes.
Feet Too Close to the Butt
The first mistake is bringing your feet too close to your butt. Ideally, you want to create a 90-degree angle at the knee when the hips are in full extension. If your feet are too close to your butt, then your hip extension will be limited. That will be uncomfortable on your knees.
Overly Extending the Lower Back
Another common mistake of some beginners 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 your rib cage down and avoid letting them flare at the top when achieving hip extension.
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.
If you’re looking to maximize glute and hamstring growth, good mornings might be for you.
Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) 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 their 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.
The glutes are the primary mover during hip thrust, with your gluteus maximus handling most of the demands. Your gluteus medius is also active and assists in hip extension and stabilizing your pelvis so that your gluteus maximus can work to extend your hips.
Your hamstrings work to keep your knee fixed throughout the movement and are acting isometrically to hold your knees at roughly 90 degrees of flexion. Some lifters may get some light or even moderate hamstrings contractions as they extend their hips.
However, if it becomes too much, there is a strong chance they are not extending their 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 your inner groin that work isometrically to stabilize the pelvis during hip extension. If you want to increase activation of your hip adductors, you can also place a foam roller between your thighs and compress the roller isometrically as you extend your hips.
Multiple benefits come along with regularly performing hip thrusts. Whether you’re a beginner or a weathered gym rat, there’s a lot of incentive for you to bring hip thrusts into the fold.
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 just your bodyweight 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.
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 support progress for their 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 your gluteal muscles and promote healthy hip extension properly can only improve performance.
Most people spend a lot of time sitting, slouching, and not moving. Learning how to stabilize your spine and extend your hips using your glutes can do wonders for your lower back. 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, and standing up).
Thrust it Up
When you’re chasing massive glute gains, the hip thrust is a great way to get there. You’ll be teaching your body to align itself under pressure from a barbell, using your hip drive to keep your knees, hips, and shoulders aligned. That’s a valuable skill to have when you want to pull off a max deadlift. Plus, you’ll be packing muscle onto your backside in case you’re looking to up your jean size. Put that all together, and the hip thrust is a win-win for strength and muscle-building.
Still have questions about the classic hip thrust? Cool. We’ve got answers.
How much weight should you use for hip thrusts?
If you are using a weight in which you cannot feel the glutes working, then you’re probably 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 equal parts fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. That said, increasing the weight 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 (lacking the ability to extend your 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 to 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.
If you have pain, always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Featured image: Miguel Martinez Frias/Shutterstock